Teaching Shakespeare Is Teaching Race

This program has ended.

A Virtual Workshop for Teachers 

July 19–23, 2021  
Join us for a professional learning experience unlike any other, no matter which Shakespeare play you teach.  


When we teach Shakespeare, we teach our students lessons about race, whether we realize it or not.  
  • In Shakespeare, after all, whiteness often stands in for beauty (“her azure veins, her alabaster skin,” Lucrece) and honor (“far more fair than black,” Othello).  
  • In Shakespeare, we meet poetry and characters that both impress and injure.  
  • It is all too easy to skip uncomfortable moments or gloss over students’ questions about “the rich jewel in the Ethiop’s ear” (Romeo and Juliet).   
  • But in Shakespeare, we encounter language and situations that necessitate difficult conversations about race, difference, and power.  
This program will provide the tools to do just that, starting by bringing all students deeply and critically into the language of a text.  


All students need to 
  • See Shakespeare as he really is: what’s there, what’s not there, whose stories are told, whose stories are not told. 
  • Learn how to talk about race with each other.  
  • Know how and why to use literature and their own voices to understand, expand, challenge, and improve their world. 


Participants will work with leading scholars, mentor teachers, and Folger staff. As with any Folger program for teachers, participants will leave with scholarly knowledge and classroom tools to help students grapple with the real thing: Shakespeare’s words, critical race work, representation and power in literature, and how all these things connect. Learn about the #ShakeRace movement and what trailblazing scholarship on race and Shakespeare has to do with you and your students. Study recently uncovered elements of early modern and early American history that explode assumptions about our racial past. Learn techniques for getting every student seeing, interrogating, and responding to the language of race in Shakespeare (and any text). Help students use their own minds and voices—and the power of the humanities—as a force for good. Teach Shakespeare for a changed world. 

When: July 19–23, 2021  

The Schedule: We promise not to waste your time, and we promise to connect you with the best of the best—all week long. (Keep reading to see the all-star faculty!) Live, synchronous sessions will take place on Zoom between 10am ET and 2:15pm ET each day. Days begin with scholarship and end with teaching strategies, classroom resources, and discussion. Within this timeframe each day, you will also have a meal break and a shorter stretch break. There will not be tons of homework, but expect a total of 1-2 hours of self-paced work beyond the live sessions.  

Cost: $330 for Teacher Members of the Folger / $400 for non-members (Become a Teacher Member for $40!)

Scholarships: The priority deadline for scholarship consideration was June 1, 2021. All scholarships have been awarded at this time. 

Continuing education hours: Participants may request a certificate of completion at no additional cost.  

Graduate credit: 3 graduate credits are available for an additional cost of $375 from Trinity Washington University.  

Registration: Space is limited. Registration will remain open until July 8th. 

The Folger is committed to assembling an inclusive community of inquisitve and respectful learners. All are welcome. Teachers of color are encouraged to sign up. 

Questions? Email Peggy O'Brien.


Mentor Teachers 

Dr. Deborah Gascon               Donnaye Moore           

Dr. Deborah Gascon is a National Board Certified teacher who has taught for 25 years. She currently teaches English 2, AP English Literature and Composition, and Journalism at Dutch Fork High School near Columbia, SC. Deborah is a 2012 Teaching Shakespeare Institute alum and a Folger Summer Academy mentor teacher. While Shakespeare is her first love, she has also attended several other NEH Summer Institutes to study Dante (2004), Mozart (2013), and Dickens (2016) and taught English in Aiud, Romania on a Fulbright Teacher Exchange (2005-2006). In 2019 she completed her doctorate in Curriculum and Instruction at The University of South Carolina; her dissertation is about the teaching of Shakespeare to increase student comprehension, empathy, and awareness of gender and race issues.

Donnaye Moore is an English teacher at Brookwood High School in Georgia. She is a veteran teacher and an alum of the 2016 NEH-sponsored Teaching Shakespeare Institute at the Folger Shakespeare Library. She has presented with the Folger at the annual conference of the National Council of Teachers of English and has created groundbreaking curriculum and learning experiences in partnership with the Folger and Reconstruction, a startup providing personal, world-class, and unapologetically Black education. 

Donna Denizé, an award-winning teacher and poet, will lead special discussion groups throughout the week. She is currently Chair of the English Department and Chair of the Faculty Diversity Committee at St. Albans School in Washington, DC. She participated in the first Teaching Shakespeare Institute at the Folger Shakespeare Library and has been teaching students and teachers at the Folger ever since. Her work has appeared in several publications, including the Innisfree Journal of Poetry, Teacher's Digest, and the Folger's own Shakespeare Set Free series. Over the course of her long career as a teacher, writer, and scholar, she has worked with the Smithsonian, the Library of Congress, Howard University, American University, DC Public Libraries, the National Council of Teachers of English, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. 


Dr. Nedda Mehdizadeh          Dr. Brian Jones          Dr. Katherine Gillen          Dr. Kyle Grady

Dr. Nedda Mehdizadeh is a Continuing Lecturer at UCLA Writing Programs. Her research and pedagogy center on early modern transnational encounter, Shakespeare, Critical Race Studies, and Critical Diversity Studies. She is writing her first monograph, Translating Persia in Early Modern English Writing, portions of which have been published in public-facing and peer-reviewed venues. She is also co-authoring a book with Dr. Ambereen Dadabhoy, Anti-Racist Shakespeare, under contract with Cambridge University Press for their Cambridge Elements series on Shakespeare and Pedagogy. This book project was inspired by their Critical Race Conversation, “Cultivating an Anti-Racist Pedagogy,” hosted by the Folger Institute. 

Dr. Brian Jones is the Associate Director of Education and formerly a scholar in residence at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. He taught in New York City public schools for nine years before earning a PhD in Urban Education at the City University of New York Graduate Center. He writes about Black education history and politics, most recently in a contribution to Black Lives Matter at School: An Uprising for Educational Justice (Haymarket Books, 2020). His first book will be a study of the 1960s student movement at Tuskegee University in Alabama.

Dr. Katherine Gillen is Associate Professor of English at Texas A&M University–San Antonio, where she teaches courses on Shakespeare, early modern literature, drama, and critical theory. She is the author of Chaste Value: Economic Crisis, Female Chastity, and the Production of Social Difference on Shakespeare’s Stage (Edinburgh University Press, 2017). Her current work focuses on race and gender in early modern drama and on Shakespeare appropriation, and her monograph in progress explores the ways early modern dramatists used classical sources in their articulation of English whiteness. She is a co-founder of the Borderlands Shakespeare Collective, an initiative that seeks to archive, curate, and circulate works of Shakespeare adaptation in and around the US-Mexico Borderlands. As part of this Collective, she is co-editing an anthology of Borderlands Shakespeare plays.

Dr. Kyle Grady is Assistant Professor of English at the University of California, Irvine. Dr. Grady’s primary areas of focus are early modern English literature and culture, African American literature and culture, and critical race theory. His current book project explores representations of black ascendency, racial mixing, and interracial cooperation in Elizabethan and Jacobean drama. His work has appeared in Early Modern Culture, Pedagogy, Shakespeare Studies, and Shakespeare Quarterly.

Folger Staff

Folger Education Team

Dr. Peggy O’Brien is Director of Education at the Folger. Dr. O’Brien was the DC public high school English teacher lucky enough to be able to set the Library’s educational philosophy and bring a good number of Folger programs to life. The Folger Method initially sprang to life in her classroom at Eastern High School. She took a tiny break from the Folger—almost 20 years—and during that time learned education deep and different leading work elsewhere—at the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and DC Public Schools, for example. Now she is back home at an exciting and transformative time at the Folger. Our massive construction/reinvention project will allow us to abundantly welcome all of you—and your relatives, students, friends—to lively and compelling programming and experiences in new gallery spaces and with more access to the Folger collection and other delights. We are upping our game for teachers because you deserve it!  
Corinne Viglietta is Associate Director of Education at the Folger. She gets to work alongside brilliant teachers and colleagues on honoring every voice and using the humanities as a force for good. When she was a classroom teacher in DC, Maryland, and France, she saw firsthand how the Folger Method transforms learning. Today she leads a range of programs including curriculum development, teacher workshops, the Lily McKee High School Fellows, and a partnership with DC Public Schools. Holding degrees in English and French, she has served on the faculty of Notre Dame’s graduate program in teaching English Language Learners. She is a fierce advocate (and a proud alum) of student-run writing centers and the daughter of a high school principal and ESL teacher. 
Maryam Trowell is Manager of Teacher and Student Programs at the Folger. Before joining Folger Education in November of 2019, she had just finished up her 11th year of teaching elementary and middle school in Washington, DC. She has taught 4th grade to 8th grade, and everything in between. She is a proud women’s college alum, having earned her B.A. English Literature from Agnes Scott College and M.A. in Teaching from American University. She leads ongoing professional development for teachers and manages a range of other projects for teachers, students, families, and new audiences.  
Katie Dvorak is Education Project Manager at the Folger. She has the great privilege of managing a variety of the Education Department’s numerous teacher projects, including the creation and launch of Folger Teaching. In addition to overseeing the back-end of Folger Teaching, she manages databases, builds budgets, and organizes logistics across the department. She is also managing the content creation and publication of a new series of Teacher Guides for teaching Shakespeare (forthcoming, Simon & Schuster). She has a degree in history and a past professional life in Democratic politics.  
Shanta Bryant is Administrative Assistant for Education at the Folger. She first became part of the Folger as an intern in 2016 while obtaining a bachelor’s degree in English and Women’s Studies at Trinity Washington University. After another internship opportunity with Folger Education and a grant award for research in the reading room (studying the importance of black actors playing the role of Othello), she became a full-time staff member in the Folger’s Collections department as a Circulation Page.  Currently Shanta uses her expertise to assist all Education work. She believes in the work that is being done to create a place for young people, teachers, scholars, and visitors of all different backgrounds here at the Folger. 
Dominique Manuel is our Amherst Fellow for 2021-22. An alumna of Amherst College, Dominique is playing a large role in research that will pave the way for the Folger's reopening.