From Miseducation to Self-Education: Countering Missing Narratives with Rich History and High Expectations

by Dr. Trinity Davis

A person sitting cross-legged in a chair
Photo provided by the author

This piece is a part of our Spark series: Educators for Change: Marginalization and Anti-Racist Curriculum in the Classroom

My journey toward becoming an educator began in my fourth grade at a predominantly white school in Kansas. That time was impactful for me because, for the first time, I noticed the physical differences between my friends and classmates. I could see their hair and skin were different from mine, and I realized that I was the only Black student in my class. One day during a social studies lesson the chasm between us grew deeper. I read ahead in our text so I would be prepared if called upon by my teacher to read aloud and came across a heading titled “Blacks in America.” I felt excited that we were (finally!) going to discuss race. That day I was not chosen as a reader, but I vividly remember what another classmate read: “Black people were slaves; they could not read or write.” The feeling of embarrassment is one that I will always remember. We closed our books and moved to the next subject, but those words remained and hung heavily in the air. My feelings of defeat were magnified as classmates taunted me with words from our textbook, calling me a slave and saying that I could not read or write. This negative interaction motivated me to learn more about my history. The question for me was, what happened between slavery and today? The answer was not found in my social studies book, so my curiosity sent me to the school and public libraries to find supplemental literature about Black history.

Person in a red jacket and white shirt sitting at a computer
Photo provided by the author


As I matured over the years, I wanted to grow my understanding of Black America through a historical lens. So I developed a systematic approach in educating myself: receive information, conduct interviews, and read more. The first tactic, receive information, typically began with facts received from my teachers, which, more often than not, excluded the contributions of or commentary on the impact to Black Americans. This led me to ask questions and interview…