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Khalil Anthony Johnson
My research probes questions of race and subjugation; the nature of sovereignty, citizenship, and state power; and the tension between competition and collaboration in interethnic campaigns for equality and civil rights. Specifically, my dissertation, “Red, Black, & Brown: African American Educators in Indian Country,” documents the stories of African American educators and the students they taught in reservation boarding schools during the civil rights era. Research conducted in six National Archives branches along with multiple oral history interviews suggest that desegregation sent hundreds of displaced black teachers into Bureau of Indian Affairs run schools on reservations across the United States, revealing an unexplored consequence of the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision. This migration narrative, I suggest, ruptures a partition dividing 20th century black and Indian history and connects the educational history of both groups to shed new light on the long civil rights struggle. Excluded from the protections of true citizenship in the South, black teachers found relative security through federal employment only to become functionaries in the government's efforts to assimilate another internally colonized people. While differing statuses of inequality made African Americans and Native Americans competitors in the struggle for equal rights and self-determination, a shared sense of oppression often fostered affinities and alliances across racial lines.