Date of Award

Summer 8-11-2020

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Early Childhood Education

First Advisor

Sarah Bridges-Rhoads and Thomas Crisp

Second Advisor

Gholnescar Muhammad

Third Advisor

Diane Truscott


This dissertation follows in the footsteps of numerous scholars who have called for the explicit and intentional integration of Black women’s experiences, knowledge, and wisdom into academic research and more specifically into research that aims to dismantle educational inequities. Grounded in Black feminist theories and methodologies as well my own positionality as a Black woman, this dissertation aims to broaden the ways that a historically praxis-oriented body of research in elementary education, critical literacies research, is theorized and enacted by integrating more thoroughly Black women's ways of knowing. My goal is not to essentialize Black women as a monolithic group; rather, this dissertation explores how to leverage our individual and combined perspectives, which are grounded in our rich history of resistance and thriving in the face of adversity, in order to produce knowledge and literacy practices useful for justice-oriented education.

Chapter One of this two-chapter dissertation (Review and Research format) is an analysis of academic literature related to critical literacies research and Black women educators in elementary education, addressing the question: How are Black women’s ways of knowing integrated in critical literacies research with participants who are Black women educators? The chapter offers a sense of the extent to which Black women educators’ ways of knowing are associated with the term critical literacy. It also identifies fruitful strategies that critical literacies researchers can use to integrate Black women’s ways of knowing into the knowledge base and practices of critical literacies, such as integrating Black women educators' emotions and spiritual knowledge into the research and co-researching with Black women who are also participants.

Chapter Two is an empirical study that examines the narratives of four Black women educators to understand the literacies, which Jeanine Staples (2020) refers to as extraordinary literacies, that they practice in their own lives as resistance to experiences that threaten their physical, spiritual, and mental well-being. I ask: How do Black women who are educators employ extraordinary and critical literacies to address oppression and marginalization? and What are the affordances of extraordinary literacies for Black women who are educators as well as for critical literacies research more broadly? Guided by the assumptions of Black feminist theories as well as my own ongoing reading, writing, and living in relation to justice-oriented practices, I analyzed data produced through individual interviews with participants, audio reflections created by participants on their own time, and group interviews as collective conversations. Findings demonstrate how participants’ extraordinary literacies act as expressions of agency and self-definition toward participants’ resistance to oppressions and efforts towards social justice. Participants’ enactments of extraordinary literacies also expand existing conceptions of literacy practices that promote justice and help educators and researchers gain greater access to the sophisticated intellectual and activist practices of members of marginalized groups, specifically, Black women educators.


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