As awareness of “narrative persuasion” surfaces into collective consciousness in the present-day United States, alongside struggles over whether and how to grapple with histories of slavery and racism, the stakes around racial storytelling in the classroom—around which stories about race and belonging get told or cast aside—have become abundantly clear. The power of stories to shape and naturalize beliefs can be mobilized for racist, dehumanizing purposes. But educators at any level can also harness the power of storytelling for anti-racist purposes. They can teach students to become skeptical of existing racial stories and expose their disempowering mechanisms and effects by envisioning racial storytelling as a subject of historical analysis. Educators can also use racial storytelling as a critical method for historical reconstruction, guiding students in composing new racial narratives grounded in historical methods and anti-racist principles. This essay discusses these dual uses of racial stories in the classroom, drawing on the author’s experience teaching across disciplines, languages, and sources.

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