Black On Campus
Higher Education and the African American Experience

The Quotable Black Scholar: Vanessa Siddle Walker

November 3rd, 2008 by Ajuan Mance

Vanessa Siddle Walker


Revisionist historical accounts have shown that many of the school environments maintained by black educators during de jure segregation were ones in which institutional and interpersonal caring permeated the climate, despite the oppressive learning environments forced upon them by local school boards. With strong community support and professional educators whose training (by 1954) in many Southern states exceeded that of their white counterparts, African American children often were buffered in their schools from the negative societal messages about their potential and encouraged to believe in what they were capable of achieving.

–from “A Half-Century of Challenge,” The Emory Report, August 23, 2004

[The assumption that] nothing good happened in segregation is incorrect and is impoverishing our ability to move forward. [There was a] cadre of black educators who managed to uplift without resources” during segregation.

–at a recent conference on racial, ethnic and class divides (Emory U, October 2008), as quoted in The Emory Wheel.


Biographical Notes: Vanessa Siddle Walker is the Winship Distinguished Research Professor of Education at Emory University in Atlanta, GA. She holds a B.A. from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and an Ed.M and Ed.D from the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

Professor Walker is the author of Their Highest Potential: An African American School Community in the Segregated South (UNC Press, 1996), winner of multiple awards, including the American Education Research Association First Book Award. She is also the co-editor of Facing Racism in American Education (Harvard Education Review Reprint Series, 1990). She has also published numerous articles and book reviews in academic journals.

The University of Georgia School of Education’s online news site describes her career prior to joining the faculty at Emory:

Walker began her career as a high school teacher in Chapel Hill High School and then at Cummings High School. She also taught English seminars for minority students at Phillips Academy. Prior to accepting a position at Emory, she taught at Wheelock and Elon Colleges and the University of Pennsylvania.

Professor Walker’s primary research interest is in what she describes as, “Historical and cultural influences on the teaching and learning of African American students,” including the history and culture of segregated schools during the Jim Crow era.

Posted by Ajuan Mance


Posted in Academia, African Americans, Current Events, Harvard University, Higher Education, race, Vanessa Siddle Walker

3 Responses

  1. tina

    Great woman! Great work!

  2. Jackie Smith Harris

    Vanessa has always been a wonderful, smart, deep individual who strive for perfection. We were best friends growing up and I am not surprised at all about her accomplishments. I am looking forward to more of what God has instilled in Vanessa to bring forth for our learning.

  3. Rick Frederick

    Emilie Vanessa Siddle-Walker grew up in Caswell County, North Carolina. To learn more about the history of this county and the genealogy of its people visit the Caswell County Historical Association website:

    Rick Frederick
    Archivist and Webmaster
    Caswell County Historical Association

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