By Greg Childress

October 9, 2023

America’s educators must not cower before lawmakers attempting to restrict what they teach students about America’s racial history, author and education reformer Lisa Delpit told hundreds of teachers attending the annual Color of Education summit in Raleigh on Saturday.

Delpit, the author of the groundbreaking book, “Multiplication Is for White People” said teachers must engage in the kind of “fugitive pedagogy” that educators used during the Jim Crow era to get around mandated curricula that hid the truth about America’s racist past and the enormous contributions Black people have made to the nation.

Coined by scholar Jarvis Givens, “fugitive pedagogy” refers to the subversive strategies Black educators used to teach students the skills to think and to survive despite a system of education that was designed to only prepare them for manual labor, Delpit said.

Color of Education is a partnership between the Dudley Flood Center for Educational Equity and Opportunity, the Public School Forum of North Carolina, the Samuel DuBois Cook Center on Social Equity at Duke University, and the Center for Child and Family Policy. It brings educators, policymakers, researchers, students, parents, community members, and other interested people together to focus on achieving racial equity and eliminating racial disparities in education.

Dudley Flood, an educator who championed school integration in North Carolina, said the state is at a fork in the road when it comes to educating its children. The Flood Center is named in his honor.

“On one side of that fork are people who are working very hard like you to ensure that every child has access to an education,” Flood said. “On the other side of that fork, there are people who are working much harder than you at ensuring that education is limited, that only a few people will profit from it.”

The state’s Republican-led General Assembly recently approved legislation to make the state’s so-called “Opportunity Scholarship” school voucher program available to all families regardless of income. The program was created a decade ago for the stated purpose of helping low-income families in failing districts or schools pay private school tuition.

Flood, however, questioned the value of the program. “If you have a situation in which were going to give from the taxpayers money $5,000 to go to school and it costs $25,000 to go school, I don’t see how that enhances the probability of most of the children I know getting that kind of education,” Flood said.