Pervasive Whiteness in American Public School Classrooms: A Proposal for the Integration of Texts by Black Authors into the English Curriculum

Lauren Trace and Dr. Teresa Gilliams, Department of English, Albright College, 13th & Bern Streets, Reading PA 19604

The 2018 United States Census reported the Berks County, Pennsylvania population as being 87.2% white and 7.2% black; however, one school district within the county is reported by the National Center for Education Statistics as being 96% white and <1% black. This district, with the highest disparity between white and black citizens, has an English curriculum that includes virtually no texts by black authors. In the environment that these racial demographic statistics suggest, it is unacceptable for the curriculum of English classes to focus exclusively on white authors. This exclusivity causes students to become comfortable in their own whiteness, which subsequently forces discussions of race to become increasingly difficult to have in classrooms. Therefore, students are implicitly educated to avoid discussions of race and to accept the bended and white-washed perspectives with which they are presented. Therefore, this paper seeks to combat the misrepresentation of literature as an exclusively white medium, as it unfolds a proposal for the integration of texts by black authors into the English curriculums of predominantly white public high schools. Using this one Berks County high school as a case study, this paper examines the benefits of exposure to black character and culture through literature. The primary goal of this paper is to identify key texts in the subject high school’s curriculum and to pair them with texts by black authors that espouse similar lessons. The proposal undergoes this process with eight texts, and suggests texts from Ellison, Coates, Walker, Meyers, and several other notable black authors whose texts are fundamental to a complete education in English literature. As the necessity for change in the English curriculum of predominantly white classrooms is revealed, this paper proposes the changes that should be made and examines just how easy, and necessary, it is to make them.

Additional Abstract Information

Presenter: Lauren Trace

Institution: Albright College

Type: Oral

Subject: English & Literature

Status: Approved

Time and Location

Session: Oral 11
Date/Time: Wed 3:00pm-4:00pm
Session Number: 1117
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