Dr. Lisa Delpit was raised in a time and place where Black women could not try on a hat in a department store. A time and place when Black children were unable to attend school with Whites. Her upbringing and experiences growing up in the Jim Crow era helped prepare and motivate her to fight for equality and social justice. Her commitment led her to become a force in the education system…
In 1974, Lisa Delpit earned her B.A., in Education Psychology from Antioch College, Yellow Springs, Ohio. In 1980 she received her Ed.M., in reading and Language Development from Harvard Graduate School of Education, and in 1984 Department of Teaching, Curriculum and Learning Environments. In 1984, Lisa Delpit received her Ed.D. from the Harvard Graduate School of Education.
She grew up in the ’50s and early ’60s in “Old South Baton Rouge,” the first black settlement in the city. The house on Lettsworth Street in which she lived as a child was built next to the “Chicken Shack,” a community restaurant that her father started with 46¢ in his pocket. Much of her young life was spent in the kitchen with her father.
Delpit was raised in a time and place where Black women could not try on a hat in a department store — a time and place when Black children were unable to attend school with whites. Her upbringing and her experiences growing up in the Jim Crow era helped prepare and motivate Delpit to fight for equality and social justice. Her commitment led her to become a force in the education system.
Dr. Delpit has won accolades for her work on teaching and learning in urban schools and in diverse cultural settings. She studied education in both Alaska and New Guinea, published several books and is a sought-after speaker.
Shortly after obtaining her Bachelors of Science in Education from radically progressive, Antioch College in Ohio Delpit took her first teaching job in an inner-city open elementary school in Philadelphia, The students were 60 percent poor, black children from South Philadelphia and 40 percent white children from Society Hill.
She recalls conflict that arose in teaching when she realized her strategies did not work for all her students; her white students zooming ahead while her black students played games and learned to read at a much slower rate than White students. Later, when she attended Harvard Graduate School of Education to pursue her Master’s and Doctoral degrees in Curriculum, Instruction, and Research, she came to understand the importance of students learning to write in meaningful contexts.
Delpit’s placement as one of the foremost educators and writers on the subject of culturally-relevant approaches to educating students of color began with a series of eloquent, plain-spoken essays in the Harvard Educational Review. These essays questioned the validity of some popular teaching strategies for African-American students and were eventually spun off into a book titled, Other People’s Children: Cultural Conflict in the Classroom. The book, published in 1995 has been cited for the ongoing debate surrounding what she describes as “finding ways and means to best educate urban students, particularly African-American, and other students of color”.
Throughout her career, Delpit also functioned in a variety of other roles. As a scholar, she served on the Commission for Research in Black Education (CORIBE). She also worked as a teacher and Professor at Georgia State University and later assumed the capacity of Professor at Florida International University College of Education.
As an African-American researcher, Delpit’s emphasis has been elementary education with a focus on language and literacy development. She has also been concerned with issues relating to race and access granted to minority groups in education.