Textbook Black Power: An Analysis of Black Resistance in High School History Textbooks

Jamya Robinson, University of Notre Dame

This study examines the depiction of Black resistance in history textbooks adopted in North Carolina. First, using textbook data, I analyze the extent to which the strategies of the Civil Rights Movement are contextualized within the sociopolitical climate of that particular time. Then I examine the portrayal of the Civil Rights Movement compared to that of other Black resistance movements and actors. First, I find that herofication, the term coined by sociologist James Loewen to describe the dehumanization of individuals in history, is both a gendered and racialized process, solidifying these individuals as a sterilized and convenient emblem for society (Loewen 2007:3). Next, the Civil Rights Movement is praised and depicted much more positively than other Black movements -- getting more space and narrative than any other Black social justice movement -- at the expense of a rich and accurate historical narrative. I conclude with a discussion of my findings and the implications of my work on the collective memory of Black protests in the United States as a whole, but mainly among students and teachers, especially as it shapes their current perception of contemporary Black movements and their ability to imagine other tactics to eradicate racism and inequality in society.

No extended abstract or paper available

 Presented in Session 125. Cultures of Calculation and Resistance