Over the course of the twentieth century, education was a key site for envisioning opportunities for African Americans, but the very schools they attended sometimes acted as obstacles.
The new book Educating Harlem: A Century of Schooling and Resistance in a Black Community (Columbia University Press, 2019), edited by Ansley T. Erickson and Ernest Morrell, brings together a multidisciplinary group of scholars to provide a broad consideration of the history of schooling in one of the nation’s most iconic black communities.
Educating Harlem traces the varied ways that Harlem residents defined and pursued educational justice for their children and community despite consistent neglect and structural oppression. Contributors investigate the individuals, organizations, and initiatives that fostered educational visions, underscoring their breadth, variety, and persistence.
Their essays span the century, from the Great Migration and the Harlem Renaissance through the 1970s fiscal crisis and up to the present. They tell the stories of Harlem residents from a wide variety of social positions and life experiences, from young children to expert researchers to neighborhood mothers and ambitious institution builders who imagined a dynamic array of possibilities from modest improvements to radical reshaping of their schools.
Representing many disciplinary perspectives, the chapters examine a range of topics including architecture, literature, film, youth and adult organizing, employment, and city politics. Challenging the conventional rise-and-fall narratives found in many urban histories, the book tells a story of persistent struggle in each phase of the twentieth century.
Ansley T. Erickson is associate professor of history and education at Teachers College, Columbia University. She is the author of Making the Unequal Metropolis: School Desegregation and Its Limits (2016).
Ernest Morrell is the Coyle Professor in Literacy Education, director of the Center for Literacy Education, and a faculty member in the English and Africana Studies departments at the University of Notre Dame. His many books include Critical Media Pedagogy: Teaching for Achievement in City Schools (2013).
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