BIOGRAPHY: Karsonya (Kaye) Wise Whitehead is the #blackmommyactivist and an associate professor of Communication and African and African American Studies in the Department of Communication at Loyola University Maryland and the Founding Executive Director of The Emilie Frances Davis Center for Education, Research, and Culture. She is the author of four books: “Notes from a Colored Girl: The Civil War Pocket Diaries of Emilie Frances Davis” which received both the 2015 Darlene Clark Hine Book Award from the Organization of American Historians and the 2014 Letitia Woods Brown Book Award from the Association of Black Women Historians; “RaceBrave,” which was selected as one of the Top Ten Summer Reads by The Baltimore Sun; “Letters to My Black Sons: Raising Boys in a Post-Racial America; and “Sparking the Genius: The Carter G. Woodson Lecture.” The co-editor of “Rethinking Emilie Frances Davis: Lesson Plans for Teaching Her Civil War Pocket Diaries” and “Coleman: The Art Story.” She is also a K-12 Master Teacher in African American History; an award-winning curriculum writer and lesson plan developer; an award-winning former Baltimore City middle school teacher, winning the 2006-07 Maryland History Teacher of the Year Award; and, a three time New York Emmy nominated documentary filmmaker.
As an interdisciplinary scholar with a focus in race, class, and gender, her teaching, research, and service crosses many boundaries reaching deep into the fields of communication, history, education, cultural studies (specifically race, class, and gender issues), women’s studies and black history. Her background experience includes her doctoral work in black women’s history, historical sociolinguistics, and women’s history from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County; a master’s degree in International Peace Studies, with a concentration in race, class, and gender issues, from the Joan B. Kroc Center of International Peace Studies at the University of Notre Dame; a B.A. degree in history from Lincoln University , PA.
“Sparking the Genius: The Carter G. Woodson Lecture” (Apprentice House) was published in February 2014. In Sparking the Genius, Whitehead outlines the Critical Moments in American History that defined both the beginning of the early Civil Rights Movement-with the release of the Emancipation Proclamation-and the modern Civil Rights Movement in 1963. Starting with the Birmingham Campaign (Project C), Whitehead outlines, defines, and deconstructs five Critical Moments including the release of Dr. King’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” the assassination of Medgar Evers, the March on Washington, and the bombing of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church. With an introduction from Dr. Alicia Moore and Dr. La Vonne Neal, the book also includes an article on critical pedagogy by Dr. Conra Gist and a lesson plan for teaching the Woodson Lecture to K-16 students.
“Notes from a Colored Girl: The Civil War Pocket Diaries of Emilie Frances Davis” (USC Press) was published in May 2014 and was recently awarded the 2015 Darlene Clark Hine Book Award from the Organization of American Historians and the 2014 Letitia Woods Brown Book Award for Best Edited Book in African American history from the Association of Black Women Historians. In Notes from a Colored Girl, Karsonya Wise Whitehead examines the life and experiences of Emilie Frances Davis, a freeborn twenty-one-year-old mulatto woman, through a close reading of three pocket diaries she kept from 1863 to 1865. Whitehead explores Davis’s worldviews and politics, her perceptions of both public and private events, her personal relationships, and her place in Philadelphia’s free black community in the nineteenth century.
“Letters to My Black Sons: Raising Boys in a Post-Racial America” (Apprentice House) was published in January 2015. For the past 14 years, she has written letters, poems, notes, and words of inspiration to her two boys, Kofi Elijah and Amir Elisha. She has documented everything from their first steps to their first encounter with racism; from their questions about race to their questions about falling in love. She has borne witness to their tears of joy and pain, their cries of frustration and discovery, and the difficulties that they have encountered growing up black and male. Since this is her love for them poured out onto the page, she chose to publish them exactly as they were written-without any edits or corrections. “Letters to My Black Sons” traces her (and her husband’s) journey to try and raise happy and healthy black boys in a post-racial America.
“RaceBrave,” is a collection of poetry and essays that detail Whitehead’s experiences raising two black sons in Baltimore City. Passionate, edgy, unapologetic… RaceBrave: new and selected works provides another glimpse into Karsonya Wise Whitehead’s work to document her experience raising two black boys in a post-racial America. On July 7, 2014, the day Eric Garner was murdered, Whitehead set out to write about what was happening across America to unarmed black people, in doing so she explores the feelings of hopelessness and helplessness that resonate with parents around the country-sometimes with humor, sometimes with sadness, but always with an ear that bends toward the truth. In marking these moments, Whitehead also reached back into her childhood diaries to examine how life has changed for her, as a writer, a poet, and a mother over the years. RaceBrave is a masterwork that covers multiple topics and captures every mood
Karsonya (Kaye) Wise Whitehead is an associate professor of Communication and African and African American Studies at Loyola University Maryland and the award-winning author of Notes from a Colored Girl: The Civil War Pocket Diaries of Emilie Frances Davis; a featured Public Commentator for WYPR and Op-Ed columnist for the Baltimore Sun; a K-12 master teacher in African American History; an award-winning curriculum writer and lesson plan developer; an award-winning former Baltimore City middle school teacher; and, a three-time New York Emmy-nominated documentary filmmaker.
From 2013-2015, Dr. Whitehead was selected as one of only four experts to participate in the White House’s Black History Month Panel co-sponsored by President Obama and the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH) on topics ranging from the Emancipation Proclamation to the president’s policies on women and girls. In 2014, she was one of the featured speakers at the Youth Mentoring Summit at the U.S. Capital in celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington. She has received various fellowships and grants to support her work including a 2012 Gilder Lehrman Fellowship in American History, a 2011 Lord Baltimore Fellowship from the Maryland Historical Society, a 2010 NEH Summer Stipend, and a 2007 SREB Pre-Doctoral Fellowship for Maryland (only one doctoral fellowship is awarded per state).
In February 2016, Dr. Whitehead received the Joan B. Kroc’s Institute for International Peace Studies “Distinguished Alumni” Award for her work as a peace activist, scholar, filmmaker, writer, and poet. In 2016, her book, RaceBrave: new and selected works, was selected by the Baltimore Sun as one of the Top Ten Summer Reads. In 2015 her book, Notes from a Colored Girl, was awarded the Darlene Clark Hine Book Award for Best Book in African American women’s and gender history from the Organization of American Historians (OAH) and in 2014, it received the Letitia Woods Brown Book Award for Best Edited Book in African American History from the Association of Black Women Historians. In addition, Dr. Whitehead was awarded the 2014 Lifetime Achievement Award from the Progressive National Baptist Convention (PNBC); was selected as one of the top 25 women professors in Maryland by Online Schools Maryland; and in 2013, she was the recipient of Loyola University Maryland’s Faculty Award for Excellence in Engaged Scholarship for her work documenting the stories of women who are temporarily experiencing homelessness. Whitehead has also received the 2006 Gilder Lehrman Preserve America Maryland History Teacher of the Year Award (sponsored by the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History and the Maryland State Department of Education); was one of fifty alumni to receive the Distinguished Black Alumni Award from the University of Notre Dame, Indiana (2005); and, was a winner of both the Langston Hughes, David Diop, Etheridge Knight Poetry Award (1999, 2000) and the Zora Neale Hurston Creative Writing Award (1998) from the Gwendolyn Brooks Creative Writing Center at the University of Chicago.
Dr. Whitehead has trained over 3000 K-12 teachers throughout the country in how to become culturally responsive teachers in diverse environments. She is the author of several book chapters, articles, opinion editorials, and four books, RaceBrave: new and selected works (2016); Letters to My Black Sons: Raising Boys in a Post-Racial America (2015); the award-winning Notes from a Colored Girl: The Civil War Pocket Diaries of Emilie Frances Davis (2014); Sparking the Genius: The Carter G. Woodson Lecture (2014); and, the co-editor of Rethinking Emilie Frances Davis: Lesson Plans for Teaching her 1863-1865 Pocket Diaries (2014). Her forthcoming book, The Emancipation Proclamation: Race Relations on the Eve of Reconstruction (Routledge), and her encyclopedia collection, 50 Key Events that Shaped African American History (ABC-CLIO) are due out in 2017. She is the creator of the #SayHerName syllabus, the Clinton Syllabus, and the #TrumpSyllabusK12 Syllabus. She is also the guest editor for the fall 2016 special “#BlackGirlActivism” edition of Meridians journal.
Prior to her work in academia, Dr. Whitehead was a documentary filmmaker with MetroTV, a PBS-affiliate and a senior producer for Music Television Networks (MTV). In 2001, she directed and produced Twin Towers: A History, a documentary film that describes the technical problems that were overcome, including the challenge to the iron workers and it recounts the daredevil stunts that the buildings attracted. The film was nominated for a New York-Emmy in 2002 (Dr. Whitehead’s third nomination). It has since become the second-largest selling film about 9/11 and airs regularly on PBS stations around the country.
She received her Ph.D. from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County in the Language, Literacy, and Culture program, her M.A. from the University of Notre Dame, Indiana in International Peace Studies, her graduate degree in Advanced Documentary and Narrative Filmmaking from the New York Film Academy, and her B.A. from Lincoln University, PA.