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The Limits of Master Narratives in History Textbooks: An Analysis of Representations of Martin Luther King, Jr.


by Derrick P. Alridge 2006

In this study, I argue that American history textbooks present discrete, heroic, one-dimensional, and neatly packaged master narratives that deny students a complex, realistic, and rich understanding of people and events in American history. In making this argument, I examine the master narratives of Martin Luther King, Jr., in high school history textbooks and show how textbooks present prescribed, oversimplified, and uncontroversial narratives of King that obscure important elements in King's life and thought. Such master narratives, I contend, permeate most history textbooks and deny students critical lenses through which to examine, analyze, and interpret social issues today. The article concludes with suggestions about how teachers might begin to address the current problem of master narratives and offer alternative approaches to presenting U.S. history.


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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 108 Number 4, 2006, p. 662-686
http://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 12365, Date Accessed: 11/28/2014 11:48:31 AM

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About the Author
  • Derrick Alridge
    University of Georgia
    E-mail Author
    DERRICK P. ALRIDGE is associate professor of education at the University of Georgia. His research interests include African American educational and intellectual history, historical methodology, and civil rights studies. He is currently writing The Educational Thought of W. E. B. Du Bois: An Intellectual History for Teachers College Press.
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