Harvard Educational Review
  1. Blacked Out

    Dilemmas of Race, Identity, and Success at Capital High

    By Signithia Fordham

    Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996. 425 pp. $22.95 (paper).

    My initial introduction to anthropologist Signithia Fordham's work was an article entitled "Black Students' School Success: Coping with the `Burden of Acting White,'" coauthored by John Ogbu. The 1986 article was a result of Fordham's participation in an ethnographic study (on which her dissertation was based) of a predominantly Black Washington, DC, high school. It postulated that some Black students do not achieve academic success because they relate academic success to "acting White." This form of resistance by students is based on the conflict between their perceptions of being Black and an American school curriculum based on White middle-class cultural values, which ignores and/or denigrates Black culture and Black people. The article also detailed the ambivalence and conflicts of Black students who were academically successful. Although widely disseminated and often cited in the educational literature, Fordham's article and thesis remained controverisal, as reflected in the work of several researchers such as McDermott, Mehan, Erickson, and Trueba.

    Having since read several of Fordham's articles, I have anticipated this longer work. Blacked Out allows the reader to see the full extent of the ethnography on which her previous articles are based, and how the "acting White" theory was developed. I once had a professor who told his students to judge the credibility of a qualitative study by asking, "Can I believe this?" Because qualitative studies are not based on statistical methods, that is to say, numbers, the reader has to rely on the believability of the research and of the researcher's interpretation of the findings. Fordham's book is an excellent presentation of the original ethnographic study leading to the theory of acting White. It is well written and extensively documented, permitting the reader to determine for him/herself if the theory is supported by the data. I recommend this book even to those not familiar with the author's previous work, as it is important for anyone interested in the study of low-income minorities, school achievement, and the use of ethnography as a means of exploring this important topic.

  2. Share


    The Colonizer/Colonized Chicana Ethnographer
    Identity, Marginalization, and Co-optation in the Field
    By Sofia Villenas
    "To Take Them at Their Word"
    Language Data in the Study of Teachers' Knowledge
    By Donald Freeman
    Inclusion, School Restructuring, and the Remaking of American Society
    By Dorothy Kerzner Lipsky and Alan Gartner
    Sustained Inquiry in Education
    Lessons from Skill Grouping and Class Size
    By Frederick Mosteller, Richard J. Light and Jason A. Sachs

    Book Notes

    Saving Our Sons
    By Marita Golden

    This Is How We Live and Tapori

    Wasting America's Future: The Children's Defense Fund Report on the Cost of Child Poverty
    By Arloc Sherman; Introduction by Marian Wright Edelman; Foreword by Robert M. Solow

    Blacked Out
    By Signithia Fordham

    Works about John Dewey 1886–1995
    Edited by Barbara Levine

    By Matthew Lipman

    Diversity in Higher Education
    By Caryn McTighe Musil, with Mildred Garcia, Yolanda Moses, and Daryl G. Smith

    Handbook of Qualitative Research
    Edited by Norman K. Denzin and Yvonna S. Lincoln.

    Commissions, Reports, Reforms, and Educational Policy
    Edited by Rick Ginsberg and David N. Plank.

    The Multilevel Design
    By Harry J. M. Huttner and Pieter van den Eeden.

    Search and Seizure in the Public Schools (Second Edition)
    By Lawrence F. Rossow and Jacqueline A. Stefkovich