"An Outstanding Teacher, Civic Leader, and Author”: The Pedagogical Praxis and Education-Activism of Jane Dabney Shackelford
Gloria J. Ashaolu

About the research


NAEd/Spencer Dissertation Fellowship

Award Year



Michigan State University

Primary Discipline

Between the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the model of educational vision Black teachers fostered and were deeply committed to greatly mirrored what we today regard as anti-racist systems of knowledge and educational practices. This dissertation attends to the understudied educational activism, pedagogies, and praxes of local Black teachers during the Early Black History Movement through a biographical analysis of the life and times of Jane Dabney Shackelford, a Black female educator from Terre Haute, Indiana who was most active during the era of Jim Crow segregation. The educational trajectory and systems of teaching Shackelford and her peers embodied serve as a useful tool for conceptualizing the significant ways in which local schoolteachers cultivated an intentional educational and intellectual practice that challenged the anti-Black knowledge systems undergirding American education during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The first contribution of this project entails the study of the life and times of an influential—yet understudied—historical actor as a window into the education-activism of Black teachers during the Early Black History Movement. Second, this project attends to the principles and conventions of Jim Crow North, by challenging static, flattened and selective narratives that loom in popular remembering of the era of Jim Crow segregation. Third, the use of the robust repository that makes up the Shackelford papers seeks to excavate the scholarly and intellectual work and the ethos that guided her educational activism and that of her community of educators.
About Gloria J. Ashaolu
Gloria J. Ashaolu is a Ph.D. candidate in History and University Distinguished Fellow at Michigan State University. She received a B.A. in History, a B.A. in African American and African Diaspora Studies, and a minor’s certificate from the School of Education at the University of California, Berkeley—where she was a Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellow. Her research interests include but are not limited to African American History, History of Education and Race, Women and Gender History, Black Intellectual History, and Black Diaspora/Comparative Black Studies. Her dissertation project examines the pedagogy, curriculum, praxis, and activism of local Black female teachers during the Jim Crow era of segregation toward the advancement of the Black Freedom Struggle. Her research has been supported by the MSU College of Social Science and Social Science Research Council-MMGIP. She is a member of the Edward A. Bouchet Graduate Honor Society. She serves on the Leadership Team at The Center for the Integration of Research, Teaching, and Learning (CIRTL). Through her commitment to research, teaching, and service, she aspires to create meaningful historical work that helps us better understand the present through our collective history, towards a just and inclusive society.

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