top of page

CRT Summer School 2023 presents

July 31 - August 3, 2023 

Martha's Vineyard

Fighting Back to Move Forward:

Defending the Freedom to Learn

CRTSS23_on demand asset.png

The African American Policy Forum is excited to be Fighting Back to Move Forward at this year’s Critical Race Theory Summer School! Our focus is on the “war on woke,” a dog whistle campaign conservatives have mobilized to undermine our democracy, impair public education, erase historical truths about Black history, circumscribe Black freedom of expression, and roll back the modest gains of the Civil Rights Movement. By revealing how attacks on Black voices and ideas are connected to attacks on Black votes and Black lives, instructors at CRT summer school will provide participants with a roadmap to understanding, and the tools for combatting, growing and coordinated efforts to undermine core features of our democracy. With ever-growing book bans, legislation prohibiting the teaching of CRT, and regressive laws like “Don’t Say Gay,” it has never been more urgent to connect the dots between the freedom to learn and the freedom to live.  In that regard, our aim at this year’s Summer School is not only to fight back against the “war on woke,” but also to move forward with a campaign that centers Black history, intellectual traditions, and civil rights organizing as essential to progressive efforts to create a robust, multiracial democracy.  Seats are limited, so register here today!  

As with prior CRT Summer Schools, CRT Summer School 2023 will include a variety of plenaries, breakout sessions, and networking opportunities aimed to inform, activate, and inspire. We’re inviting parents, educators, students, social workers, legal practitioners, media professionals and concerned community members from all walks of life, because there is something for anyone to learn from the sheer breadth of options available this year! Our Plenary sessions, our breakout sessions and workshops will focus on our Freedom to Learn Campaign. Our plenary sessions are designed to provide the analytical tools necessary to fight back against this War on Wokeness and racial progress. The breakouts will uplift what’s at stake in this current backlash movement, and specifically what substantive knowledge that extremists and their enablers (like the College Board) seek to censor, as well as traditional favorites. Thursday’s workshops will focus on skills- and movement-building sessions to build our capacity to fight back and move forward.




The plenary sessions are designed to address why the “war on woke” has become conservatives’ retrenchment tool of choice to delegitimize a broad range of progressive projects, particularly those that center on racial justice.  Cumulatively, the plenaries will make clear that the War on Wokeness is compromising not only Black people’s freedom to learn, but also Black people’s freedom to live. That is why “call to action” items—to both fight back and move forward—will figure prominently throughout Summer School. 


Banning Black Knowledge and the “Anti-woke” Assault on Black Freedom Dreams

Our first plenary launches Summer School with a focus on banned ideas, employing the recent controversy over the AP’s African American Studies Curriculum as a starting point.  Particular attention will be paid to the degree to which ideas and concepts that have been central to Black intellectual thought and freedom struggles are being stricken from school curriculum—and rendered illegal—all over the country



How the Attacks on Affirmative Action and “Wokeness” are Linked

 The escalating war on ‘wokeness’ must be seen as part of a broader and long-standing campaign to destroy a wide range of efforts to  dismantle structural racism and other forms of racial disempowerment. These backlash politics are far from new; the “massive resistance” against the landmark Brown v. Board of Education decision and the immediate legal challenges to affirmative action as “reverse discrimination” are earlier expressions of the same sensibilities. The decades-long campaign that has been waged on many fronts recently culminated in the Supreme Court’s repudiation of affirmative action in higher education, overturning almost a half century of precedent on race conscious admissions. The panel will connect the dots between these retrenchment campaigns and address the ways in which right-wing racial aggression and liberal racial discomfort have worked together to facilitate this significant roll back of one of the great victories of the civil rights movement. 



The Perpetual Problem of Racial Appeasement

This plenary takes an inward look at liberal and progressive politics.  Because no regime of inequality comes into being without some level of enablement, the fifth plenary examines how—wittingly or unwittingly—the left has been  enabling the “war on woke



Reckoning with Structural Racism

 Our second panel will home in on one of those banned ideas: structural racism.  What exactly is meant by the term—and how does the concept of structural racism explain the persistence of racial inequality? Employing a “case studies” approach, the plenary will reveal how structural racism is implicated in various civil rights contexts, including housing, employment, education, and the criminal legal system.



Anti-Blackness in Coalitional Spaces

It’s standard fare in left-oriented politics to say that anti-Blackness is not an individual-level problem. It is a structural one that transcends left/right politics and Black/white relationships. Yet, this basic insight is rarely employed to critique coalitional politics. That is what this plenary will do.  Its aim is to explore how anti-Blackness can shape the form, substance, and trajectories of  coalitional politics in ways that enable and legitimize the war on woke.  In addition to describing the scope of this enablement, panelists will suggest strategies to  disrupt it.



Realizing Our Freedom to Learn: Tools and Pathways for Moving Forward

a roundtable: This plenary will begin by detailing how the Freedom to Learn Campaign has been fighting back.  Panelists will discuss where the Campaign has been, the challenges it has encountered, and the partners it has engaged. The session will then move forward with a discussion of future work.  Here, the panelists will lay out a tentative agenda for the next year, indicate some of the ways in which participants can get involved both locally and nationally, and describe the resources and “toolkits” the African American Policy Forum has amassed to facilitate this important work.



Anti-wokeness and the Reshaping of Law, Government, and Public Institutions

For over five decades, right-wing think tanks and their deep pocket dark money funders have been waging a war against the modest gains of the civil rights movement. From the 1970s to the present, conservatives have weaponized constitutional law, state governments, and now public schools to roll back just about every gain of the civil rights movement. No arena of Black progress has remained untouched: the desegregation of public schools, the protections against employment and housing discrimination, the right to vote, reproductive justice, affirmative action, and the protection against police abuse have all suffered setbacks at the site where laws are interpreted and made. How have institutions upon which we have relied been used to undermine efforts to repair institutions–and societal arrangements–that continue to be shaped by racism?  What are the conditions that must be in place to fight back against this so-called "war on wokeness?"



Fascism & Anti-Blackness Go Hand in Hand

Our fifth plenary broadens the frame and examines how anti-Blackness and fascism go hand in hand.  The starting point for the panel is Langston Hughes’s observation that  “We Negroes in America do not have to be told what fascism is in action. We know.”  The panelists will demonstrate not only how fascism can originate in and operate alongside liberal democracy and go undetected across the color line, but also the ways in which fascism operates as a racial project, including as a means to undermine  Black progress and social transformation.









CRT 101: An Introduction to the Core Concepts

Disinformation campaigns against CRT and other forms of anti-racist and intersectional education always claim to be representing the majoritarian interests of parents, voters, and even students.  This session will demonstrate why CRT is necessary to challenge this disinformation.

Conservatives have created an uproar over critical race theory by misrepresenting every aspect of the movement. This channel will present an accurate picture of what CRT is all about. CRT 101 is a step-by-step introduction to the foundational ideas of CRT. The sessions are designed for those who may have little or no background in critical race theory and who want to learn the basics in an accessible, no-pressure presentation. Each session will focus on a distinct branch of CRT analysis, including the notion of identity as intersectional, the shortcomings of colorblindness as an ideal of racial justice, the analysis of how anti-discrimination law helps to legitimate rather than criticize existing social practices, the ways that the affirmative action debate demonstrated the limits of liberal reform by reinforcing false ideas of meritocracy, and how racial and other identities can be conceived in a dynamic, non-fundamentalist way.

CRT 201: Critical Race Judgments–What a Difference that CRT Would Make

Disinformation campaigns against CRT and other forms of anti-racist and intersectional education always claim to be representing the majoritarian interests of parents, voters, and even students.  This session will demonstrate why CRT is necessary to challenge this disinformation.

A recently published book entitled, "Critical Race Judgments" asks, "Is it possible to be both a judge and a Critical Race Theorist?" It is a provocative question, and one that prompted a group of Critical Race Theorists to engage the question. CRT critics have answered “no,” as they contend that Critical Race Theory is "beyond all reason." Under this view, CRT can be neither translated into nor substantively shape the development of legal doctrine in the United States. On another view, and the one that informs this project, the answer is unequivocally "yes." The very project of Critical Race Theory is to highlight, contest, reimagine, and rearticulate "the vexed bond between law and racial power." This channel will highlight authors from this new volume addressing how CRT can be used to allow us to rethink canonical legal opinions and expand our legal imagination about the power of law.

CRT Advanced Topics

Disinformation campaigns against CRT and other forms of anti-racist and intersectional education always claim to be representing the majoritarian interests of parents, voters, and even students.  This session will demonstrate why CRT is necessary to challenge this disinformation.

These classes present an overview of CRT's classic interventions, providing a sharp prism to from which to understand contemporary legal and cultural debates about white supremacy. For the first time in our history, the term “systemic racism” has made its way into mainstream public discourse.  But what exactly is systemic racism, and how exactly can we recognize it in action? CRT 201 offers concrete ways to understand systemic racism and spotlights some of the different contexts in which it routinely operates.  In addition to showing how systemic racism functions across different areas of law, this channel will show how it is implicated in conservative “reverse discrimination” frameworks and embedded in some of the most critical institutions of social life, including the media, the criminal legal system, and education.

Intersectionality Still Matters!

Disinformation campaigns against CRT and other forms of anti-racist and intersectional education always claim to be representing the majoritarian interests of parents, voters, and even students.  This session will demonstrate why CRT is necessary to challenge this disinformation.

For more than three decades, academics, lawyers, community organizers, and social policy makers have been mobilizing intersectionality to advance various racial and gender  justice projects.  As the scope of such engagements has grown to take on multiple axis of subordination, intersectionality has now entered popular culture as a commonly referenced term. Yet, all too often the structural and historical dynamics that it seeks to capture are sidelined by an overarching focus on non-structural expressions of identitarianism. In this channel, discussants will work through the intersectional dimensions of contemporary inequalities, ranging from police violence and forced pregnancies to the assaults on affirmative action and the global rise of

CRT Across Borders: The Global Scope of Racial Power

Disinformation campaigns against CRT and other forms of anti-racist and intersectional education always claim to be representing the majoritarian interests of parents, voters, and even students.  This session will demonstrate why CRT is necessary to challenge this disinformation.

Although Critical Race Theory originates in the United States, scholars and activists around the globe have been engaging CRT frameworks to address the related ways in which racial subordination is replicated in the post-civil rights, post-colonial era. Panelists will trace the continuities and discontinuities of white supremacy as an ideology, the operation of colorblind racism, and the mythology of “neutral principles” across borders. This channel will explore the specificity of how systemic racism and attacks on Critical Race Theory are being reproduced in local contexts, and how CRT is being deployed to challenge structures of subordination.