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We Are an African PeopleIndependent Education, Black Power, and the Radical Imagination$

Russell Rickford

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780199861477

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: March 2016

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199861477.001.0001

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Black Studies and the Politics of “Relevance”

Black Studies and the Politics of “Relevance”

(p.46) 2 Black Studies and the Politics of “Relevance”
We Are an African People

Russell Rickford

Oxford University Press

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter discusses reforms in curriculum and pedagogy that guided redemptive visions of “black education” in the late 1960s. Many African-American activists and intellectuals believed black children required a distinctive education designed to address their social realities and cultural heritage. They pursued educational “relevance,” demanding the incorporation of black studies and the reshaping of the educational experience to complement what some progressive theorists identified as distinctive black values and “learning styles.” The idea was to edify and empower poor and working-class children of color who had long been branded culturally “deprived” according to standards defined by the majority culture. The quest for “relevance” was a major element of the struggle for community control. Yet the defeat of community control in Brooklyn’s Ocean Hill–Brownsville neighborhood led some activists to look beyond public education, seeking educational “relevance” in the creation of “independent black institutions.”

Keywords:   relevance, black studies, black values, decentralization, Uhuru Sasa Shule, Leslie Campbell, Jitu Weusi

Education means an assimilation of white American culture.

—Gunnar Myrdal, 19441

Pedagogy became an arena of intense political contestation during the 1960s. The flowering of black consciousness expanded popular visions of the purpose and possibilities of schooling. Many progressive theorists believed black children required a distinctive education designed to meaningfully address their social realities and cultural heritage. African-American parents, students, and intellectuals demanded “relevance,” a theme that proved as central to notions of black educational salvation as did the ideal of “community.”

Concepts of relevance offered alternatives to the paternalistic or racist “cultural deprivation” theories that continued to guide the education of many children of color. Some African-American thinkers strove to identify and affirm distinctly “black” values and styles of learning. The emergence of an array of African-American educational organizations and professional associations bolstered the quest for self-definition. By the late 1960s, however, grassroots activists had discovered the limitations of public education as an instrument of black consciousness and social transformation. A search for new directions led radical organizers from the barricades of Ocean Hill–Brownsville to the struggle for “independent black institutions.”

“When the Truth Is Presented”: Black Studies and Public Education

The cry for relevance fueled the cultural renaissance known as “black studies.” Protest and pressure led to greater acknowledgment of previously denigrated or ignored aspects of the African-American experience. Substantial changes (p.47) occurred not only at the college level but also in primary and secondary education, further challenging the “melting pot” concept of the public school mission and initiating the second “textbook revolution” of the postwar era.2 New expressions of cultural pluralism rarely challenged the structural dimensions of white supremacy. Nor could curricular changes alone fulfill desires to foster a deeper sense of African-American peoplehood.

Nevertheless, most black people recognized the need for more accurate and significant representation of African-American life and culture in public school curricula. Despite the flourishing of black mass movements, few school districts had revamped the Eurocentric content of classes in social studies, literature, and other subjects. African-American civic groups, institutions, and intellectuals traditionally had employed a host of strategies to expose children and adults to black history. Yet as the scholar St. Clair Drake observed, such extracurricular activities were unable to overcome “the lethargy, timidity, and often hostile attitudes of school administrators, teachers and textbook publishers who resisted pleas for the curricular and textbook revision needed to ‘set the record straight’ on the role of black men and women in the history of mankind.”3

This changed dramatically during the 1960s and ’70s. Civil rights activists of the 1950s and early ’60s had sought “integrated textbooks” and the removal of racist classroom materials like the children’s classic Little Black Sambo, reforms that were promoted as paths to “intergroup” harmony. The coming of Black Power eclipsed such approaches. The demand for black studies was presented as an imperative of African-American identity and pride rather than as an obligation of interracial accord.

Though upheavals on college campuses seized headlines, high school students were among the original shock troops of the black studies revolt. Major student demonstrations flared in cities like Philadelphia, Boston, and Chicago, where youngsters launched boycotts and rallied for inclusion of black history in public schools. New York was a key staging ground for militancy in middle schools and senior highs. Black and Puerto Rican student grievances against racist disciplinary procedures, the dearth of teachers of color, and the absence of black studies blended with outrage over police presence in schools and the return to Ocean Hill–Brownsville of unwanted, striking teachers. A series of student protests roiled the district in 1968–1969. Nationwide, tens of thousands of African-American secondary school students claimed the right to wear Afros and dashikis, to fly black liberation flags, or to otherwise fulfill the mandates of black consciousness.4

African-American parents, educators, and community control advocates joined the fight for social and curricular relevance. “Do you want your child taught this?” asked one Ocean Hill–Brownsville flyer that suggested that history classes controlled by New York City’s central Board of Education deprecated (p.48) enslaved Africans, dismissed militant abolitionist John Brown as “crazy,” and defamed Puerto Ricans as “dirty” intruders who “should go back to Puerto Rico.” The parent-community council of Brooklyn’s Junior High School (JHS) 271 condemned “John Birch type social studies” (a reference to the right-wing group) and called for African arts and crafts in the classroom.5 The curricula of community-controlled schools occasionally embraced the contemporary Black Arts movement. Ocean Hill–Brownsville parents who volunteered to serve as substitute elementary school instructors during a United Federation of Teachers strike participated in a workshop whose sample lesson revolved around a LeRoi Jones (Amiri Baraka) poem:

  • We are beautiful people
  • with African imaginations
  • full of masks and dances and swelling chants
  • with African eyes, and noses, and arms
  • though we sprawl in grey chains in a place
  • full of winters, when what we want is sun.6

Such pedagogical approaches enhanced earlier reforms enacted by the city. During the mid-1960s, New York emerged as a forerunner among the handful of urban school boards that required “multiethnic” textbooks and classroom coverage of minority-related topics. By 1968, few school districts with substantial nonwhite populations could afford to ignore demands for curricular change. Boards of education across the country responded to mounting pressure by incorporating black studies. After black Philadelphia teenagers marched on their school district’s headquarters, authorities mandated that every student in the city complete a program of African and African-American history “as an integral part of his total school experience.”7

Black studies courses in some public schools proved substantive. Classes in Cleveland engaged meaningful questions like “The Ghetto: Black Prison or Black Community?” and “The Black Artist: Chiefly Black or Chiefly Artist?” Other offerings were less auspicious. “The natives of Africa are not all wild savages,” a history unit in Alexandria, Virginia, conceded. Some critics viewed black studies curricula and materials as cynical attempts at appeasement. They noted that textbook publishers, in their haste to exploit a growing market, had exchanged white characters for black ones without genuinely revamping content. Even Publisher’s Weekly acknowledged the superficiality of such “change-the-color-plate” tactics. Black studies activist Jimmy Garrett condemned cosmetically “integrated” picture books that “[put] ties on black men or [painted] white men a darker shade with the same thin bridged nose, the same thin lips, the same pallid expression, a darker shade of pale.”8

(p.49) Critics of token reforms also resented “contributionism,” an approach to African-American history that presented the achievements of innocuous black strivers—from Phillis Wheatley to George Washington Carver—as the product of industriousness and self-discipline in an increasingly meritocratic society. One purveyor of educational products claimed that “the best way to study black history” was to ingest trivia that demonstrated that black people accompanied Cortez to Mexico in 1519 and otherwise participated in the conquest of the “New World.” When New York’s United Federation of Teachers devised a curriculum with a similar theme—African Americans as foot soldiers in the triumphant march of Western civilization—one of Harlem’s black nationalist intellectuals denounced the course of study as a case of “cultural genocide.”9

The community control struggle itself contained elements of contributionism. Groups like the East Harlem Coalition for Community Control resolved that “Spanish and black history and culture are to be offered to the students on a meaningful scale and given [their] rightful place as part of the history of the United States.” The premise that the social value of black history lay in demonstrating its indivisibility from the experiences of the white majority had shaped earlier reforms. New York City education officials cited as rationales for a 1966 after-school program in black and Puerto Rican history enhancement of “ethnic group pride” and enrichment of white students’ “knowledge of the contribution of minority groups to history and culture.”10

Contributionism’s appeal rested on the premise that a portion of white America, faced with an accurate and balanced record of the nation’s past, would recognize the need for racial cooperation. “When the truth is presented,” black children’s book author Margaret Burroughs suggested in 1966, “these people will find that all people—white, yellow, red, and yes, black—have made worthwhile contributions to society, civilization, and American life and history.” Employing the same logic, the NAACP released a 1970 U.S. history syllabus for secondary schools that highlighted “the inventors of every race and nationality [who] helped make America an industrial giant.”11

Many black nationalists took a different approach. They saw the study of black life and history as a way to forge an African-American personality fully committed to political and cultural autonomy. “It’s time for you to realize that your forefathers were the most civilized persons on earth,” Brooklyn activist Sonny Carson told an audience at one Ocean Hill–Brownsville rally. “They did not act every time the pig [police and white authorities] said act. But instead they made the pig act.” Black studies for its militant proponents constituted an instrument of liberation from “psychological captivity”—not merely a supplement to the master narrative of American exceptionalism.12

Most nationalists rejected narrow contributionism as a strategy incapable of reconstructing white America. They recognized that simply “calling the honor (p.50) roll of great blacks of the past” could not humanize a racist society.13 A wide spectrum of African Americans resolved to see public schools incorporate programs of study that would truly enhance black consciousness. As community organizer and Harlem parent Maude White Katz observed in 1968:

A revolutionary change has taken place in the minds of black parents. There will be no more resignation and accommodation to the status quo as a way of life for them. Things must change for them and their children. They may not know all the facts about their history, but since Lumumba, Nkrumah and others, they know they have a history. They have roots.14

The pursuit of black awareness in Ocean Hill–Brownsville’s community control district remained an accordingly expansive and cosmopolitan project. Some classrooms featured discussions of the ideas of Black Power spokesman H. Rap Brown and Chinese leader Mao Tse-Tung. A poster plastered to the walls of JHS 271 declared “Uncle Sam Wants You, Nigger!”—an indictment of the U.S. imperialist adventure in Vietnam. The middle school staged a production of “A Season in the Congo,” Caribbean poet Aimé Césaire’s play about martyred African nationalist Patrice Lumumba. Observation of “black liberation week” (a reinterpretation of Negro History Week) in Harlem and Ocean Hill–Brownsville schools included “political prisoner’s day” and lessons about the slave insurrections of Nat Turner and Denmark Vesey.15

“The Exchange of Respect”: Community Control and Progressive Pedagogy

Philosophies of relevance guided community control’s most creative pedagogical techniques. Most Ocean Hill–Brownsville teachers and administrators rejected the regimentation that characterized many inner-city classrooms. Local parents learned to question the austere methods that some African Americans, recalling the severe schooling of their own childhoods, accepted as a necessary burden of learning for the oppressed. Elements of innovation and humanity returned to public schools that parents and activists helped occupy and staff during United Federation of Teachers (UFT) strikes. Schools in Harlem’s community control district screened animated geometry films and employed a creative phonics method that assigned a distinct color to each sound. At Public School (PS) 64 on the Lower East Side, one observer reported, “Puerto Rican flags hung from the windows, soul music was broadcast on the PA system, and rigid (p.51) authoritarian control based on mutual fear and hostility between students and teachers disappeared.”16

Emphasis on humanistic approaches led to more evenhanded disciplinary procedures. The vast majority of suspended New York City schoolchildren were black or Puerto Rican, and the UFT’s pursuit of a “disruptive child” rule enabling teachers to unilaterally oust pupils had embittered African-American parents who saw the policy as a license for racist practices. (The Afro-American Teachers Association condemned efforts to grant teachers “the power to act as policeman, judge and jury over our children.”) By contrast, the demonstration districts treated excessive suspensions and expulsions as symptoms of abuse and dramatically reduced reliance on such measures. “To the black community, the so-called disruptive child was a result of the murderous system,” a dissident UFT member maintained. “He was a politically oppressed child.”17

Some African-American parents remained convinced that strict discipline alone could prepare their children to face a hostile society. One father received a round of applause during an Ocean Hill–Brownsville meeting when he described the schoolyard whippings of his youth. Black nationalism’s emphasis on socialization occasionally inspired authoritarian approaches. Controversial New York City assistant principal Herman Ferguson proposed a “survival curriculum” within a paramilitary-style school outfitted with loudspeakers to continuously bathe students in the words of Malcolm X, filling them with “constant pride in blackness.” Yet respect for democratic classroom principles also proliferated. A workshop at the 1968 Black Power Conference in Philadelphia advocated the nurturing of student creativity and acknowledged that “the transmission of knowledge is inseparable from the exchange of respect and mutuality.”18

Similar ideals led some teachers in New York’s demonstration districts to reject standardized tests as culturally biased. Progressive theorists strove to adapt educational content to the circumstances of poor children of color. Harlem theorist Preston Wilcox suggested that such youngsters might relate to social studies lessons that encouraged them to examine Muhammad Ali’s motives for resisting the military draft, or to analyze the media’s insistence on continuing to address the boxer as “Cassius Clay.” James E. Campbell, a New York City assistant principal and former Malcolm X aide, argued that relevant curricula must equip black children to confront the injustice of dilapidated housing, the crisis of poor health services, and the devastation of the heroin trade.19

Wilcox imagined guest lecturers who had “earned their PhDs on the street” teaching primary or secondary school students about the ravages of dope and crime while demonstrating the possibility of rehabilitation. Jimmy Garrett, a leader of the pioneering black studies struggle at San Francisco State, envisioned history teachers drawing on the rhythm of the Temptations and the indignity (p.52) of neighborhood drunks to stimulate the political consciousness of black sixth graders in San Francisco’s Fillmore section. These strategies shared a powerful premise: that poor children must confront community realities and needs as part of the public school curriculum, learning to engage rather than disparage or escape their surroundings. Sociologist Joyce Ladner, a Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee veteran like Garrett, maintained that Head Start and other compensatory programs taught poor black children more about how white “Dick and Jane” characters function in suburbia than about how youngsters in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Watts, or Sunflower County, Mississippi, could “develop skills to transform their environments into more wholesome, habitable areas.”20

For these intellectuals, education’s essential aims were social justice and cultural edification. In “decolonized” schools, black youngsters might learn to shun the bourgeois prerogatives of social climbing and private accumulation, avoiding psychological dissolution into a materialistic, white mainstream. Progressive, self-governing black schools would invert dominant power relations. Welfare recipients would find in such institutions a forum for their expertise in managing cold bureaucracies and meager budgets. Even the police would see their roles reversed. The community-controlled school would house and regulate law enforcement agencies that had functioned as occupying forces of black urban centers. Like the activists of Harlem’s Intermediate School (IS) 201, who responded to the area’s high rates of tuberculosis and sickle cell anemia by arranging screenings through nearby hospitals, theorists of black relevance regarded the neighborhood school as the core of community life. They imagined institutions that could restore the promise of social democracy, delivering free day care and public assistance along with a superb primary and secondary education.21

Community control proponents envisioned schools as instruments for reconstructing the lives of the disinherited, as had earlier generations of reformers. They dreamed of mutual aid committees and credit unions. A 20-point agenda “for real school community control” created by IS 201 administrators included complete medical services and free breakfast and lunch programs for all children featuring rice, beans, and Chinese food (“No more soup and bread and butter sandwiches”), as well as adult education classes, drug rehabilitation programs, and full employment for Harlem residents. The school complex published a 245-page manual designed to help Harlemites fight employment discrimination, earn a high school diploma, and otherwise resist poverty and degradation. In the minds of progressive activists, the neighborhood school became a weapon against police brutality, a mediator of quarrels with the welfare system, and an arena for confronting “those larger issues which impinge so critically on the lives of school children in the ghetto.”22

(p.53) “Corn Flakes Instead of Eggs”: The Cult of Deprivation

Some of community control’s empowerment strategies reflected the familiar historical patterns of urban ethnic groups. Traditionally, as new immigrants and other members of the urban poor gained a measure of stability and clout, they sought greater influence over schools and other municipal agencies as sources of jobs and contracts. African Americans hoped the apparatus of public education—a growth industry in declining cities—could perform the social functions that ward politics and ethnic networks had fulfilled for other marginalized populations. But attempts to convert schools into cultural and economic bases for black communities represented more than a pragmatic response to local needs. The pursuit of educational relevance signaled a larger struggle for self-definition, a crusade that had witnessed the transition from “Negro” to “Afro-American,” and that now demanded the severing of other “semantic shackles.”23 Black culture, real and perceived, had long been subject to the interpretations of distant elites. African-American workers and professionals now strove to redefine the reigning social theories of black life.

One source of their indignation was the doctrine of cultural deprivation. Reformers and policymakers of the late 1950s and ’60s had constructed remedial and compensatory education programs upon the principle of African-American deficiency. Theories of social disadvantage supplanted crudely racist explanations for black children’s academic distress. Experts suggested that many African Americans did poorly in school not because of innate shortcomings, but as a result of cultural defects in their homes and neighborhoods. A vast literature on the socially deprived child arose. Poverty programs sought to correct the presumably crippling influence (on language skills, learning ability, and educational attitudes) of “broken” homes and environments that lacked books.24

Many black parents initially embraced compensatory education as an overdue reform, demanding the expansion of programs like Head Start. Increasingly, however, critics of “deficit model” remedies attacked their underlying assumptions as offensive if not racist. Prominent black psychologist Kenneth B. Clark lambasted the deprivation “cult” and proposed “socially denied” as a phrase that more precisely conveyed the systemic racism plaguing poor children of color. African-American parents rejected narratives of crumbling families and deviant communities as explanations for their children’s academic struggles. They resisted the smearing of black culture, unable to recognize their lives in official accounts of pathology.25

Black parents who boycotted a slum school in the Haight-Ashbury section of San Francisco in early 1966 openly mocked the trope of cultural deficiency. (p.54) Confronting the school’s principal during a meeting, the striking residents demanded to know why their children had been labeled “culturally disadvantaged.” “Well doesn’t that mean that their parents earn less than $4,000 a year,” the principal replied. “What has culturally disadvantaged got to do with money?” one mother asked. “You’ve got it,” another woman interjected. “Culture is money.” A Harlem mother struck a similar note of dissent during the IS 201 struggle. “I don’t want to be told that my daughter can’t learn because she comes from a fatherless home or because she had corn flakes for breakfast instead of eggs,” she declared.26

Contemporary studies deepened the insult, linking academic performance to class while overlooking the racist machinations perceived by black parents. Some African Americans resolved to shield their children from further defamation. The Inner City Parents Council of Detroit condemned the “Nazi-like theories of racial inferiority” that guided compensatory education. “I would like to declare a moratorium on white investigators coming into the black community and into black schools and saying we’re going to lay the word on you,” education professor Chester Davis, a staff member at Atlanta’s Institute of the Black World, proclaimed in 1970. “They ain’t got the word!”27

“How to Spell R-E-S-P-E-C-T”: Black Styles, Black Values

A generation of black intellectuals shunned the themes of deviance popularized by “culture of poverty” experts. They proclaimed the positive distinctiveness of black life, spurning Nathan Glazer and Daniel Moynihan’s 1965 assertion that “the Negro is only an American and nothing else.”28 African-American children, they argued, required educational methods tailored to their special aptitudes. As Ruther Turner Perot of the Washington-based Black Child Development Institute noted in 1971, “Deficiency is defined by the man who determines the standard.”29

Some African-American theorists defended the legitimacy of “black learning styles” while accusing public education of reproducing the cultural norms of the white bourgeoisie. Black studies advocate Jimmy Garrett argued that while white children could absorb “high flown rhetoric” all day, black children were equally capable of listening to “soul” records for hours. “Why is it black children [who] cannot spell their own names know how to spell ‘r-e-s-p-e-c-t’?” a la Aretha Franklin, he asked. One African-American Brooklyn principal described middle-class white students as docile “captives” of classroom monotony. By contrast, he suggested, black children instinctively rebelled against bland instruction.30

(p.55) Black nationalists feared that a culturally foreign education would “whitewash” African-American children, producing self-abnegating “black Anglo-Saxons.” “Are they, in the process of preparing to achieve high scores on ‘standardized tests,’ being induced to try to emulate the culture of another ethnic or racial group?” political scientist and Black Power coauthor Charles V. Hamilton asked. “Are they being given a sense of their own heritage?”31 Many nationalists believed only black teachers could truly cultivate African-American children. “Our children need teachers with soul,” the Afro-American Teachers Association (ATA) proclaimed in ads designed to recruit black New York City instructors. Some theorists suggested that residents of black central cities were inherently better qualified to teach African-American youngsters than were most white professionals. “Expertise is a myth to mystify the community,” declared the head of a radical faction of the UFT.32

The ATA proposed that white instructors who wished to remain in black, inner-city schools receive a formal orientation to such neighborhoods so that they might comprehend “the home environment” and “style of living” of their inhabitants. Yet critics like black studies professor Nathan Hare doubted that white, middle-class teachers could shed their inclination “to regard as saucy and slovenly mannerisms which slum boys exhibit as symbols of ghetto sophistication and thwarted manliness.” Of course, bourgeois black teachers in ghetto schools also risked assuming the role of cultural missionaries. Only those instructors who “identify the community’s struggle as their own” could claim relevance. African-American teachers could furnish inner cities with skills and leadership, the ATA’s Leslie Campbell conceded, but they must never enter black neighborhoods as “strangers bearing gifts.”33

For some black educators, remaining “relevant” meant internalizing a new code of ethics. “We can no longer serve our constituents platitudes about the ‘American dream,’ ” an IS 201 administrator proclaimed. Attendees of Detroit’s 1968 Black Ministers-Teachers Conference vowed, “We shall not covet that status in society which will serve to isolate us from our goals and those of the black community.” Even the head of the Black Caucus of the American Federation of Teachers criticized African-American public school instructors who “accepted uncritically the assumptions of American education and society.”34 Such pronouncements suggested that “relevance” posed a far greater challenge than any textbook could answer. The task of creating an education pertinent to the social realities of African Americans meant confronting the debate over “black values.”

The idea of an admirable, distinctly African-American repertoire of social values incensed those who believed that black children required traditional preparation for “the real world of tough interracial competition.” These critics suggested that scorning middle-class ideals of self-denial, delayed gratification, and respect for discipline and property would only exacerbate the “self-perpetuating cycle (p.56) of disadvantages” within black communities. “If Negroes are to make their way in American society,” one New York Times essayist maintained, “their progress, like that of other ethnic or racial groups, will be judged by their acquisition of the majority culture in all its ramifications.”35 Some working-class black parents were themselves ambivalent about professions of “black values,” which seemed to verge on reifying theories of innate racial difference. While they wished public education to assist in developing positive black consciousness, experience had deepened their suspicion of educational methods that appeared to deny their children the tools of mainstream success.

Nevertheless, many black educators and intellectuals remained convinced that the classroom hegemony of “white,” bureaucratic values smothered the humanistic instincts of children of color. Preston Wilcox argued that public schools fostered materialism and imparted an overformal and artificial cultural style. Participants in an education workshop at the summer 1969 regional Black Power conference in Bermuda accused the United States and other “colonial powers” of using schools to reinforce a culture of profiteering and individualism. “Even those schools which have 100 percent black student bodies are, in fact, European colonial schools,” a contributor to Chicago’s Black Liberator declared. “They are founded on a European value system, not a black one.”36

The desire to socialize African-American children according to “a black code of values” spanned a relatively wide ideological spectrum. The proposition that black educational redemption meant considering positive cultural differences whose significance had been disguised or denied generated an exciting sense of possibility. The school experience now seemed replete with opportunities to rehabilitate black identity and prepare children for citizenship not just in a pluralistic American democracy, but also in a nation waiting to be born. “The man is not going to give these values to us,” ATA leader and Ocean Hill–Brownsville intermediate school administrator Albert Vann insisted, using the masculine construction to identify both the oppressor and the oppressed. “They have to be earned by a new kind of black man that we don’t have yet.”37

“In the Hands of Black Men”: Black Education and the Politics of Separation

The pursuit of black autonomy generated not only crusades for educational relevance but also a remarkable upsurge of organizations. The late 1960s and ’70s witnessed the rise of a highly politicized black professional class and a virtually unparalleled proliferation of African-American associations. Scores of professional and occupational groups appeared, including roughly 25 national black educational organizations.38

(p.57) Countless education-related outfits emerged on the local level. Moderate to conservative groups like the Chicago African American Teachers Association (CATA) emphasized “responsible” political agitation and traditional methods of professional advancement. The organization’s slogan—“We Are Drum Majors for Quality Education”—evoked the integrationist rhetoric of Martin Luther King, Jr. By contrast, New York’s staunchly nationalistic ATA, originally a black teacher caucus within the city’s United Federation of Teachers, stressed militant political confrontation. “It is the mis-education and ineffectiveness of education for black youth coupled with the frustrations of being black in white America that has driven youth to the brink of social revolution,” ATA leader Albert Vann insisted. Yet both CATA and ATA endorsed community control and black studies—including Swahili courses—in public schools.39

By the late 1960s, a sense of growing consensus around black nationalist themes bolstered the idea that racial solidarity could bridge ideological and class divides. As more black occupational pressure groups arose, the ideals of self-determination and “unity without uniformity” began to seem eminently achievable. The 1966 Conference on Racism in Education demonstrated the growing power and indignation of the black thrust toward cultural autonomy. Sponsored by the liberal American Federation of Teachers (AFT), the event saw more than 1,300 teachers, many of them black, descend on Washington, DC, that December to “correct America’s image of the past.” Organizers had imagined a collegial, integrated gathering dedicated to ridding history textbooks and public school curricula of racist content. Instead, the forum unleashed currents of dissent and amplified calls for black educational independence.

Some professionals saw the Racism in Education conferences of 1966 and 1967 as opportunities to collect imaginative lesson plans, including an outline for a course on “Afro-American in the arts” that recommended shadowboxes of African scenes and Clever Hands of the African Negro as text. Radicals like New York City assistant principal James E. Campbell pursued a more trenchant agenda. Campbell, who had directed the Harlem “liberation school” associated with Malcolm X’s Organization of Afro-American Unity, questioned the motives behind Racism in Education, describing the meeting as a probe of black minds by the white fathers of “intellectual neocolonialism.” He accused conference organizers of ignoring the underlying values of American education, including the sacredness of private property and the nobility of the profit motive. “Are we to assume,” he asked, “that the ideological base of racism can be separated from the operation of the American system—capitalism?”40

The assaults on liberalism continued. One panel of black educators questioned whether white instructors, no matter how well meaning, possessed the moral and political qualifications to teach African-American children under any (p.58) circumstances. Meanwhile, black nationalists at the parley, including veteran activist Queen Mother Moore and historian John Henrik Clarke, issued searing critiques of white supremacy. The exasperation of black attendees and the force of their rejection of white paternalism lingered long after the conference, inspiring the birth of the AFT Black Caucus, a subgroup of the powerful teacher’s union.41

Proponents of black self-determination attacked other symbols of liberal reform. In early 1968, a revolt of black educators disrupted an antipoverty summit in New Orleans. The confrontation occurred during the winter conference of Upward Bound, the federal initiative designed to propel poor high school students into college. One source of black frustration was the composition of the national program’s leadership; while half of all Upward Bound pupils were black, African Americans constituted only 45 of its 253 directors. The Upward Bound revolt also reflected broader disaffection with the poverty programs. Black social workers and teachers recognized the growing hostility of the African-American lower classes toward the War on Poverty, which eased black destitution while failing to address its origins in the structures of racial capitalism. Many poor African Americans saw antipoverty efforts as pacification schemes, and few black Upward Bound workers wished to be viewed as agents of placation. Harlem activist Preston Wilcox, who attended the New Orleans assembly, suggested that the forum reflected the desire of the white establishment to “engage Hertz Rent-A-Negroes in anaesthetizing the functional anger existent in black ghettos.”42

A group of African Americans formed a caucus at the conference and produced a position paper that some Upward Bound officials viewed as absolutist. The caucus recommended that black directors alone supervise Upward Bound projects with a plurality of black students, a measure designed to ensure that African-American youngsters might find themselves “in the hands of black men with whom they can identify.” (Again a link was drawn between African-American masculinity and the rehabilitation of black self-image.) Many onlookers recoiled. As one delegate remembered, “It was painful to see white directors who perceived themselves as liberals and thought they had great rapport with their Negro students being told: ‘Baby, you’ve been had. You’re not getting through to them at all.’ ”43

The pursuit of broad-based, independent black formations reached its practical limits with the establishment of the National Association of Afro-American Educators (NAAAE). None of the familiar slogans, from “relevance” to “black values,” could stem the ideological crises that wracked the organization. The endeavor began when some 1,000 representatives from several states gathered in Chicago for the National Conference of Afro-American Educators in June 1968. Organizers defined “educator” loosely, seeing race as the essential characteristic (p.59) and unity as the overarching goal. “Cultural commonality,” they presumed, would trump political difference.44

Attendees included teachers, administrators, academics, professionals, parents, students, and activists. Preston Wilcox of Harlem, who emerged as NAAAE chair, boasted that participants ranged from those “wearing natural hair and affecting African dress to those with straightened hair and Westernized attire.” Yet philosophical conflicts immediately arose. “Are we educating our children to live in a black society only,” someone asked, “or are we educating for a multi-racial group society?” The question resurfaced: “Are we working toward inclusion into the majority culture or are we trying to establish a separate society for blacks?” Wilcox attempted to shroud ideological and class divisions. “We think that we have pulled together the first black-initiated, black-controlled, culturally radical organization,” he said. But the cry that emanated from the Chicago proceedings—“Give us a clear ideological base!”—went unanswered.45

Clarity again proved elusive during an “excruciating” planning meeting in St. Louis that August and throughout a follow-up conference in Atlanta. Conflict re-emerged when a dissident faction, decrying the dominance of an “educated elite” and insisting that black education must arise from the masses, charged that bourgeois leaders had betrayed the NAAAE’s grassroots mission. “Having begun to throw off the mantle of white liberal leadership,” they asked, “are we to substitute hard won victory for the same kind of leadership–only this time with black faces?” Factionalism also marred the 1969 NAAAE summit, during which a group of midwestern delegates deplored the concentration of power in the organization’s executive committee. “They viewed Black Chicago and Black New York as being two different nations rather than [being] different parts of the same black nation,” Wilcox later complained.46

Neither the ideal of nationhood nor the “united front” principle could save the NAAAE, which dwindled after the 1969 conference and eventually died. (Successor organizations like the National Alliance of Black Educators, which emerged in 1973, lacked the NAAAE’s nationalist character and broad social goals.) The group had projected mostly abstract ideals. “Those who have knowledge primarily from books must be linked with those who have knowledge from the streets,” one attendee of the Chicago meeting declared. Another expressed the desire “to translate white materialism into black humanism.” Members of the organization designed an elaborate rubric of psycho-political blackness by which the metamorphosis from “Negro” (“a person of color who desires to be like his white master”) to “Afro-American educator” (someone who wishes to positively “shape the destiny of black people”) was to be measured.47

In truth, the aims of the NAAAE were no more concrete than those of other black nationalist assemblages. Attendees of the education workshop at Philadelphia’s 1968 Black Power Conference also traded platitudes, proclaiming (p.60) that African-American children must learn “to be black in thought, in action, in affect, in substance, in spirit, in behavior, in attitudes, in gut reactions.” The flimsiness of such statements hardly diminished the zeal with which contemporary theorists pursued concepts of autonomous black education. Consideration of “alternative educational structures” increasingly framed discussions of schooling at black conferences. More African Americans embraced independent institutions as a means of fulfilling mandates for community control and relevance. As Jimmy Garrett observed in 1968, many black parents and educators had simply “given up hope of reaping educational benefits from a system that has refused to recognize the needs of black children.”48

“A More Potent Force”: The Demise of Community Control and the Search for Alternatives

In the end, that system also declined to substantially redistribute decision-making power over inner-city public schools. Community control, a crucial component of contemporary black educational visions, never fulfilled demands for academic redemption and self-rule. Several cities restructured their boards of education and created semiautonomous school districts; more supervisors and teachers of color were hired or promoted. These measures neither furnished black families with decisive authority nor meaningfully involved poor parents in the fashioning and delivery of education. New York City’s demonstration districts were finally dissolved by a 1969 “decentralization” law that nominally dispersed the powers of the Board of Education, carving the school system into “community districts” without genuinely reallocating fiscal, personnel, or curricular functions.49

Community control proponents recognized the decimation of their cause. Decentralization, once seen as a euphemism for power sharing, lay exposed as an instrument of the status quo, a clerical change that further entrenched rigid bureaucracies. Critics lamented the return of the “plantation system” of ghetto education. The dream of converting inner-city public schools into paragons of dignity and participatory democracy seemed all but dead. The headline of one African-American newspaper captured the bitterness that prevailed in the streets: “Cowardly Racists Dissolve Black Schools.”50

The crippling of educational justice movements accompanied the conservative turn of the late 1960s, when federal policies of “benign neglect” replaced mandates for “maximum feasible participation” of the poor. The failure of community control experiments to generate substantial reform deepened the conviction that such concessions were little more than “neocolonial” schemes to manage black confrontation politics and deflect radical impulses. Proponents (p.61) of the internal colony theory concluded that financial and political elites had responded to the growing black presence in major cities not by abandoning these “central mechanisms of industrial capitalism,” but by offering token minority participation while ensuring that the capital and political resources remained in the hands of the “mother country.” As the parent union of the IS 201 complex declared in 1971, “Injustice is now managed uptown instead of downtown.”51

Vestiges of the struggle remained. Some New York public schools served soul food or “Latin flavor” lunches in the early 1970s, and the charismatic, young principal of Brooklyn’s JHS 57 sported an Afro and a Black Power fist medallion. The city’s pilot “minischool,” an innovative model aimed at salvaging ghetto dropouts, borrowed its name, Harambee Prep, from a popular Swahili word meaning “let’s pull together.” These were meager victories for those who had demanded a new social contract for schoolchildren in the urban core. As community control forces disbanded and black class tensions intensified, charges multiplied that self-seeking “Negro professionals” had helped neutralize the movement in return for antipoverty funds or positions within the municipal bureaucracy. “The cripplers in the past (largely white) have now been joined by destructive, opportunistic education pimps (largely black), who prey on the Harlem community,” longtime activist Babette Edwards proclaimed in 1971.52

Other critics chastised local activists for letting “the myth of government- sponsored revolution” convince them that community control had constituted anything other than riot deterrence—summer “ ‘cool off’ money,” as one Ocean Hill–Brownsville governing board member put it. Even sympathetic observers derided as “romantic fantasy” the expectation that a humanitarian revolution in education would accompany “a shift in power from the bureaucracy to the people.” A columnist for The Nation scorned the idea of community control as a viable solution for the slums. “Dashikis, natural hairdos, soul music in the cafeteria, and introductory Swahili all have some symbolic significance,” he maintained, “but the children will still leave these schools unable to read and write.”53

Dismal reading scores seemed to confirm community control’s failure to lift black achievement (though to be fair, the experiment had not been granted sufficient time to demonstrate real progress). The academic crisis endured well after the passage of New York’s 1969 decentralization law. “I don’t care how much the new structure has given people a sense of control over their own destiny,” psychologist Kenneth B. Clark declared in 1980. “The schools are no better and no worse than they were a decade ago.”54

Ultimately, community control struggles in New York and elsewhere underscored the deficiencies of public education as an instrument of social transformation. Noting a re-emergence in “the faith that failed,” a host of contemporary critics echoed the familiar argument that American public schools preserve (p.62) the lowly status of the poor far more efficiently than they aid upward mobility. Sociologist C. Eric Lincoln described black schoolchildren as “programmed for social and economic oblivion” by a power structure that profits from such an arrangement. Leftist theorist Doxey Wilkerson insisted, “It is not the education of black men and women that will achieve their liberation; it is the liberation of black Americans that will assure their effective education.” Yet the overwhelming majority of African Americans polled by Ebony in 1970 cited improved education as a response to the question, “How will blacks make real progress?”55

Some activists wondered whether the entire community control movement had been a farce. “Is all that suffering, all that expense, all that experience going to go for naught?” a former IS 201 administrator asked. The reforms pursued by New York’s demonstration districts had failed to satisfy the primary objective of African-American parents—the academic salvation of their children.56 Observers insisted that more time was needed to nurture modest gains, yet short-term triumphs could hardly replace the dignity of literacy or the promise of social mobility. Still, the burgeoning political consciousness of certain mobilized neighborhoods suggested that community control had achieved at least some substantial victories.

Black and Puerto Rican residents of Harlem and Brooklyn remained acutely aware of the dynamics of social oppression that the struggle had underscored. The winter 1970 newsletter of the defunded IS 201 complex carried black history bulletins and infant mortality statistics along with news of prison uprisings and accounts of the repression of political dissidents, from Black Panthers to Young Lords (a Puerto Rican group). Evidence of expanding racial consciousness contrasted with the resistance to black nationalist outlooks that ATA founders had encountered earlier in the 1960s. Living amid picketing, rallies, and strikes radicalized youngsters. In a 1969 issue of Black Fury, an IS 201 newspaper, local eighth graders described Latinos and black Americans as “brothers” who must unite to “carry on the struggle.” Editors of the school yearbook dedicated that year’s edition to neighborhood fifth graders “in the confidence that the struggle will mature in the hands of our younger brothers.”57

Mounting interest in alternative and independent schools offered another sign of the survival of community control ideals. Some Ocean Hill–Brownsville educators openly admired the Nation of Islam’s black nationalist private schools. If African Americans could not gain control of local education, the ATA’s Herman Ferguson argued in 1968, they should abandon the public school system and place the instruction of their progeny “in the hands of black people who have demonstrated that they … have the interests of black children at heart.” ATA officials hailed the Nation’s academies as “our parochial schools” and assured residents that the institutions—which enrolled both Muslim pupils and the children of nonbelievers—offered a viable, community-based (p.63) education. Community control advocate Preston Wilcox also favored private models. By 1969, he had developed and circulated a provocative prospectus—“An Independent Black School or a Dependent Nigger School”—that described an enterprise funded by white patrons but governed by “black values.”58

Meanwhile, there emerged two proposals for an independent Harlem school system lying beyond the jurisdiction of New York’s Board of Education. The first, a Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) plan endorsed by an array of civil rights leaders and designed to surpass community control as a mechanism for home rule, imagined a public district of 50,000 students chartered by the state legislature and dedicated to correcting “the impotence of ghetto life.” The new district would operate like a sovereign city-state within the existing territory of the city school system. Roy Innis and Victor Solomon, the plan’s coauthors, argued that the reorganization would help address “the black man’s image of himself and his lack of control over the institutions which control his life.” Written by a former IS 201 activist, the second proposal for a Harlem educational system eschewed public funding altogether, envisioning a network of culturally affirming private schools.59

Both proposals echoed elements of a plan advanced by Malcolm X’s Organization of Afro-American Unity as early as 1964 that called for the group to take control of failing public schools in Harlem and Bedford-Stuyvesant as a means of offering black communities “a more potent force for educational self-improvement.” In the late 1960s and early ’70s, however, debate erupted among black nationalists over whether public or private institutions provided the more auspicious arena of struggle. Activists like Amiri Baraka saw no conflict between crusades for control of public schools and efforts to establish independent black academies. Yet Roy Innis of CORE emphasized the limitations of private education as a mass solution and reaffirmed the drive for community control of school districts with large black populations.60

While the ATA endorsed both approaches, the organization strongly favored independent black institutions. This rapidly became the orthodox position of black nationalists. Members of the New School for Afro-American Thought, a Washington, DC, establishment, acknowledged in 1968 that the push for black educational reform had stalled and argued that constructing models outside the public system represented a dire necessity. Two years later the Congress of African People, a national organization, established as a long-term goal the replacing of public schools in black communities with “Pan African educational alternatives.”61

Community control veterans entered the 1970s searching for new ways to end the “crucifixion” of black children in urban schools. Harlem theorist Preston Wilcox worked with antipoverty programs to empower the parents of African-American schoolchildren. Activist Babette Edwards became a (p.64) staunch proponent of “vouchers,” or government subsidies designed to enable low-income parents to enroll their children in the public or private schools of their choice. Discharged from his teaching job, Albert Vann of the ATA entered Brooklyn politics, viewing his service as an assemblyman as an extension of the community control thrust, and sensing the limitations of further agitation “outside the system.”62 Leslie Campbell saw no such constraints. Dismissed from the public school system in 1969 along with Vann, the middle-school teacher withdrew into black Brooklyn and started a school.

“The Devil Can Never Educate Us”: The Road to Uhuru Sasa

Campbell, a true son of Brooklyn, was born, raised, and educated in the borough. His father, Robert Campbell, an organizer for the Communist Party’s Harlem and Bedford-Stuyvesant branches, served as secretary to left-wing New York City councilman Benjamin Davis, taught Campbell about the Mau Mau liberation struggle in Kenya, and once introduced his son to legendary human rights activist Paul Robeson. Campbell’s mother, Mardesta Mealing, played a far greater role in his upbringing. A leftist who reared seven children while on public assistance, she nurtured her son’s activist inclinations through her own work mobilizing black, Bedford-Stuyvesant parents around demands for decent public education.

Poor but bright, and a voracious reader, Campbell entered prestigious Brooklyn Tech High School in 1952, though isolation among privileged, white classmates led to his withdrawal from the institution. The school to which he transferred offered no refuge; its students, mostly recent European immigrants, regarded acts of antiblack violence as rites of cultural assimilation. Campbell majored in history and minored in education at Long Island University’s Brooklyn campus, where his most inspiring professor was a white civil rights veteran. A law career seemed remote and expensive, so after graduating in 1962, Campbell took a teaching job at Bedford-Stuyvesant’s overwhelmingly black and Puerto Rican Junior High School 35.63

The large cohort of activist, black teachers at JHS 35 included Albert Vann, future ATA leader and one of Campbell’s close allies. If JHS 35 was a stronghold of black activist-intellectuals, Central Brooklyn, with its growing population of southern transplants and Caribbean immigrants, was itself a cultural mecca. Its dignitaries included Milton Galamison, civil rights leader and pastor of a Bedford-Stuyvesant church. The failure of Galamison’s city-wide school desegregation crusade to transform the educational experiences of the system’s black (p.65) children served as a profound political lesson for Campbell, who participated in the leader’s massive 1964 boycotts.

Now a social studies teacher in his mid-20s, Campbell grew increasingly troubled by the racial inequities of urban public education. He began to see the miseducation of black children less as a result of negligence than as the product of an immense system—a colonial structure designed to stultify its inner-city subjects. The ascent of the United Federation of Teachers furnished no solutions. The local union seemed to exemplify white liberal hypocrisy, supporting the southern desegregation movement while narrowly pursuing its own professional interests at home, to the considerable detriment, Campbell believed, of black youths. Seeking alternatives, Campbell, Vann, and other black educators formed the ATA in 1964. The self-help organization challenged New York City’s African-American instructors to strengthen bonds of racial solidarity in black schools and communities.

At JHS 35, Campbell helped create a sweeping, diasporic curriculum that included classes on African history and the transatlantic slave trade. His lectures on “the current situation of the black man” and his efforts to politicize youngsters antagonized a vocal group of parents who viewed him as an extremist. Campbell’s black nationalist outlook only deepened. For him, the first major Black Power conference at Newark, New Jersey, in 1967 marked the end of the “nightmare” of integrationism and vindicated the dream of black nationhood. He returned from the gathering filled with new resolve to convert black public schools into “tools for molding our communities and our students.”64

The ATA embraced the demand for community control, a cause bolstered in 1967 by the formation of the experimental Ocean Hill–Brownsville district. This development came amid a national surge of black militancy that Campbell hailed as evidence of a “great awakening.” His own “shining moment” of struggle arrived in February 1968 when he violated a Board of Education edict by escorting 40 eighth graders during school hours to a Malcolm X memorial at Harlem’s IS 201. The rally echoed with calls for revolutionary violence and was swiftly condemned by the press as “antiwhite.” Its sponsors, however, saw a historic occasion, a fiery coronation for black nationalism that attracted a host of luminaries, from Malcolm’s widow Betty Shabazz to artist-activist LeRoi Jones (later Amiri Baraka).65

During the tribute, ATA member Herman Ferguson (then under indictment—in a time of growing repression of black radicals—for allegedly conspiring to murder moderate civil rights leaders) urged members of the audience to arm themselves for what he described as an imminent race war. Dan Watts of the left-leaning Liberator later dismissed the event as the work of “verbal revolutionaries” who substituted “down with whitey” hyperbole for viable political programs. Yet Campbell viewed the memorial as an expression of the (p.66) nationalist principles that defined his teaching. When school administrators charged him with insubordination and temporarily revoked his license, the ATA denounced the “educational lynching” and 300 teenagers and other admirers rallied in his defense. Acknowledging Campbell’s merits as a teacher, authorities agreed to transfer the outspoken instructor to Ocean Hill–Brownsville. “It is unfortunate that my departure from JHS 35 could not have been held in the usual ‘punch and cookies’ manner,” he declared in a parting statement. “But revolutions are never fought that way.”66

Determined to shape the political meaning of community control, Campbell helped transform JHS 271 into a bastion of black consciousness. He covered a bulletin board with news clippings about the Black Panthers, decorated his eighth-grade classroom with posters of the black Christ, displayed slides of great African civilizations, assigned Malcolm X on Afro-American History as his textbook, and oversaw adult evening courses that offered instruction in staging community demonstrations and fomenting peoples’ revolutions. He also discussed the merits of formal black sovereignty (“Now, Timmy,” he asked one student, “would you like an Afro-American state?”) and, according to a disputed report, extolled the tactical value of Molotov cocktails.67

A rival social studies instructor at JHS 271 taught that “extremists” on the right and left flanks of the “American Highway” of political beliefs rely on violence and aggression to achieve rapid social change or to preserve the status quo, while those in the great “Center Lane” of politics maintain peace by bringing about change gradually. By contrast, Campbell strove to convince black youths that liberal democratic traditions camouflage the realities of white supremacy. Again parents remonstrated. But many students grew to appreciate the giant iconoclast who patiently explained the cultural significance of dashikis and the principles of Black Power. Campbell’s most devoted pupils included youngsters who, largely as a result of his tutelage, adopted African names and “Third World” outlooks. “We became international,” one former student recalled.68

Campbell solidified his reputation as a firebrand in April 1968 when the murder of Martin Luther King, Jr. prompted a JHS 271 assembly at which the instructor delivered a characteristically intemperate address. Students had rampaged through the school the day after the assassination, scattering chairs and calling for vengeance. During the ensuing assembly, Campbell advised the youngsters to direct their fury at the white power structure. Acts of petty crime, he argued, should be performed with revolutionary intent and in preparation for sustained street combat. “When the enemy taps you on the shoulder,” he proclaimed, “send him to the cemetery.” This message was cathartic, Campbell later insisted, and actually cooled tempers. But the remarks fueled his notoriety, as did an incident that afternoon in which a handful of students assaulted a white teacher who (p.67) had removed a bulletin board bearing signs that read “Martin Luther King was killed by a vicious white man—Prepare yourselves.”69

Campbell again faced disciplinary action that fall for harassing teachers who had returned to the classroom after going out on strike. Neither suspension nor arraignment on criminal charges of coercion could bridle the defiant instructor. Writing in the ATA newsletter that fall, Campbell charged the United Federation of Teachers with wringing profits from inner cities while breeding functional illiterates as cheap labor for the service industries and cannon fodder for the battlefields of Vietnam. “The devil can never educate us,” he declared.70

Some white sympathizers admired Campbell’s militancy. “His suspicion of the ‘white liberal’ arises out of a history of double cross and meaningless rhetoric, and seems to be shared by his true constituency, the black community,” one Jewish colleague observed. The journalist I. F. Stone praised Campbell’s pedagogy, noting that his lectures on “Our Homeland” mirrored Zionist Sabbath school lessons. A provocation that December, however, alienated would-be allies and seemed to confirm Campbell’s incendiary purpose. By then the community control struggle had produced reciprocal charges of racism from the largely Jewish teachers union and from black representatives. Ugly epithets from both camps had poisoned the affair. Thus it seemed especially reckless when Campbell, appearing on a late-night WBAI radio show hosted by Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee veteran Julius Lester, read over the air a JHS 271 student’s poem that began, “Hey, Jew boy, with that yarmulke on your head. You pale-faced Jew boy—I wish you were dead. . . .”71

Titled Anti-Semitism, the poem attempted crude irony. Its eighth-grade creator had learned from freewheeling discussions at the middle school that the “original Semites” were black, a premise embraced by many black nationalist groups. (“How can they ask a Semite if he’s anti-Semitic?” Brooklyn activist Sonny Carson later quipped at an Ocean Hill–Brownsville rally.) Bristling at accusations of anti-Semitism directed at black communities by Jewish teachers she regarded as racist, the adolescent had hurled the indictment back at its authors. Campbell later acknowledged the toxic nature of the poem. Yet he continued to maintain that he had read the passages simply to convey the pain and feelings of betrayal that prevailed in the district. He defended what he saw as the emotional response of a politically unrefined child. “It was not a statement, it was a reaction,” he insisted. “Somebody hits you, you react.”72

Seen as an expression of raw bigotry, the recitation of the poem reinforced Ocean Hill–Brownsville’s image as a haven for extremists. The outcry against apparent manifestations of anti-Semitism, one observer noted, “created the political conditions for the defeat and humiliation” of the district. Campbell’s infamy increased. “If they could have electrocuted me I would have gone to the chair,” he later acknowledged. The radio broadcast proved especially damaging in the (p.68) context of growing alarm over the deterioration of black–Jewish relations. A Time magazine report published shortly after the WBAI incident lamented the rise of “an ominous current of anti-Semitism” among “a small fraction of Negroes.”73

In truth, the widening gulf between some Jews and African Americans reflected complex contemporary and historical circumstances. Progressive Jews had long been among the most committed allies of black struggle. As the push for black autonomy drove many white participants from the movement, however, deep-seated resentment of Jews as conspicuous symbols of the exploitation and absentee ownership of black ghettoes surfaced. Mounting pro-Palestine sentiment among African Americans, especially in the aftermath of the Arab-Israeli War of 1967—an event that highlighted Israel’s status as a settler colony and an imperialist power—intensified anti-Zionist critiques and reinforced black perceptions of the Jewish minority as little more than a new oppressor class. At times, forthright anti-Zionism and vulgar anti-Semitism commingled.

This ideological fusion may have inspired the poem that Campbell read over the air, as well as some of the more chauvinistic pronouncements that he made in subsequent years. Like other African Americans who succumbed to narrow nationalism while pursuing principled Third Worldism, he rarely differentiated between progressive Jews who embodied antiracist traditions and opportunistic members of the group who, having departed the urban reservations now occupied by black people, joined other white “ethnics” in clothing themselves in the social privileges of whiteness. Campbell never acknowledged any current of truth in the ongoing allegations of anti-Semitism. He continued to maintain that leaders of the United Federation of Teachers and their political cronies had exploited the issue to deflect criticism of their opposition to community control. Undeniably, however, the venting of anti-Semitic sentiments alienated principled antiracists who had long supported black educational justice.

Reports of the indoctrination of schoolchildren by black fanatics proliferated, and Campbell became a visible symbol of the purported conspiracy to fan the flames of bigotry. New York progressives tried to ensure that outrage over “intergroup vilification” did not eclipse critical questions of democracy raised by inner-city battles for dignified education. For Campbell, however, this phase of struggle had come to an end. Seen by authorities as the culmination of a series of misdeeds, the poem fiasco (and an additional incident in which a Malcolm X oration was piped through the loudspeakers of JHS 271) brought to a conclusion the educator’s eight years with the public schools. In a move that the ATA denounced as the beginning of a purge of militants, Campbell was dismissed from his teaching post in the fall of 1969.74

Campbell viewed the termination as an act of retaliation for his unapologetic advocacy of black nationalism. A statement he later issued about deposed Ghanaian leader Kwame Nkrumah seemed to encapsulate his feelings toward (p.69) his own removal: “He was charged with being a demagogue, an outlaw, a socialist and a dictator,” Campbell declared. “Whenever someone attempts to be a positive force for black people he is cut down.” The battle-worn instructor struggled to regroup throughout that autumn. He had experienced moments of jubilation in Ocean Hill–Brownsville. “We had shown that this downtrodden community faced with a crisis, using its own resources, could overcome,” he later said.75 Yet he recognized that the movement had won only token concessions, and he resolved to pursue more promising methods of self-determination. Amid the search for new directions, he abandoned the moniker Leslie Campbell and assumed the Kiswahili name Jitu Weusi (“Big Black”).

“Revolutionary Appetite”: The Role of High School Radicals

Despite his lingering bitterness, Weusi’s relationship to a group of 60 militant high school students allowed him to maintain a sense of purpose. In 1967, he had helped organize the African-American Student Association (ASA), a counterpart to the ATA. The organization claimed membership throughout the city, defining itself as a disciplined, black nationalist formation within the waves of social protest that engulfed New York high schools in the late 1960s. Many ASA members lived in Bedford-Stuyvesant and attended Brooklyn’s Boys High or Franklin K. Lane High School, institutions that exhibited many of the familiar symptoms of repression and neglect as growing black and Latino enrollment transformed their student bodies. Even those Lane students who evaded the narcotics trade that thrived within the school struggled to escape an academic tracking system that shunted some youngsters toward industrial jobs while preparing others for college.

African-American pupils encountered overt racial hostility in and around Lane, which lay near Queens in a conservative, predominantly white neighborhood. These and other black adolescents also faced broader social crises, including soaring levels of unemployment. Politicized by urban rebellions, the Vietnam War, the slaying of King, and the global student revolts of 1968, many such youths developed an acute social consciousness. The ASA embodied their rebellious spirit and played a critical role in transmitting Black Power ideas throughout New York schools. By 1969, the group was collaborating with other student organizations to mount rallies and school walkouts. Its members achieved fleeting victories, hoisting a red, black, and green liberation flag over Lane High, and defacing a mural at George Washington High that depicted black slaves kneeling before the nation’s first president. However, struggles on behalf of more significant objectives—including control over faculty appointments and curricula, (p.70) official recognition of Malcolm X’s birthday, and creation of drug rehabilitation centers—met staunch resistance and spawned disturbances and arrests.76

Weusi had mentored ASA members during summer and after-school sessions and remained a volunteer adviser to the organization following his departure from public education. He saw the youngsters as natural allies—gifted activists deeply committed to social change. He delivered speeches at some of the city’s most turbulent student demonstrations and was frequently accused of masterminding the disruptions. Yet he continued to see promise in adolescents who others viewed as menaces. The admiration appeared mutual; after Weusi’s dismissal from his teaching position, ASA members helped stage a mock funeral for him in which they served as honorary pallbearers.77

Weusi regretted that many of the brightest student activists had become casualties of struggle, receiving suspensions or expulsions for their roles in school disorders. He felt a sense of duty to help steer these youngsters toward college by helping them obtain high school diplomas or equivalencies. At the same time, his search for a revolutionary methodology had led him to the concept of “independent black institutions.” He hoped to satisfy his own practical need for employment as well, and his experience organizing Ocean Hill–Brownsville evening classes suggested that opening a private institution might fulfill all these impulses. On the other hand, like many young, African-American radicals, he also considered quitting the United States altogether and “repatriating” to Tanzania, where he could contribute to an authentic nation-building campaign while living and working under the command of the philosopher-statesman Julius Nyerere.

In the end, the native son bypassed East Africa and returned to Central Brooklyn. With cash from a bail fund that he and several ASA members had established, Weusi and his young charges in 1969 acquired a battered but sturdy, industrial-era building at 10 Claver Place near the junction of Bedford-Stuyvesant and Fort Greene. The events of the past year had convinced him that public schools no longer offered viable channels for black liberation. Revisiting JHS 271 that September, he discovered that administrators had instituted “law and order” procedures for suppressing student dissent, and that standard textbooks containing “the lies of this reactionary, exploitive, racist society” had returned to the shelves. He now turned to a new arena of struggle, believing that the abandoned, three-story edifice on Claver could house an institution capable of fulfilling the “revolutionary appetite” of black youth.78

“Fertile Soil”: Building Uhuru Sasa

Weusi and a dozen hardcore ASA members spent weeks rehabilitating the old warehouse. They restored the interior, their efforts supplemented by the (p.71) volunteer labor of blue-collar men from the area. The crew of students and workers hauled away debris, repaired plumbing and walls, and installed wiring. Efforts to raise $10,000 in contributions and loans continued as the young activists built a kitchen and converted a second-floor loft. Finally they constructed a stage and sound room; live music would be a key component of the cultural center they envisioned, providing crucial revenue to help support its centerpiece: a private school.

By 1970, the institution that became “the East” (a name that suggested a cultural counterpoint to western traditions) hosted the early installments of “Black Experience in Sound,” a series of performances by avant-garde jazz artists. In a display of transnational solidarity, Geddes Granger, a leader of the burgeoning Black Power revolt in Trinidad and Tobago, attended one of the first concerts. Granger’s presence was meaningful because the movement he represented embodied many of the elements that would define the East: Pan-African consciousness, the fusion of popular culture and radical politics, mobilization of students and youth, and the erection of parallel institutions designed to expose the illegitimacy of existing apparatuses of authority and governance.79

The East flourished. A platform for local artists, its concert series also featured many of the celebrated musicians of the day, especially politically oriented figures like Pharaoh Sanders, Max Roach, Sun Ra, and Archie Shepp. As a community center, the East attracted a growing coterie of black nationalists and generated an array of cultural and political initiatives, including cooperative businesses, an African street fair, and a polemical, alternative publication named Black News. Yet the educational fate of the ousted ASA students remained uncertain. Weusi and other ATA members hastily created an evening school for the pupils, but the effort lacked a coherent political framework or a guiding philosophy. Forced to reorganize, the circle of educators established an affirmative ideology of self-reliance and crafted an instructional program that they deemed appropriate for the edification of the ASA faithful.

Uhuru Sasa Shule (“Freedom Now School”) opened in February 1970 as the educational arm of the East. Originally a part-time junior and senior high for ASA members, the school rapidly expanded into a full-time, coed venture serving elementary grades and preschoolers—mostly youngsters from East New York, Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brownsville, and Flatbush whose working-class parents welcomed alternatives to local public schools. Weusi, Albert Vann, Herman Ferguson, and other ATA members made up the volunteer faculty while a corps of modestly paid instructors (current or former black public school teachers) took shape. Tuition stood at $5 a week. By that fall, dozens of children ages 3 to 17 attended the fledgling school, which grouped youngsters according to ability rather than age. Weusi now presided over an institution designed to train children in both traditional academic subjects and black nationalist principles. (p.72) “The minds of these kids is fertile soil,” Weusi declared, “but it just lays there in the [public] schools.”80

Weusi had discovered in Julius Nyerere’s “Education for Self-Reliance” a compelling theoretical and pedagogical rationale. The 1967 essay outlined the humanist, cooperative principles that the Tanzanian leader deemed necessary to defeat the lingering cultural grip of the colonial period. Nyerere insisted that without educational systems capable of instilling collectivist values and nationalist ideals, African independence would remain incomplete. Weusi embraced the principle, believing that black America needed to escape a colonial mentality of its own. “Our people have been educated to be dependent upon the institutions of our oppression,” he argued. No longer simply a matter of “cultural relevance,” a worthwhile black education would prepare black children for political self-determination while inspiring them to pursue “physical nationhood for African people in the western hemisphere.”81

Yet the challenges of sustaining an upstart establishment in a relatively poor neighborhood while striving to craft the cultural and ethical basis for a new society immediately arose. What did the principle of self-reliance mean in practice? Could Uhuru Sasa maintain financial autonomy while plagued by drafty classrooms, teacher shortages, inadequate instructional materials, and spiraling costs? Could the institution compete with public schools? Could it elude extensive state oversight? What were the practical and academic implications of operating a school that remained, for the moment, unaccredited? What were the social and academic aims of a curriculum built upon the concept of “blackness”? Finally, did private education represent a new frontier for mass action, or was the turn to independent institutions another sign of the black freedom struggle’s fragmentation and retreat from radical engagement?

These and other questions loomed throughout 1970 as Uhuru Sasa continued to evolve. It was exhilarating to see similar enterprises emerge throughout the country. “With the increase of correct African institutions our day of liberation, and spiritual salvation, is surely on the set,” Weusi proclaimed. As an Uhuru Sasa pamphlet asserted, “We are a Pan-African Nationalist school, meaning that we support and participate in the struggles of Africans worldwide, and, secondly, we are in preparation for Nationhood—ultimate control of our lives.”82

In the mid- to late 1960s, militant black nationalism intensified and transformed crusades for African-American educational justice. Many students and activists rejected white liberal paternalism and attempted to convert public schools into bailiwicks of radical organizing and progressive theory. The demise of community control marked a major setback. For some activists, however, temporary defeat only confirmed the deficiencies of public education as an agent of meaningful social change. Searching for alternatives, Brooklyn’s Jitu Weusi and (p.73) other dissidents turned to private models, an approach that exemplified the contemporary spirit of social experimentation. Institution building promised to fulfill thwarted ambitions for nationalist development and “self-reliance.” Of course, parallel educational structures linked to freedom struggles were hardly unprecedented. Prototypes like Uhuru Sasa built on a long tradition of movement schools.


(1.) Gunnar Myrdal, An American Dilemma, vol. 2 (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1964 [1944]), 879. For related discussions of the curricular implications of black “relevance,” see chapter nine of Daniel H. Perlstein, Justice, Justice: School Politics and the Eclipse of Liberalism (New York: Peter Lang, 2004); chapter three of Maisha T. Fisher, Black Literate Lives: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives (New York: Routledge, 2008); and Donna Murch, Living for the City: Migration, Education, and the Rise of the Black Panther Party in Oakland, California (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2010).

(2.) J. Anthony Lukas, “Schools Turn to Negro Role in U.S.,” New York Times, July 8, 1968, 1, 26. (Sputnik and Cold War anxieties had prompted the first “textbook revolution.”)

(3.) “Reflections on Black Studies,” version of July 1970 lecture, Box 27, Folder 59, and “Black Studies: Toward an Intellectual Framework,” transcript of September 23, 1969, lecture, Box 27, Folder 19, SCD, SCR.

(4.) Lerone Bennett, Jr., “Confrontation on the Campus,” Ebony, May 1968, 28; Kenneth Gross, “Pupils’ Target Praises Them,” New York Post, May 14, 1968, 28; “Demands of Black & Puerto Rican High School Students,” flyer, May 14, 1969, Box 5, Folder 8, ASP, CUL; “NYC’s School Picture: It’s ‘in’ to Be Out!” New York Amsterdam News, December 7, 1968, 1; George Todd, “Ocean Hill Showdown as JHS 271 Is Padlocked,” New York Amsterdam News, December 7, 1968, 1; George Todd, “10 Policemen Hurt in Model Schools Area,” New York Amsterdam News, October 5, 1968, 23; Margie Stamberg, “NY Schools Erupt,” Guardian, December 7, 1968, 6; “Program of the High School Coalition,” flyer, n.d., Box 52, Folder 26, and “To the Real Black Men of Boys High School,” flyer, April 10, 1968, Box 55, Folder 16, UFT, RFW; Sara Slack, “Push for Shake-Up of Boys High Staff,” New York Amsterdam News [Brooklyn Edition], May 11, 1968, 1; Michael Stern, “Teen-Agers Protesting Too,” New York Times, January 9, 1969, 79; John Herbers, “High School Unrest Rises, Alarming U.S. Educators,” New York Times, May 9, 1969, 1; “New Explosion of Black Youths Sweeping High Schools,” Muhammad Speaks, October 25, 1968, 10; Ruth B. Stein, “Black Protests Spur Teaching of Negro History,” Jet, February 15, 1968, 16–22; see also Countryman, Up South, 228.

(5.) “Do You Want Your Child Taught This?” flyer, n.d., Box 55, Folder 22, “The Following Material Was Distributed in J.H.S. 271, Ocean Hill-Brownsville,” transcript of Ralph Poynter letter, Box 52, Folder 19, and “Baird Visits Africa,” Ocean Hill-Brownsville Community Advocate, August 1969, Box 55, Folder 13, UFT, RFW.

(6.) C. Gerald Fraser, “Workshop Is Held in Brooklyn to Teach Parents How to Teach,” New York Times, September 7, 1967, 18.

(7.) Charles V. Harrison, “Black History and the Schools,” Ebony, December 1968, 113; “Schools Are Fast Putting Blacks Back into History,” Chicago Daily Defender, February 7, 1970, 28; Rose Marie Levey, Black Studies in Schools: A Review of Current Policies and Programs (Washington, DC: National School Public Relations Association, 1970), 11.

(8.) Raymond H. Giles, Black Studies Programs in Public Schools (New York: Praeger, 1974), 44; Florence Mouckley, “Black History Instruction Varies Across U.S.,” Christian Science Monitor, January 4, 1974, 5; Harrison, “Black History and the Schools,” 113; Ernest Kaiser, “The Negro Heritage Library and Its Critics,” Freedomways, Winter 1967, 64; “Book Trade Journal Comments on Hearings” [Excerpt from September 19, 1966, Publisher’s Weekly Editorial], (p.281) Interracial Books for Children, Winter 1967, Box 8, Folder 2, ASP, CUL; James Garrett, “Black Power & Black Education,” Washington Free Press, April 16–30, 1969, 9.

(9.) Ragni Lantz, “Adam Powell Probes Bias in Textbooks,” Jet, September 8, 1966, 16; Paul Delaneys, “Use of ‘Multi-Ethnic Textbooks’ Grows,” New York Times, June 7, 1971, 1; Letitia W. Brown, “Section F: Why and How the Negro in History,” Journal of Negro Education 38 (1969): 447; “The Best Way to Study Black History” (Promotion for CES Negro History Transparencies), Box 140, Folder 4, UFT, RFW; Yosef ben-Jochannan, Cultural Genocide in the Black and African Studies Curriculum (New York: Alkebu-lan Book Association, 1972), 1.

(10.) “The East Harlem Coalition for Community Control Makes the Following Resolutions,” 1968 flyer, Box 52, Folder 18, UFT, RFW; New York City Board of Education Press Release, April 13–14, 1966, Box 8, Folder 2, ASP, CUL.

(11.) Margaret Burroughs, “Integration of Learning Materials … Now!” Negro Digest, March 1966, 31–32; “Statement of Roy Wilkins, NAACP Executive Director,” press release, September 21, 1970, Box 46, Folder 6, EGP, SCR.

(12.) Sara Slack, “Angered People Vow to Keep Teachers Out of School,” New York Amsterdam News, October 5, 1968, 35; James A. Banks, “Teaching Black Studies for Social Change,” Journal of Afro-American Issues 1 (1971): 141–163.

(13.) “The Advisory Board of Nairobi Schools Presents Afro-American History Week Celebration,” February 14, 1970, Box 27, Folder 43, SCD, SCR. Nationalists were among the most outspoken critics of public school curricula. See, for example, “Objects to Textbook; Keeps Daughter from Class,” Jet, October 13, 1966, 13.

(14.) Maude White Katz, “End Racism in Education: A Concerned Parent Speaks,” Freedomways, Winter 1968, 347.

(15.) Henry Hampton and Steve Fayer with Sarah Flynn, Voices of Freedom: An Oral History of the Civil Rights Movement from the 1950s Through the 1980s (New York: Bantam Books, 1990), 502; Black News, April 10, 1970; “Negro History Week Now; Black Liberation Week Next,” New York Amsterdam News, February 14, 1970, 16; “Seek Black Unity, Says McKissick,” Chicago Daily Defender, June 25, 1968, 5.

(16.) Margie Stamberg, “NY Schools Open, but Parents Angry,” Guardian, November 30, 1968, 6; Hugh Wyatt, “Harlem Fears Johnny Won’t Learn to Read,” Daily News, November 18, 1969, 5; “NY School Crisis Deadlocked,” Guardian, November 2, 1968, 6.

(17.) “Chronology of the UFT-Community Confrontation, 1967-1968,” in Schools Against Children: The Case for Community Control, ed. Annette T. Rubinstein (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1970), 267; “The ‘So-Called’ Disruptive Child,” August 1967 flyer, Box 24, Folder 8, UFT, RFW; Teacher’s Freedom Party of UFT, “Anatomy of a Cop-Out: Harlem vs. Shanker,” Liberator, January 1968, 16.

(18.) Charles S. Isaacs, “A J.H.S. 271 Teacher Tells It Like He Sees It,” New York Times Magazine, November 24, 1968, 52; Herman Ferguson, “A Black Survival Curriculum,” Guardian, March 9, 1968, 16; “Education-Self Learning, Dr. Nathan Hare, Chairman, Third International Conference on Black Power,” 1968 pamphlet, Box 21, PWP, SCR. The need to challenge law-and-order practices in schools grew more evident by 1970, as African-American parents began to mobilize against the stigma of “hyperactivity” that led some primary schools to “drug black children into quiet submission” with Ritalin and other behavioral medications. (See Robert Maynard, “Omaha Pupils Given ‘Behavior’ Drugs,” Washington Post, June 29, 1970, 1.)

(19.) November 28, 1969, Preston Wilcox to M. Lee Montgomery, Box 24, Folder 7, PWP, SCR; Preston R. Wilcox, “The Community-Centered School,” in The Schoolhouse in the City, ed. Alvin Toffler (New York: Frederick A. Praeger, 1968), 102; James E. Campbell, “Struggle: The Highest Form of Education,” Freedomways, Winter 1968, 407.

(20.) Preston Wilcox, “Education for Black Liberation,” New Generation, Winter 1969, 18, 20; Garrett, “Black Power & Black Education,” 9; Joyce A. Ladner, “Labeling Black Children: Social-Psychological Implications,” Journal of Afro-American Issues 3 (1975): 50.

(21.) Charles V. Hamilton, “An Advocate of Black Power Defines It,” New York Times Magazine, April 14, 1968, 82; Charles V. Hamilton, “Race and Education: A Search for Legitimacy,” Harvard Educational Review 38 (1968): 683.

(22.) Wilcox, “The Community-Centered School,” 105–106; Kenneth W. Haskins, “A Black Perspective on Community Control,” Inequality in Education, November 1973, 28–29; I.S. 201 Complex Community Information Manual, 1968-69 (New York: Intermediate School 201 (p.282) Complex, 1968), GRD, SCR; Preston Wilcox, “One View and a Proposal,” Urban Review, July 1966, 14; David Bresnick, Seymour Lachman, and Murray Polner, Black, White, Green, Red: The Politics of Education in Ethnic America (New York: Longman, 1978), 4; Charles H. Moore and Ray E. Johnston, “School Decentralization, Community Control and the Politics of Public Education,” Urban Affairs Quarterly 6 (1971): 423.

(23.) See in general Bresnick et al, eds., Black, White, Green, Red; Keith E. Baird, “Semantics and Afro-American Liberation,” Social Casework, May 1970, 266–267.

(24.) For the literature of cultural deprivation, see Frank Riesman Frank, The Culturally Deprived Child (New York: Harper and Row Publishers, 1962); Benjamin Samuel Bloom et al., Compensatory Education for Cultural Deprivation (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1965); Lester Donald Crow et al., Educating the Culturally Disadvantaged Child: Principles and Programs (New York: David McKay Co., 1966).

(25.) Kenneth B. Clark, “Clash of Cultures in the Classroom,” in Learning Together: A Book on Integrated Education, ed. Meyer Weinberg (Chicago: Integrated Education Association, 1964), 22; see also Dougherty, More Than One Struggle, 65. One very powerful narrative of pathology is Daniel Patrick Moynihan, The Negro Family: The Case for National Action (Washington, DC: Office of Policy Planning and Research, U.S. Department of Labor, 1965).

(26.) “Parents Boycott Busses, Hold Freedom Schools,” The Movement, February 1966, 1; Ravitch, The Great School Wars, 299.

(27.) James S. Coleman, Equality of Educational Opportunity (Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1966); Inner City Parents Council, “Detroit Schools—A Blueprint for Change,” Liberator, September 1967, 9; “Approaches to Black Education,” Transcript of Chester Davis lecture at Institute of the Black World, Atlanta, June 3, 1970, 2, Box 44, Folder 22, IBW, SCR.

(28.) Nathan Glazer and Daniel Patrick Moynihan, Beyond the Melting Pot: The Negroes, Puerto Ricans, Jews, Italians and Irish of New York (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1963), 53. For examples of this vindicating style of scholarship, see Andrew Billingsley, Black Families in White America (Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1968), and Joyce A. Ladner, Tomorrow’s Tomorrow: The Black Woman (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1971).

(29.) “Day Care and the Black Community: Myths and Realities,” Transcript of April 27, 1971, lecture, p. 6, Box 34, Folder 8, PWP, SCR. See also Toni Cade, “The Children Who Get Cheated,” Redbook, January 1970.

(30.) Garrett, “Black Power & Black Education,” 9; Alton D. Rison, “How to Teach Black Children,” African-American Teachers Forum (undated clipping), Box 24, Folder 8, UFT, RFW; Nathan Hare, “Bourgeois Teachers in Black Schools,” Liberator, March 1967, 6.

(31.) Charles V. Hamilton, “Education in the Black Community: An Examination of the Realities,” Freedomways, Fall 1968, 320.

(32.) “Our Children Need ‘Teachers with Soul’ ” [Advertisement], New York Amsterdam News, April 4, 1970, 32; “Proposal for the Recruitment and Training of Teachers for Disadvantaged Areas,” ATA Pamphlet, n.d., Box 24, Folder 8, UFT, RFW; Ralph Poynter, “Liberation Forum: Community Control of Education,” Guardian, May 25, 1968, 11.

(33.) “Negro Teachers’ Association Conference,” Integrated Education, August–September 1967, 37; March 13, 1967, Milton A. Galamison to Kenneth Clark, Box 14, Folder 100, MGP, SCR; “Resolutions; Negro Teachers’ Association’s Conference, Saturday, May 28, 1967,” pamphlet, Box 24, Folder 8, UFT, RFW; Hare, “Bourgeois Teachers in Black Schools,” 4–6; M. Lee Montgomery, “Educating Black Children,” in What Black Educators Are Saying, ed. Nathan Wright, Jr. (New York: Hawthorne Books, 1970), 50; Leslie J. Campbell, “The Black Teacher and Black Power,” African-American Teachers Forum, May–August 1967, 2.

(34.) Ronald Evans, “On the Education of Our Children,” Freedomways, Winter 1969, 77; “Declaration of Black Teachers,” Foresight, February 1969, 4; Richard Parrish, “How the System Twists Attitudes: The Miseducation of Black Teachers,” Washington, D.C. Teacher, April 1970.

(35.) “Interracial competition” quote is from Roy Wilkins (see “Black Leaders Speak Out on Black Education,” Today’s Education, October 1969, 3); Marie Syrkin, “Don’t Flunk the Middle-Class Teacher,” New York Times Magazine, December 15, 1968, 70, 75. For a (p.283) discussion of conceptions of racial values in black liberation movements, see Jerald E. Podair, “ ‘White’ Values, ‘Black’ Values: The Ocean Hill-Brownsville Controversy and New York City Culture, 1965-1975,” Radical History Review 59 (1994): 41–42.

(36.) “First Regional Conference on Black Power: Statement and Resolution by Workshop on Education,” in Black Power and Black Education, ed. National Association for African American Education (Harlem, NY: National Association for African American Education, 1970), 11; J. Caroll Williams, “Chicago Viewpoint: Black Education,” Black Liberator, August 1969, 6.

(37.) “What Is to Be Done?” 1969 pamphlet, Muhammad Ahmad, Black Power Movement Part 3—Revolutionary Action Movement, Series 2 (Microfilm); “Battle to Control Black Schools,” Ebony, May 1969, 45.

(38.) Robert C. Smith, “Black Power and the Transformation from Protest to Politics,” Political Science Quarterly 96 (1981): 431–443. Also see James Aronson, “The New Politics of Black Power,” Monthly Review, October 1967, 11–21, and Albert B. Cleage, Jr., “ ‘We Have Become a Black Nation,’ ” Negro Digest, January 1969, 30–38.

(39.) “Resolutions: Negro Teachers’ Association’s Conference, Saturday, May 28, 1967,” Box 24, Folder 8, and “Black Solidarity Day,” flyer, and Albert Vann to Albert Shanker, n.d., and Negro Teachers Association Press Release, n.d., Box 24, Folders 8 and 9, UFT, RFW; “Separatism for Negro Educators,” Education Summary, October 1, 1968, 5–6; George Todd, “Rump Teachers Group Threat at Conference,” New York Amsterdam News, June 3, 1967, 21, 30; Will Lissner, “Rustin Warns on School Separatists,” New York Times, April 7, 1968, 60; African-American Teachers Forum, November–December 1967, 1; “The Chicago African-American Teachers Association,” CATA Newsletter, Fall 1968, 4; “The Chicago African-American Teachers Association” and “Farmer to Address Dinner for Retiring Teachers,” CATA Newsletter, Spring 1969, 1, 4, VGH, CGW.

(40.) Gerald Grant, “1300 Teachers Debate Textbook Negro Image,” Washington Post, December 10, 1966, A4; Nan Robertson, “Teacher Opposes the Term ‘Negro,’ ” New York Times, December 10, 1966, 27; Liberator, January 1967, 22; “A Study Unit to Aid in the Teaching of Afro-American Life and Culture,” Miller District Demonstration Project Workshop, Materials Committee, Racism in Education Conference, Series 3, RPP, SCR; “What Do You Do with An Ugly Fact? Can We Teach the Truth?” 1966 James E. Campbell pamphlet, Box 6, RBP, SCR.

(41.) “Racism in Education,” Changing Education, Winter 1967, 6–7; “Curriculum Changes Planned Quietly in Ocean Hill,” New York Times, September 18, 1968, 32; “A Brief History of the AFT Black Caucus, 1967-1974,” pamphlet, Series 3, RPP, SCR; Richard Parrish, “The New York City Teachers Strikes,” Labor Today, May 1969; John Henrik Clarke, “Black Power and Black History,” Negro Digest, February 1969, 17.

(42.) “Black Control of Schools: Selected Viewpoints,” pamphlet, 1968, Box 4, PWP, SCR.

(43.) Nan Robertson, “Four-Day Poverty Parley Described as ‘Emotional Catharsis,’ ” New York Times, January 22, 1968, 20; see also, Michael Lipinsky, ed., Synopsis of Upward Bound Winter Conference: New Orleans, Louisiana, January 16-10, 1968 (Washington, DC: Office of Economic Opportunity, 1968). ERIC, ED 021931.

(44.) July 31, 1968, Albert Vann letter, Box 22, PWP, SCR.

(45.) “Preston Wilcox 1st Chairman of Association of Afro-American Educators,” Hometown News, July 16, 1968; Campbell, “Struggle: The Highest Form of Education,” 408; Report of the Meeting of the National Organization Planning Committee of the National Association of Afro-American Educators (Chicago: NAAAE, 1968), 1, 25.

(46.) Leon R. Forrest, “Blacks Meet in Atlanta to ‘Make Education Relevant,’ ” Muhammad Speaks, September 5, 1969, 4; Charles V. Hamilton, “An Advocate of Black Power Defines It,” New York Times Magazine, April 14, 1968, 80; John Rhodes, “5,000 Black Educators Convene in Atlanta; Coin Term ‘BACON,’ ” Philadelphia Tribune, August 30, 1969, 6; Francis Ward, “Black Meeting Mired in Factional Dispute,” Los Angeles Times, September 1, 1969, B12; Preston Wilcox, “A Letter to Black Educators in Higher Education,” Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 404 (1972): 110; June 17, 1968, Preston Wilcox to Rev. Lucius Walker and July 2, 1968, Wilcox to Muriel Hamilton, Box 31, Folder 33, IFCO, SCR.

(47.) Hugh J. Scott, “The National Alliance of Black Educators,” Crisis, June–July 1978, 203; Clarke, “Black Power and Black History,” 19; Preston Wilcox, “A Black Educator’s View of Us All,” (p.284) Black Liberator, July 1969, 8; David B. Kent, ed., Proceedings of the First National Association of Afro-American Educators Conference (Chicago: NAAAE, 1968), 22–23; NAAAE Milwaukee Regional Conference Steering Committee memorandum, 1968, Box 31, SAV, WHI.

(48.) Charles Thomas, “Black Parley OKs Drive for Own Party,” Philadelphia Inquirer, September 2, 1968, 1, 8; Betty Washington, “Educators Agree They Must Overhaul Nation’s Schools,” Daily Defender, June 12, 1968, 8.

(49.) “What Happened to Community Control of Our Schools,” New York Amsterdam News, December 11, 1971, A7.

(50.) “The Decentralization Bill Is a Recentralization Bill” and “Decentralization or Community Control,” flyers, c. 1969, Box 52, Folder 7, UFT, RFW; “Cowardly Racists Dissolve Black Schools,” Muhammad Speaks, January 16, 1969, 6.

(51.) Fred M. Hechinger, “When Schools Join the Power Struggle,” New York Times, December 8, 1968, 237; Rhody A. McCoy, “Educational Issues Swamped by Politics,” New York Amsterdam News, December 11, 1971, A7; Charles Wilson, “School Problem Show We’re in Deep Trouble,” New York Amsterdam News, December 11, 1971, A7; Lesly Jones, “I.S. 201 Complex No More, But—,” New York Amsterdam News, July 3, 1971, B6.

(52.) Les Ledbetter, “Youths’ Lunches Get Latin Flavor,” New York Times, July 16, 1972, 52; “Uses Black Awareness,” New York Amsterdam News, February 5, 1972, B5; Diane Divoky, “New York’s Mini-Schools,” Saturday Review, December 18, 1971, 60; Babette Edwards, “Trouble in I.S. 201,” Integrated Education, July–August 1971, 23–25; Charlayne Hunter, “Division and Unrest on Rise in Harlem School Complex,” New York Times, March 23, 1971, 39; “Community School,” undated memo on black professional role in community school, Box 13, Folder 25, EJB, SCR; Martin Arnold, “2 on I.S. 201 Board Resign in Protest,” New York Times, March 9, 1971, 44.

(53.) R. Sakolsky, “The Myth of Government-Sponsored Revolution: A Case Study of Institutional Safety-Valves,” Education and Urban Society 5 (1973): 21–44; “Report to Governing Board Ocean Hill School District from Personnel Committee, Mrs. Clara Marshall, Chairman,” n.d., Box 1, Folder 6, ASP, CUL; Robert Wright Interview with Jose Stevens, Transcript, p. 24, CRD, MSR; Michael B. Katz, “The Present Moment in Educational Reform,” Harvard Educational Review 41 (1971): 351; Ivor Kraft, “There Is No Panacea,” Nation, January 20, 1969, 73.

(54.) Diane Ravitch, “Community Control Revisited,” Commentary, February 1972, 69; Edward B. Fiske, “Community-Run Schools Leave Hopes Unfulfilled,” New York Times, June 24, 1980, A1. See also David S. Seeley, “Decentralization’s Disastrous Decade,” New York Daily News, June 3, 1980, 34.

(55.) James A. Geschwender, “Negro Education: The False Faith,” Phylon, Fall 1968, 371; C. Eric Lincoln, “The Relevance of Education for Black Americans,” Journal of Negro Education 38 (1969), 222; Doxey Wilkerson, “Inequalities in Education and Powerlessness,” 1974 pamphlet, Box 17, Folder 8, DWP, SCR; Ebony study cited in Otter M. Scruggs, “The Education of the Afro-American: An Historic View,” in Education and the Black Experience, ed. Kenneth Hall and Alfred Young (Palo Alto, CA: R&E Research Association, 1989), 9.

(56.) Charles E. Wilson, “Beyond Reform: The New York City School System,” Freedomways, Spring 1971, 141. For findings on gains made in the demonstration districts in terms of parent involvement and democratization of the schools, see “Findings on Demonstration Schools,” New York Amsterdam News, December 18, 1971, and David McClintick and Art Sears, Jr., “Educational Hot Spot; Decentralized District in a New York Ghetto Claims Gains in Schools,” Wall Street Journal, April 10, 1969, 1, 28.

(57.) See Kweli (Published by IS 201 Educational Complex), December 1970, GRD, SCR; “Assemblyman Al Vann: Exclusive Interview,” Black News, October 1978, 12; “Invisible Windows,” Arthur A. Schomburg School Yearbook, 1966–1969, GRD, SCR.

(58.) “Master Teacher Ferguson Rips White Frame-Up,” Muhammad Speaks, August 20, 1968, 22; “Community Education Center Rally a Black Power Forum,” Long Island Press, September 5, 1968; “SUBJECT: An Independent Black School or a Dependent Nigger School,” August 1969 proposal, Box 5, PWP, SCR.

(59.) Roy Innis and Victor Solomon, “A Proposal for an Independent Board of Education for Harlem” (New York-Harlem CORE, March 1, 1967), in Proposals for Black Studies Programs (p.285) for Various Types of Educational Institutions (East Palo Alto, CA: Black Liberation Publishers, 1969); Leonard Buder, “Separate Schools for Harlem Urged by 2 Civil Rights Chiefs,” New York Times, November 22, 1967, 54; Thomas A. Johnson, “CORE Urges City to Let Harlem Run Own Schools,” New York Times, March 4, 1969, 28; Basil A. Paterson, “Independent School System Called for in Harlem,” New York Amsterdam News, October 19, 1968, 1, 43; “Meeting of Document Committee Meeting 11/16/67,” Box 9, Folder 14, ASP, CUL; Dorothy S. Jones, “Tentative, Preliminary Plans for an Independent Community Educational System for Central Harlem, New York,” February 9, 1970, Box 48, Folder 1, EGP, SCR.

(60.) “Basic Aims and Objectives of the Organization of Afro-American Unity,” in Let Nobody Turn Us Around, ed. Manning Marable and Leith Mullings (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2009), 438–439; Steven R. Weisman, “Black Teachers Discuss Control,” New York Times, April 23, 1972, 36; Derrick Morrison, “NYC Black Teachers Hold Convention,” The Militant, May 12, 1972, 14; Albert Vann, “View of the Black Teachers’ Conference,” New York Amsterdam News, May 20, 1972, A5; “Black Teachers Hold 3-Day Meeting Here,” New York Amsterdam News, April 22, 1972, C1.

(61.) Albert Vann, “Look to the East,” African-American Teachers Forum, January–February 1972; Albert Vann, “The State of Education for Black People—1973,” New York Amsterdam News, September 1, 1973, A5; Donald Freeman, Rollie Kimbrough, and Brother Zolili, “The Meaning of Education,” Journal of Negro Education 3 (1968): 433–434; “Resolutions of Workshop on Education, African People’s Conference, Cleveland, Ohio, December 25, 1970,” Black Movement Part 3—Revolutionary Action Movement, Series 7 (Microfilm).

(62.) “Assemblyman Al Vann: Exclusive Interview,” 10.

(63.) Uhuru Hotep, “Dedicated to Excellence: An Oral History of the Council of Independent Black Institutions, 1970-2000” (PhD diss., Duquesne University, 2001), 36–38; Kasisi Jitu Weusi, A Message from a Black Teacher (New York: East Publications, 1973), 4, 19; Transcript of Les Campbell Interview, November 3, 1988, Eyes on the Prize Interviews II, HHC, WUF; “On the Shoulders of Our Freedom Fighters: Baba Jitu Weusi,” accessed January 5, 2008, http://www.assatashakur.org/forum/shoulders-our-freedom-fighters/17691-baba-jitu-weusi-print.html.

(64.) Steven Mufson, “A Dream Deferred: Ocean Hill-Brownsville Remembers,” Village Voice, June 6, 1989, 29; Carlos E. Russell, Perspectives on Power: A Black Community Looks at Itself (unpublished manuscript), 589, Box 6, RBP, SCR; Hotep, “Dedicated to Excellence,” 40–42; Podair, “ ‘White’ Values, ‘Black’ Values,” 46; Leslie J. Campbell, “The Black Teacher and Black Power,” Forum, May–August 1967, 2.

(65.) Akyeame Kwame, “Baba Jitu Weusi,” Assata Shakur Forums, accessed January 5, 2008, http://www.assatashakur.org/forum/shoulders-our-freedom-fighters/17691-baba-jitu-weusi.html ; Sara Slack, “The Inside Story of the Malcolm X IS 201 Memorial,” New York Amsterdam News, March 2, 1968, 1, 40.

(66.) Slack, “The Inside Story of the Malcolm X IS 201 Memorial,” 40; Leonard Buder, “Teacher Is Shifted for Taking Pupils to Anti-White Rally at I.S. 201,” New York Times, February 27, 1968, 32; Daniel H. Watts, “The Program,” Liberator, March 1968, 3; Transcript of Les Campbell Interview, November 3, 1988, Eyes on the Prize Interviews II, HHC, WUF; Weusi, A Message from a Black Teacher, 7–8; “Teacher Who Took Pupils to Malcolm Event Loses License,” Chicago Daily Defender, March 30, 1968, 31; Leonard Buder, “Negroes Protest at School Inquiry,” New York Times, March 6, 1968, 54L; Les Campbell, “Letter to the Editor: ‘An Open Letter to My Young and Old Brothers and Sisters at Junior High School No. 35,’ ” Forum, January–April, 1968, 4.

(67.) Charles S. Isaacs, “A J.H.S. Teacher Tells It Like He Sees It,” New York Times, November 24, 1968, SM70; Emanuel Perlmutter, “Course on Rebellion Listed at J.H.S. 271,” New York Times, October 8, 1968, 1; “What Black Power Teaches,” Education News (undated clipping, c. 1968), Box 24, Folder 8, and “Mr. Papaleo Lesson Plan,” n.d., Box 55, Folder 22, UFT, RFW.

(68.) Martin Mayer, “The Full and Sometimes Very Surprising Story of Ocean Hill, the Teachers’ Union and the Teacher Strikes of 1968,” New York Times Magazine, February 2, 1969, 63; Henry Hampton and Steve Fayer, eds., Voices of Freedom: An Oral History of the Civil Rights Movement from the 1950s Through the 1980s (New York: Bantam Books, 1990), 492–502.

(69.) Mufson, “A Dream Deferred,” 30; Russell, Perspectives on Power, 630; Thomas R. Brooks, “Tragedy at Ocean Hill,” Dissent, January–February 1969, 33.

(70.) Nancy Hicks, “Nine Are Indicted for Obstruction in School Dispute,” New York Times, December 20, 1968, 1; “9 to Fight Coercion Charges,” New York Amsterdam News, December 28, 1968, 29; Leslie R. Campbell, “The Devil Can Never Educate Us,” Forum, November 1968, 1, 3.

(71.) Isaacs, “A J.H.S. Teacher Tells It Like He Sees It,” SM70; “The Mason-Dixon Line Moves to New York,” I.F. Stone’s Weekly, November 4, 1968, 2; Hampton and Fayer, Voices of Freedom, 506–507.

(72.) “Back Campbell in Bias Dispute,” New York Amsterdam News, January 25, 1969, 23; Mufson, “A Dream Deferred,” 30.

(73.) “The Black and the Jew: A Falling Out of Allies,” Time, January 31, 1969, 55–59. For a discussion of prewar northern black resentment of Jews, see St. Clair Drake and Horace R. Cayton, Black Metropolis: A Study of Negro Life in a Northern City (Chicago: University of Chicago, 1993 [1945]), 432n.

(74.) Transcript of Les Campbell Interview, November 3, 1988, Eyes on the Prize Interviews II, HHC, WUF; Arnold H. Lubasch, “Racism Aired at Rally Backing Community Control of Schools,” New York Times, February 17, 1969, 68; Les Campbell, “In Search of the New World,” Black News, December 19, 1969, 4; Leonard Buder, “5 Black Teachers Reported Ousted,” New York Times, June 19, 1969, 10.

(75.) “Brooklynites Spearhead Tribute for Nkrumah,” New York Amsterdam News, May 13, 1972, C1; Hampton and Fayer, Voices of Freedom, 402–403.

(76.) “The New Breed of Black Youth,” Black News, December 10, 1970, 2–4, and January 14, 1971, 2; “Black Power in N.Y.C.H.S.,” flyer, n.d., Box 55, Folder 21, UFT, RFW; Big Black, “Around Our Way,” Black News, September 26, 1970, 10; Emanuel Perlmutter, “Student Violence Shuts 2 City Highs,” New York Times, April 24, 1969, 1, 35; Steven V. Roberts, “White Principal at Boys High Who Became Symbol Asks Shift,” New York Times, May 29, 1968, 28; James P. Sterba, “School Protest Leader Defines Action,” New York Times, December 3, 1968, 41; M. A. Farber, “Boys High Students Rampage and Set Two Fires; Scheduled Strike by Pupils Is Called Ineffective,” New York Times, May 6, 1969, 31; “George Washington High Disrupted,” New York Times, May 7, 1969, 33; Transcript of Les Campbell Interview, November 3, 1988, Eyes on the Prize Interviews II, HHC, WUF; “Say Students Already Have Power Board Would Give Them,” New York Amsterdam News, November 8, 1969, 1, 47; Peter Kihss, “8 Arrested, Student Leaders Call Off Revolt in City,” New York Times, December 6, 1968, 41.

(77.) C. Gerald Fraser, “Youths Protest at School Board,” New York Times, August 27, 1969, 25; Transcript of Les Campbell Interview, November 3, 1988, Eyes on the Prize Interviews II, HHC, WUF; “The New Breed of Black Youth,” 2–4; “Brother Les Campbell Is Dead,” flyer, n.d., Box 55, Folder 22, UFT, RFW.

(78.) Mufson, “A Dream Deferred,” 30; Hotep, “Dedicated to Excellence,” 43; “The East: A Model of Nationhood,” Imani, August–September 1971, 30–31; Jitu K. Weusi, “The East Legacy,” Journal of Community Advocacy and Activism 1 (1996): 17; Les Campbell, “Ocean Hill-Brownsville Revisited: 1969,” Black News, October 1969, 1–3; Black, “Around Our Way,” 10.

(79.) Black, “Around Our Way,” 10; “The East: A Model of Nationhood,” 30–31; Weusi, “The East Legacy,” 17; Ronald Walters, Pan Africanism in the African Diaspora: An Analysis of Modern Afrocentric Political Movements (Detroit, MI: Wayne State University Press, 1993), 303–305.

(80.) “Uhuru Sasa Shule,” Parent Newsletter, 1971, KKP, INP; “Uhuru Sasa School,” 1970 pamphlet, Box 48, Folder 1, EGP, SCR; “The Uhuru (Freedom) Sasa (Now) School,” 1970 pamphlet, Box 24, Folder 9, UFT, RFW; “The East: A Model of Nationhood,” 34, 56; Kierna Mayo, “Independents’ Day,” City Limits Magazine, January 1997; Hotep, “Dedicated to Excellence,” 44, 46; “To Open Black School,” New York Amsterdam News, February 7, 1970, 28; “The East Mental Ministry Report,” 1972 pamphlet, Box 18, PWP, SCR; Joseph Lelyveld, “City High Schools Affected,” New York Times, February 9, 1970, 1.

(81.) See Julius K. Nyerere, Freedom and Socialism/Uhuru na Ujamaa: A Selection from Writings and Speeches, 1965-1967 (London: Oxford University Press, 1968); “Outline for a New African Educational Institution: The Uhuru Sasa School Program,” 1972 pamphlet, JAL, UMI.

(82.) “Community School Pays Tribute to First Graduates,” New York Amsterdam News, January 7, 1978, B1; “The East: A Model of Nationhood,” 33–36; “The East Mental Ministry Report,” 1972 pamphlet, Box 18, PWP, SCR.