Picture of Latrise JohnsonProfessor Latrise Johnson’s (pictured left) (with PhD student Hannah Sullivan (pictured right)) article Revealing the Human and the Writer: The Promise of a Humanizing Writing Pedagogy for Black Students received this year’s (2019-2020) Alan C. Purves Award, which is presented annually to the author(s) of the Research in the Teaching of English (a peer-reviewed journal of the National Council for Techers of English) article from the previous year’s volume judged as likely to have the greatest impact on educational practice.

This article offers ways that teachers of writing might tap into Black students’ intellectual heritage and invite them to use writing as a way to connect to what they do and learn while at school.

Johnson and Sullivan stated, “Recent research in writing with adolescents in out-of-school spaces provides insight into how young people learn to use writing to author their own lives. However, English language arts (ELA) classrooms focus on correctness, form, and removing oneself from the texts composed in school. For Black students in particular, these expectations for writing dehumanize students, decenter their voices and contributions to intellectual discourses, and invoke deficit perspectives about their writing abilities and linguistic identities. Using a critical stance on place, literacy, and humanity in order to forbear connections between how the literacy learning and practices of ELA classrooms/schools might be used to (de)humanize and (de)culturize Black students, this study examines the writing pedagogy of a professor who taught a semester-long creative writing class for students at West High School. Through a humanizing approach to teaching writing, the professor and students engaged in writing and being in ways that honored – as well as centered and supported – their individual, cultural, and writerly identities.

Latrise also received the 2017-2018 Purves Award for her article Writing the Self: Black Queer Youth Challenge Heteronormative Ways of Being in an After-School Writing Club, which speaks to the rich possibilities of the English language arts, and of queer-inclusive practices, and how the writing of queer youth might disrupt heteronormativity and affirm gender and sexual diversity. Findings suggest that the act of writing enabled the participants to navigate and disrupt heteronormativity and traditional writing practices while being who/how they were. These findings contribute to research that seeks to interrupt literacy normativity and calls for restorative literacies aimed at enabling Black queer youth to (re)claim who they are through their writing.