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EDUCATION: Derrick P. Alridge

EDUCATIONRevisiting Intellectual TraditionsDerrick P. Alridge

Title: Associate Professor, Social Foundations of Education, University of Georgia-Athens
Education: Ph.D., Educational Theory and Policy, Pennsylvania State University; M.Ed., History/Social
Science Education, Winthrop University; B.A., History, Winthrop University
Age: 41

If you ever get the chance to correspond with Dr. Derrick P. Alridge, be sure to pay close attention to the tagline on his e-mail. In a space where most boast name, title and rank, Alridge calls attention to the profound words of W.E.B. Du Bois, excerpted from his eulogy of Carter G. Woodson:

“No White university ever recognized his work; no White scientific society every honored him. Perhaps this was his greatest award.”

These words have served as a source of inspiration for Alridge on his journey from teaching middle and high school history in both rural and urban areas of Columbia, S.C., to earning a Ph.D. in educational theory and policy from Pennsylvania State University, to his current position. He also shares the quote with others he meets who are going through the struggle of trying to get tenure or get their work recognized in the academy.

“As great as Woodson was, as careful a scholar as he was, he still was not respected by the academy,” Alridge says. “If someone of Woodson’s stature was not respected, it helps me put in context the kinds of struggles that African Americans have faced in terms of getting their work respected in the academy.”

Placing educational concerns in a historical context is what Alridge does best. His research centers on the history and the study of the social and educational ideas of African American intellectuals, educators and social activists such as Du Bois, Woodson, Anna Julia Cooper and Nannie Helen Burroughs. He studies their ideas, but even more importantly, the relevancy of those ideas for contemporary realities in education, such as low Black student academic achievement and the negative effects of culturally irrelevant curricula on African American students.

Currently, Alridge has two books under contract that center on Du Bois: The Educational Thought of W.E.B. Du Bois: A Study in Intellectual History and W.E.B. Du Bois: Of Race and Identity, Family and Community, and Education. He anticipates that both studies will be published by the end of the year.

Alridge has devoted much of the past decade to the study of Du Bois. His dissertation focused on the social, economic and political thought of the prominent intellectual. In 2001, he was awarded the competitive Spencer Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship, which allowed him to do archival research on Du Bois. At the same time, Alridge has devoted his energy to other areas of research, such as the civil rights movement and the study of hip-hop.

As co-principal investigator of the Foot Soldier Project for Civil Rights Studies at the University of Georgia, Alridge has helped produce four film documentaries. Along with his mentor Dr. Maurice Daniels, who is the project’s director, Alridge conducts and oversees archival research on unknown and unsung people involved in the civil rights movement. Alridge admits that the university’s response to the project was “at first lackluster,” but once university officials viewed the documentaries, he says, they came on board and have been very supportive.

Alridge’s study of hip-hop also is often met with resistance. He has several articles in press on the topic and has a book in progress on the “hip-hop mind.” He also served as guest editor of a special issue of the Journal of African American History. The issue, titled “Hip Hop as a Social Movement,” will be published this spring. Still, Alridge says people are always asking him why he would get involved in studying the musical genre, particularly considering the strong resistance toward hip-hop by the civil rights generation.

Alridge’s ability to bridge generations and to put together ideas that we don’t usually place together such as civil rights and hip-hop is part of his creativity, says Dr. Aaron Gresson, a psychology professor at Penn State and one of Alridge’s several mentors. Gresson says he has always been impressed with Alridge’s reverence toward senior scholars and his willingness to learn from his elders. “This speaks to his makeup as a person and his scholarship,” he says.

It is no surprise then that among the awards Alridge is most proud of is the Outstanding Teaching Award he received last year from the University of Georgia’s College of Education. The recognition of his influence on his students and those he mentors, particularly from a major university where teaching is often not valued as much as research, means a lot to Alridge.

And what is the one thing the students say most about their teacher-scholar Dr. Alridge?
“They would say I ‘keep it real,'” Alridge says.

It is a compliment that transcends generations.

By Robin V. Smiles

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