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An exploration of how engaging identity and cultural heritage can transform teaching and learning for Black women educators in the name of justice and freedom in the classroom
In The Spirit of Our Work, Dr. Cynthia Dillard centers the spiritual lives of Black women educators and their students, arguing that spirituality has guided Black people throughout the diaspora. She demonstrates how Black women teachers and teacher educators can heal, resist, and (re)member their identities in ways that are empowering for them and their students. Dillard emphasizes that any discussion of Black teachers’ lives and work cannot be limited to truncated identities as enslaved persons in the Americas.
The Spirit of Our Work addresses questions that remain largely invisible in what is known about teaching and teacher education. According to Dillard, this invisibility renders the powerful approaches to Black education that are imbodied and marshaled by Black women teachers unknown and largely unavailable to inform policy, practice, and theory in education. The Spirit of Our Work highlights how the intersectional identities of Black women teachers matter in teaching and learning and how educational settings might more carefully and conscientiously curate structures of support that pay explicit and necessary attention to spirituality as a crucial consideration.
About the Author
Cynthia B. Dillard (Nana Mansa II of Mpeasem, Ghana, West Africa) is incoming dean of Seattle University’s College of Education and the former Mary Frances Early Professor in Teacher Education and chair of the Department of Educational Theory and Practice at the University of Georgia. Two of her books, On Spiritual Strivings and Learning to (Re)member the Things We’ve Learned to Forget, were selected as Critics’ Choice Book Award winners by the American Educational Studies Association (AESA). Connect with her at cynthiabdillard.com and on Twitter @cynthiabdillard.
“Dillard has written a remarkable book that will move readers committed to making the United States a more just and inclusive society.” —Library Journal, Starred Review
“This is a book for Black women and Black educators of any gender, but it should also inspire anyone who seeks to grow in understanding as they love, raise, and teach the next generation.” —Spirituality & Practice
“The Spirit of Our Work is a balm for the soul for Black women educators. As Dillard talks about the spiritual knowing of Black women, in a society that seeks to silence Black women and has used stereotypical tropes to denigrate Black women’s knowledge, a theorization of endarkened feminist epistemology is essential. It gives words for me to trust myself, my critiques of the current education system, and my ancestral knowledge.” —Cierra Kaler-Jones, Rethinking Schools
“With breathtaking prose, Cynthia Dillard has written a love letter to Black women teachers. The Spirit of Our Work beautifully anchors itself in the dynamism, creativity, and magic of Black women and girls. For all who teach and for all who learn, this book offers a brilliant roadmap for creating learning spaces in which we welcome and celebrate the fullness of our shared and expansive humanity.” —Treva B. Lindsey, author of Colored No More: Reinventing Black Womanhood in Washington, D.C.
“Dr. Cynthia Dillard has given us all a precious gift in this book, The Spirit of Our Work: Black Women Teachers (Re)member. No matter what your race is, hold this book in your hands with anticipation. Soak up, pause, and reflect as you read each page and prepare to act upon what you learn. Dr. Dillard has shared a road map for how we can transform education through uplifting the lineage and power of Blackness, Black women teachers, and the sacred educational road to Black freedoms. In doing so, Dr. Dillard teaches us that to develop liberatory educational environments where Black women educators can (re)claim and (re)member their inherent freedom means nothing less than liberation for us all.” —Anneliese Singh, author of The Racial Healing Handbook: Practical Activities to Help You Challenge Privilege, Confront Systemic Racism, and Engage in Collective Healing
“(Re)member, (re)imagine, (re)claim, and (re)center! That is, fundamentally, the purpose of The Spirit of Our Work: Black Women Teachers (Re)member. Cynthia Dillard beckons us to love, honor, and listen to Black women teachers who have always led and will always lead us to liberation and freedom. The very spirit of Black women are manifestations of Africa and the spirit of our ancestors. Let these serve as daily reminders for Black women to live fully as we move closer to freedom. What a powerful testament!” —Valerie Kinloch, Renée and Richard Goldman Dean and professor, School of Education, University of Pittsburgh, and author of Harlem on Our Minds
“With poetic eloquence and intellectual brilliance, this exploration of the Ghana Study Abroad in Education program as a space for inquiry offers a unique genre of educational research from the vantage point of Black women’s scholarship, spirituality, and practice. The Spirit of Our Work (re)presents both old and new understanding of Blackness with conceptual clarity regarding universally human themes. Dr. Dillard calls us back to Africa—to memories of our future that affirm a role for Black identity and culture in the education of Black teachers but also for the benefit of everyone’s shared humanity.” —Dr. Joyce E. King, Benjamin E. Mays Endowed Chair for Urban Teaching, Learning and Leadership and professor, Georgia State University