Black Female Teachers: Volume 6

Cover of Black Female Teachers

Diversifying the United States’ Teacher Workforce


Table of contents

(15 chapters)

This introductory chapter frames the discussion of Black female teachers, and centers their experiences as the sole site for discussion and analysis. In addition, this chapter provides an overview of the three sections of the book and the corresponding chapters. Within the pages of this volume, contributing authors discuss the historical and contemporary landscapes of Black female teachers, examine the underrepresentation of Black women in the US teacher workforce, as well as discuss innovative strategies to increase the recruitment and retention of Black female teachers in PK-12 classrooms. Ultimately, this chapter provides insight into the salience of Black female teachers in the diversification of the US teacher workforce. Moreover, highlighting implications and recommendations for a variety of educational stakeholders.

The Historical/Contemporary Landscape of Black Female Teachers


Bringing renewed attention to the anemic representation of Black women within the teaching profession, this chapter begins by chronicling the history of Black women in teacher education – from the Reconstruction Era to the 21st century – in an effort to highlight the causes of their conspicuous demographic decline. Next, it is argued that increasing the number of Black women in the teaching profession is a worthwhile endeavor although the rationales for such targeted efforts may not be obvious or appreciated by the casual observer. It is, therefore, important to illuminate the multiple justifications as to why it is essential to improve the underrepresentation of Black women in America’s classrooms. Lastly, it is asserted that serious attention is required to reverse the dramatic exodus of Black women from the teaching profession. In conveying this issue, the author shares special emphasis recruiting tactics, for the national, programmatic, and local school district levels, as promising proposals to enlist and retain more Black women in the teaching profession.


Anna Julia Cooper and Septima Poinsette Clark were two prominent late 19th- and early 20th-century educators. Cooper and Clark taught African American students in federally sanctioned, segregated schools in the South. Drawing on womanist thought as a theoretical lens, this chapter argues that Cooper and Clark’s intellectual thoughts on race, racism, education, and pedagogy informed their teaching practices. Influenced by their socio-cultural, historical, familial, and education, they implemented antioppressionist pedagogical practices as a way to empower their students and address the educational inequalities their students were subjected to in a highly racialized, violent, and repressive social order. Historical African American women educators’ social critiques on race and racism are rarely examined, particularly as they pertain to how their critiques influence their teaching practices. Cooper and Clark’s critiques about race and racism are pertinent to the story of education and racial empowerment during the Jim Crow era.

Scholarly Examination of black Female Teachers


Prior to Brown v. Board of Education 1954, Black female educators played a significant and vital role in segregated schools. Despite Black female teachers’ historic presence in the field of education, presently Black female teachers are disproportionately under-represented in the US teacher workforce. Acknowledging the shortage of Black female teachers in K-12 classrooms, the purpose of this qualitative study is to explore why Black female educators teach in under-resourced, urban schools. By examining Black female educators’ initial draw to urban schools in what we conceptualized as the urban factor, we hope to reframe the implicit biases surrounding under-resourced, urban schools as less desirable workplaces and unearth reasons why those Black female teachers who enter teaching gravitate more toward urban schools. Three themes emerged about Black female teachers’ thoughts on and preference for urban schools with an unexpected finding about Black female teachers’ perceptions of student behavior. Concluding, recommendations are offered for policy and practice.


In this chapter, we present an analysis of the literature on preservice teachers of Color juxtaposed with the experiences of Ashley, Marena, Brianna, Laryn, and Felicia that gives insight into the ways in which these women of Color describe their understandings of social justice and culturally relevant teaching and the importance it holds for their work as future teachers. Using both culturally relevant pedagogy and critical race theory, we describe critical incidents from their racialized experiences in their teacher education program, inclusive of how they perceived having a Black professor for a diversity course. Lastly, we conclude the chapter with suggestions they deem as beneficial to their development and growth as social justice educators for teacher education programs to consider.

Retention of Black Female Teachers


The shortage of teachers of color, specifically Black female teachers, is a problem that detrimentally impacts students in US public schools. The high turnover of Black teachers may be caused by the poor working conditions they experience in their schools. However, the literature lacks a broad overview that gives a national perspective on how working conditions in general, and interpersonal relationships in particular, affect the retention of Black female teachers. For this study, we analyzed data from a nationally representative sample of over 1,000 Black female teachers who participated in the 2007–2008 Schools and Staffing Survey (SASS). We addressed two main research questions. First, how do the working conditions in schools where Black female teachers are employed relate to their retention? Second, does the quality of the interpersonal relationships between Black female teachers and others at their schools predict career decisions? Our findings have implications for policymakers and school leaders who seek to improve teacher retention in US public schools.


Research funded by the Albert Shanker Institute found African-American teachers leaving teaching at higher rates than White counterparts even though the former are recruited in proportionally higher numbers. Thus, while recruitment efforts appear somewhat successful, schools and school systems fail to retain teachers of color. This “revolving door” of African-American teachers portends dire consequences for school communities, creating instability of staffing that potentially upend students’ opportunities for academic success. African-American female (AAF) teachers, considered a backbone of non-White communities, are particularly sensitive to teacher mobility and turnover. Studies, however, indicate that AAF teachers are more satisfied working in urban school contexts than other teachers, suggesting that they prefer racially congruent schools which share sociocultural attributes similar to their own, and view working conditions more favorably in such environments.

Teachers’ perceptions of the workplace can be used to gauge risk for occupational stress. Commonly referred to as the transactional model, teachers’ risk for stress can be assessed by the appraising workplace resources vis-à-vis workplace demands. Stress-vulnerable teachers are associated with lower professional commitment and increased occupational burnout. Using data from the National Center for Education Statistics 2007–2008 Schools and Staffing Survey (SASS), this chapter explored the intersections of risk for occupational stress, racial congruence, and professional commitment among AAF teachers. Findings from this chapter suggest interactions between racial congruence and AAF teachers’ perceptions of occupational stress and commitment to teaching. Implications for how these results might inform policy are discussed.


This study uses the most recent national data from the National Center for Education Statistics, Schools and Staffing Survey (SASS), 2011–2012 and Teacher Follow-up Survey (TFS), 2012–2013 to investigate attrition trends among Black teachers, and Black female teachers in particular, to inform a qualitative analysis of proposed and adopted teacher retention policy interventions. This study asks: Why do Black teachers report leaving, and what would bring them back to the classroom? What working conditions are associated with Black teacher attrition? What policy interventions can meet the needs of Black teachers in having successful and supported teaching experiences? How have these interventions been successful, and what are the considerations for applying them more broadly? We find that Black teacher turnover rates are significantly higher than those of other teachers and that there are several substantive differences in their preparation, school characteristics, and reasons for leaving. We describe policy interventions that target these conditions, such as teacher residencies, loan forgiveness, mentoring and induction, and principal training programs. We include in that discussion the relative benefits and challenges of each implications for policymaking.

Cover of Black Female Teachers
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Book series
Advances in Race and Ethnicity in Education
Series copyright holder
Emerald Publishing Limited
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