Date of Award

May 2017

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Teaching and Leadership


Marcelle Haddix


Activism, Black, Educators, Justice, Social, Women

Subject Categories




This dissertation explores the experiences and knowledge of six classroom teachers who engaged in teaching practices that sought to transform the educational experiences of students in urban public schools. The study examined the educators’ life histories and experiences in traditional teacher preparation programs. The goal of this research was to investigate the way teachers’ life histories, including early educational experiences in K-12 schooling and teacher preparation within traditional and historically white institutions, inform their approaches to teaching and enacting activist literacies. For the purpose of this study, I define activist literacies as thinking, understanding, and acting with deliberate intention. Framed by existing theories on black feminist thought, intersectionality, and critical race theory, as well as by research on teacher preparation programs and social justice education, this study employs qualitative data collection methods that include written narratives and interviews. An additional layer of data was obtained through an autoethnographic approach. Data drawn from in-depth interviews and reviews of participants’ submitted narratives were analyzed to present illustrations of the various ways in which teachers are activists. In examining both individual narratives and interview transcripts, this study found themes related to marginalization and isolation. This study helps the field think critically about how to cultivate and support teachers to engage in social justice work that seeks to disrupt patterns of privilege and oppression while simultaneously advancing a new teacher preparation model grounded and informed by the historical legacy of Black women educators and their current work in classrooms, schools and communities.


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