Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Petra Munro


Dominant explanations for why urban African American learners dropout is that these students are "at-risk" (Swanson, 1991; Sartain,1989; Levine, 1988; Macchiarola, 1988). Such explanations blame the victim while exonerating the role schooling plays in shaping students' "at-risk" conditions (Woodson, 1933/1998; Tatum, 1997; Freire, 1970/1997; Shujaa, 1994; Gordon, 1993). This research contests these explanations for why African American learners dropout by centering 10 African American students' voices to highlight the role curriculum plays at casting them at-risk. Consequently, this work shifts reproach from individual students' home environments to the larger structural dimensions of curricula (what we know) and instruction (how we know it) which alienate and marginalize African American learners. To accomplish this end, this research uses oral history as a method to document the experiences of African American students during a one year oral history project focusing on the history of African American Music in South Baton Rouge, Louisiana and uses Carter G. Woodson's notion of "real education," to reveal how rediscovering the past open windows of educational opportunities for urban African American learners. Additionally, as a teacher/researcher of the course "African American Studies," this research blends my self-ethnography with students'/historians' oral histories to recreate our experience with oral history as real education. The ability to achieve this synthesis as well as to document the findings of this study happened through actual classroom teaching, open-ended interviews, classroom observation field notes, teacher plans, students' assignments, as well as video and audio recordings. Through this research, three findings were discovered. One, traditional curriculum in our current educational settings distorts meaning of self and history and attempts to psychologically "lynch" its pupils. Two, traditional curricula's distortion of self and history leads students to seek multiple claims to truth and resist colonialization. Three, for learning to be meaningful and education to be worthwhile students must participate in choosing who and what they will study.