Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Middle and Secondary Education

First Advisor

Chara Bohan, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Joseph Feinberg, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Kristen Buras, Ph.D.

Fourth Advisor

Howard Robert Baker, Ph.D


Historical empathy (HE) is refers to deep inquiry in which academic and emotional responses to historical content are shaped through source analysis of the actions, motives, perspectives, and beliefs of people in the past. There are limited studies about whether students demonstrate HE through analysis of underrepresented historical figures. Additionally, studies are limited on how students’ social identities influence demonstration of HE. Consequently, there is a gap in the literature with regard to whether source analysis of underrepresented historical figures, as well as students’ social identities, impact demonstration of HE and critical race consciousness (CRC).

Elizabeth Jennings is an example of an underrepresented historical figure. She was an African American teacher who was forcibly ejected from a streetcar due to her race in 1854. Jennings sued the streetcar company and won. Although Jennings set an important precedent for African Americans to use the legal system to challenge antebellum segregation ordinances, she remains a relatively obscure historical figure.

The purpose of this study was to examine whether or not an instructional unit about Elizabeth Jennings called “The Elizabeth Jennings Project” (EJP) promotes conditions conducive for student demonstration of HE and/or CRC. A case study of one middle and two high school classes was conducted at one private, non-secular school in an urban area of the Northeast. Instructional methods that best promoted HE included in-class discussion and debate. Students provided insights about their social identities during focus group sessions with regard to how the EJP fostered HE and CRC.