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Fugitive Pedagogy

Carter G. Woodson and the Art of Black Teaching

Jarvis R. Givens

ISBN 9780674983687

Publication date: 04/13/2021

A fresh portrayal of one of the architects of the African American intellectual tradition, whose faith in the subversive power of education will inspire teachers and learners today.

Black education was a subversive act from its inception. African Americans pursued education through clandestine means, often in defiance of law and custom, even under threat of violence. They developed what Jarvis Givens calls a tradition of “fugitive pedagogy”—a theory and practice of Black education in America. The enslaved learned to read in spite of widespread prohibitions; newly emancipated people braved the dangers of integrating all-White schools and the hardships of building Black schools. Teachers developed covert instructional strategies, creative responses to the persistence of White opposition. From slavery through the Jim Crow era, Black people passed down this educational heritage.

There is perhaps no better exemplar of this heritage than Carter G. Woodson—groundbreaking historian, founder of Black History Month, and legendary educator under Jim Crow. Givens shows that Woodson succeeded because of the world of Black teachers to which he belonged: Woodson’s first teachers were his formerly enslaved uncles; he himself taught for nearly thirty years; and he spent his life partnering with educators to transform the lives of Black students. Fugitive Pedagogy chronicles Woodson’s efforts to fight against the “mis-education of the Negro” by helping teachers and students to see themselves and their mission as set apart from an anti-Black world. Teachers, students, families, and communities worked together, using Woodson’s materials and methods as they fought for power in schools and continued the work of fugitive pedagogy. Forged in slavery, embodied by Woodson, this tradition of escape remains essential for teachers and students today.


  • Through meticulous research, Givens has reconstructed the radical historical methods, teaching ethic, and writings of Carter G. Woodson; his book is a long-overdue labor of love and analysis…I have nothing but admiration for this outstanding contribution to the history and theory of Black education…A tremendous offering and one that would make Woodson, the ever-rigorous teacher, proud.

    —Randal Maurice Jelks, Los Angeles Review of Books


  • 2022, Winner of the HES Outstanding Book Award
  • 2022, Winner of the AERA Outstanding Book Award
  • 2022, Winner of the Lois P. Rudnick Book Prize
  • 2022, Winner of the Frederic W. Ness Book Award
  • 2021, Winner of the Association for the Study of African American Life & History (ASALH) Book Prize


  • Jarvis R. Givens is Professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. From 2020–2021, he was the Suzanne Young Murray Assistant Professor at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University.

Book Details

  • 320 pages
  • 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
  • Harvard University Press