understanding the role of african american english at the university

orlando taylor, Ph.D.

October 6, 2009


In 1996, a public furor erupted when the Oakland School Board declared Ebonics the primary language of its African American students.  When the United States Senate wanted to hear expert testimony in the wake of that furor, they called on a scholar who could speak as a linguist and educator:  Dr.  Orlando Taylor.  On January 23, 1997, Dr. Taylor testified before the Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services and Education, a subcommittee of the Senate’s Committee on Appropriations.   As he noted in his testimony, that hearing was “the first that the Congress of the United States” had ever called to address the issue of African American underachievement and language.

Congress could not have found a better person to testify.   A Professor Emeritus of Communications, Dr. Taylor has published extensively in the fields of sociolinguistics, intercultural communication, and communication disorders.  His publications include books such as Making the Connection: Language and Academic Achievement Among African-American Students and Treatment of Communication Disorders in Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Populations .  In part, because of his scholarship on language, he was elected president of the National Communication Association and was appointed to the advisory councils of the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation’s Directorate for Education and Human Resources.   

However, Dr. Taylor has made his name as a national leader in education, not only in communication.  Nationally, he has served as a Visiting Scholar at the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, Chair of the Board of Directors of the Council of Graduate Schools, President of the Consortium of Social Science Associations, and Chair of the National Advisory Board for the Center for the Integration of Research, Teaching, and Learning.  At Howard he served as Dean of the School of Communications, Vice Provost for Research, Interim Vice President for Academic Affairs, and Chair of the University’s Self-Study Committee for the upcoming Middle States reaccreditation.  Upon retiring from Howard, he accepted the position of inaugural President of the East Coast campus of the Chicago School of Professional Psychology.  However, as seen in this video, he continues to share his expertise on the role of African American English.   


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