Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Wendy Kohli


African American people have historically expressed great faith in education as a path toward liberation. It is an idea--education for liberation--that is pervasive in African American discourse. It is well documented in research that focuses on the efforts of African Americans to educate themselves despite slavery, the fall of reconstruction, a brutal Jim Crow system, and desegregation in lieu of integration (Anderson, 1988; Lerner, 1972; Watkins, 1993). Yet despite our faithful proclamations, we have been represented otherwise in mainstream educational discourse. Intellectual inferiority, cultural deprivation, underachievement, and at-risk have been some of the terms used to explain the consistent and persistent low academic achievement of African Americans. The apparent contradiction between our faithful proclamations and these derogatory representations casts serious doubts on our faith in American education (Butchart, 1994). Although there has been considerable research on just what might constitute education for liberation for African American people, rarely have we looked at the idea as an articulation of resistance "against" the imposition of the derogatory representations of African Americans in mainstream educational discourse. In this study, I have attempted to contemplate our struggle for quality education as a struggle for identification in the context of the white racial/cultural hegemony of American education, where African Americans negotiate in-between margins/center and thus, resistance/accommodation, faith/reason, and communal/individual tensions. I have specifically focused on African American intellectuals as they have tried to define what education for liberation is, and as they embody and perform the contradictions that make it difficult to reconcile, unproblematically, education with liberation. The importance of this project to curriculum conversations is that it raises serious questions about how educational discourse continues to marginalize African Americans.