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CHAPTER SIX. Black Studies and Ethnic Studies: The Crucible of Knowledge and Social Action

Johnnella E. Butler

Subject Race and Ethnicity Studies » African American Studies

Key-Topics social change

DOI: 10.1111/b.9780631235163.2005.00009.x


During the summer of 1976 I went to Southside Chicago to a local, grassroots conference called by Paulo Freire. While there, I explained to Freire that I was working on a dissertation that would be an Americanization of his theories with the hope of influencing significant change in American education, challenging racism and contributing to cultural, social, economic, and political equity. He looked me straight in the eye and said somewhat sadly, “I wish you luck, but education in the US will never change without a significant social revolution - and that is not going to happen.” To a great extent, I then (and do now) believe him to be correct. But as Derrick Bell warns us, we must behave as if racism – and I would add academic ethnocentrism – can be defeated. I therefore saw the potential for that change in the literature and early folk culture of African Americans; I saw that potential in my students – who then were mostly White and Black; I saw that potential in grappling with the two most-quoted passages from Du Bois that asserted that the problem of the twentieth century would be the problem of the color-line, and that two warring ideals struggled in one dark body of the Negro (W. Du Bois 1993: chs 1, 2). My experiences in an Irish American Catholic college in New England where friendships with the Irish American, Polish American, and a few Puerto Rican, Dominican, African, ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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