Education professor awarded National Academy of Education fellowship to study students of color response to anti-Black curriculums

Study will focus on creating and implementing a curriculum grounded in historically responsive literacy and Black historical consciousness.

KINGSTON, R.I. — June 5, 2024 — Tashal Brown, assistant professor of urban education and secondary social studies at the University of Rhode Island, has been awarded a $70,000 Spencer Postdoctoral Fellowship grant from the National Academy of Education (NAEd), to research the influence of anti-Blackness in U.S. education and promote comprehensive representations of Black experiences in middle and high school curriculum.

Brown’s project, entitled, “Disrupting Anti-Black Logics in Education: Cultivating Critical Perspectives and Expansive Representations of Black Histories and Cultures in School Curriculum,” explores curricula that neglect Black histories and cultures, often portraying Blackness through a lens of trauma that harms Black students by denying their humanity, promoting deficit narratives, and distorting or prohibiting teaching Black history.

“Drawing from critical race theory and employing intersectional methodologies, the research aims to disrupt prevailing narratives and elevate the voices and experiences of Black students and other youth of color,” Brown said. “These frameworks are designed to authentically engage with students’ backgrounds, identities, and literacy practices, fostering a more inclusive understanding of Blackness.”

She added that, ultimately, the project will foster “liberatory learning spaces that honor the diversity and richness of Black histories and cultures.”

Brown is collaborating with Black educators from Rhode Island’s urban middle and high schools to collect and analyze data through a critical race theory lens, to formulate interventions for educational environments where Black histories, cultures, and literacies are affirmed and valued.

“The NAEd/Spencer Postdoctoral Fellowship is a prestigious and highly competitive opportunity for early career faculty. Being selected for this award demonstrates the importance and brilliance of Dr. Brown’s work, which has the potential to shape the educational experiences of Black students and educators in Rhode Island and beyond,” said Danielle Dennis, dean of the Feinstein College of Education.

Brown was one of only 25 NAEd /Spencer Fellowship awardees from over 240 applications.

The fellowships provide funding and professional development to early-career scholars whose projects address critical issues in the history, theory, or practice of formal or informal education, at the national and international levels.

“The NAEd/Spencer Fellowships represent an investment in both the fellows and their ideas for shaping education research. Moreover, these fellowships can offer life-changing opportunities,” said Okhee Lee, chair of the NAEd Professional Development Committee.