This article draws on a four-year practitioner research study of a university partnership with an all-boys public elementary school to analyze students’ socially situated literacy practices thatoccurred on the margins of a curriculum driven by high-stakes testing. We bring together critical literacy (Freire, 2007; Janks, 2010; Luke, 2000), realist theory (Alcoff, 2006; Mohanty, 1997;Moya, 2001), and Gramsci’s (1971) conception of the organic intellectual to provide a layered framework for understanding how students at our research site mobilized their cultural identitiesfor critical ends, what we define as “organic critical literacies.” Through illustrative examples of third- and fourth-grade African American boys’ interactions with fiction and nonfiction texts,we examine how students critiqued common ideologies that devalued them, their school, and their city, and enacted more humanizing visions. The elementary students whose work we featurewere realizing their capacities as emerging organic intellectuals, translating their singular critical insights and observations into a broader dialogue that had more universal resonance. Weconclude by discussing the educational, epistemological, and ethical implications of our study.
Keywords: Elementary, Education, Teacher Research, Urban Education