James Banks

JAMES A. BANKS is Kerry and Linda Killinger Endowed Chair in Diversity Studies and Director of the Center for Multicultural Education at the University of Washington. As a former elementary school teacher, renowned social studies methodologist, and strong advocate for social justice issues, Banks is widely recognized as the “father of multicultural education” for his pioneering research and distinguished contribution to the development of the field. He also serves as the editor, with Dr. Cherry A. McGee Banks, of the award-winning Handbook of Research on Multicultural Education (2nd Edition, 2004).

 As a past president of the American Educational Research Association (AERA) and the National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS), Banks has worked as a consultant and lectured widely in the United States and abroad. Recognized for his exemplary educational research and scholarship, Banks has been elected to the National Academy of Education and received numerous other awards and honors including honorary degrees from six colleges and universities. He received Distinguished Career Awards from both the AERA (1996) and NCSS (2001) and was honored as the first recipient of the AERA Social Justice in Education Award (2004) for his lifelong commitment to advancing social justice through education research. Throughout his extensive publishing career, he has authored or edited more than 100 journal articles as well as 60 book chapters and 20 books, including most recently: Cultural Diversity in Education: Foundations, Curriculum, and Teaching (6th Edition, 2015); Race, Culture, and Education: The Selected Works of James A. Banks (2006); Educating Citizens in a Multicultural Society (2nd Edition, 2007); Teaching Strategies for Ethnic Studies (8th Edition, 2009); and An Introduction to Multicultural Education (5th Edition, 2014). Banks is also the editor of the Encyclopedia of Diversity in Education (2012) and the Multicultural Education Series of Books (Teachers College Press) which includes 57 published books, to date, with others in development.

For more information, visit James Banks’s Website. To learn more about James Banks from his family and friends, visit his Reflections. To view photographs from James Banks’s personal collection, visit his Photo Gallery.


Visit the video below to watch a short overview of the interview with James Banks. Otherwise, see all four of the full interviews with James Banks below.

Video Interviews with James Banks:

Growing up in a segregated farming community in the Arkansas Delta, Dr. James Banks describes his experiences as a young child. Although his school was five miles from home, he recalls pleasant memories of time spent walking with friends each day. As a conscientious and hardworking student, Banks became keenly aware at an early age of the unequal and inequitable opportunities available to African American students in poverty. Having watched “bright kids fall by the wayside,” Banks developed a strong commitment to social justice issues that shaped his life and work as a classroom teacher, university professor, and educational scholar. Having met his wife, Dr. Cherry A. McGee Banks while they were students at Michigan State University, Dr. Banks also shares his passion for increasing equality and justice with their two daughters. Watch this clip to hear more from Dr. Banks about his long journey to the academy, the lessons he learned in his early years as a professor, and his advice for graduate students who also hope to change lives.

Often recognized as “the father of multicultural education” for his profound contribution to the field, Dr. James Banks finds the compliment both flattering and humorous, noting that other scholars also share his career-long dedication and commitment. Recalling his experiences providing professional development training to teachers, Banks describes the five dimensions of multicultural education as a way to help teachers, especially those in math and science, apply the concepts in their curriculum. Also serving as co-editor (with his wife, Dr. Cherry A. McGee Banks) of the groundbreaking Handbook of Research on Multicultural Education, he describes the publication as an effort to integrate the research and legitimize the field. In this clip, Dr. Banks shares the story of The Three Little Pigs to illustrate the importance of persistence and describes the reforms still needed to transform K-12 education.

Reflecting on his scholarship focused on global citizenship, Dr. James Banks describes the need for “unity in diversity” to help students become more effective citizens. He emphasizes the importance of conceptualizing ways students can embrace their dual identities in an increasingly globalized society, suggesting that “world problems cannot be solved with national solutions.” Banks also identifies social class differences as one of the most pressing issues facing the nation and shares his hope that his students will continue the struggle to help the ideals of equality and equity become a reality. Unaware at times of the profound impact of his research around the world, he describes the “rock star treatment” he has received when traveling abroad as “humbling, satisfying, and surprising.” In this clip, hear more from Dr. Banks about the importance of thinking globally as he shares his hopes for the future.

When recalling some of those who have had the greatest impact on his life and work, Dr. James Banks notes his close relationships with his mother and his siblings. Also grateful to his Black teachers for their faith in his abilities, he continues to be inspired, championing ways to address the unresolved issues of race and poverty. If he had chosen another profession, Banks notes he would have considered political service as a means of enacting change—a lifetime commitment also reflected in his favorite words “freedom” and “possibilities.” He adds that he was always meant to be a teacher and encourages graduate students and young scholars to choose an area of research based on their passion and interests, and then stay the course. In this clip, learn more from Dr. Banks about the historical figures who have shaped his work as a scholar and the need to rethink current policies in education, especially in terms of the relationship between tests and teaching.

Amrein-Beardsley, A. (2014, March 15). Inside the Academy video interviews with Dr. James Banks [Video files]. Retrieved from http://insidetheacademy.asu.edu/james-banks