Alum earns national award for research on history

November 30, 2023

Brittany Jones, a recent doctoral graduate of the college’s Curriculum, Instruction and Teacher Education (CITE) program, is a recipient of the 2023 National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS) Exemplary Research Award. The annual award recognizes research that has the potential to bring substantial changes in social studies education research and practice.

Jones’ research examines how the emotion of fear is evaded from narratives about African Americans in U.S. historical contexts and specifically looks at how fear is addressed in the State of Virginia’s U.S. History Standards and Curriculum Framework.

A headshot of Brittany Jones. She is wearing a white sleveless shirt.
Recent doctoral graduate and Exemplary Research Award recipient Brittany Jones.

“Black people experienced enslavement, lynching, discrimination, segregation and other forms of oppression, but they were never described as having fear,” she said. “It sends a message that Black people can experience suffering, but they can’t fear, and that’s dehumanizing.”

In her research, Jones takes an extensive approach in analyzing previous literature on concepts like Black fear, Black suffering, white fear and how marginalized groups have been represented throughout history in the U.S.

Jones utilized scholarly work and concepts of Black critical theory as the foundation of her research. She describes U.S. history education as incomplete, with a tendency to assert white emotions over other voices. The damage, she says, is that the emotions and feelings of marginalized communities are erased, while simultaneously solely centering white experiences and feelings.


As a former K-12 educator at a school that served predominately Black children in Richmond, Virginia, students would often ask about their lack of representation in the curriculum.

“My students would often say: ‘We can’t connect to the history because we don’t see ourselves in it.’ So, we would extend those conversations past the confines of the curriculum,” said Jones. 

As Jones’ curiosity on the topic grew, so did her desire to pursue a doctoral degree, thus she enrolled in the college’s top-ranked CITE program where Professor Anne-Lise Halvorsen made a profound impact.

“She’s incredibly kind and very caring. As a Ph.D. advisor, she saw my full humanity not just as a student but as a person who was learning,” she recalled. “She’s also an amazing scholar who’s been doing it for a while, so she very much understands how to navigate the ins and outs of academia.”

On Dec. 1, Jones will receive her award and present her research at the NCSS Annual Conference in Nashville, Tennessee. She hopes that in the future, more attention and consideration will be given to the power of emotions when developing social studies curricula and studying the teaching and learning of  history.

“We don’t spend enough time focusing on emotions, but they have shaped history,” she finished, “Emotions have acted as impetus for things that have happened throughout history.”

Jones now serves as an assistant professor at the University of Buffalo’s Department of Learning and Instruction.