“Educating the head, the hands, the heart”: Assembling the Foundations of the Early Black Education & Abolition Movements in California, 1850-1910
Darion Wallace

About the research


NAEd/Spencer Dissertation Fellowship

Award Year



Stanford University

Primary Discipline

History of Education
In 1854, when the inaugural California Colored Convention, an anti-slavery organization, was called to order, the matter of quality Black education was a thematic agenda item of convention goers—many of whom were Black teachers. This august body was committed to educating “the head, the hands, the heart” of Black students in preparation for the necessities and responsibilities of life. In dialouge with these efforts, this dissertation historicizes how abolitionist praxes, pedagogies, and epistemologies rooted in the Black radical and intellectual tradition informed Black education in the American West. This research bridges a critical rupture in the Black educational archive to document how Black teachers transformed the Black sociopolitical landscape of the American West and proffers insights into how Black abolitionist teachers–e.g., Rev. Jeremiah Burke Sanderson–articulated demands for social, political, and educational redress. Examining black periodicals, personal papers, administrative state documents, and Colored Convention minutes, this project illuminates the interiority of Black educational heritages in antebellum California and untangles competing visions for Black schooling in the Western frontier. Converging life, intellectual, and social movement histories of education, this project offers a historically grounded account of how Black abolitionist educators breathed life into Black social movements as political agents imbued with concomitant biases towards action. Their efforts thereby shaped the political agenda of the anti-slavery movement and the broader world. These historical explorations expand the canon of Black educational history westward and add texture to our cognitive map of the limits and possibilities of educational abolitionism(s) in practice and theory.
About Darion Wallace
Darion A. Wallace is a Ph.D. candidate at the Stanford Graduate School of Education in the Race, Inequality, and Language in Education and History of Education programs. Born and raised in Inglewood, CA, He earned a bachelor’s degree in Rhetoric and African American Studies from the University of California, Berkeley, and a master’s degree in International Education Policy Analysis from Stanford University. As a transdisciplinary Black Education Studies scholar, Darion’s program of research interrogates the ways K-12 American schools (re)produce logics of (anti)blackness and structure the life and educational outcomes of Black students across space and time. Darion explores these interests through three interrelated domains of research: 1) excavating the politics of un/freedom and abolitionism in Black educational history, 2) illuminating practices of Black historical sense-making and youth historical literacies through community-engaged research, and 3) interrogating how the contemporary social context of Black education permits or constraints these Black educational histories and youth historical literacies to manifest in American education. Darion is a 2023 recipient of the Stanford Presidential Award for Excellence through Diversity and his research has been funded by the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship, the Stanford Research, Action, and Impact through Strategic Engagement Fellowship, the Stanford Knight-Hennessy Scholars Fellowship, and the Ford Foundation Pre-Doctoral Fellowship. His scholarship has been published in the Journal of Multicultural Education and the Theory, Research, and Action in Urban Education journal (forthcoming).

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