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Lecture Series


Our lecture series provokes us to rethink the stories we tell about learning, schooling, and community, and to reimagine the place of history and humanistic inquiry in education today. We present scholars who have defined their scholarship, and their lives as scholars, in ways that challenge conventional boundaries between historical research, writing, teaching, and engagement with public life. Our speakers offer stories of the place of learning and schooling in communities that focus on Harlem and extend beyond its borders. Join us for the beginning of an ongoing conversation.


Russell Rickford, Associate Professor of History, Cornell University and author of We Are an African People: Independent Education, Black Power, and the Radical ImaginationBetty Shabazz: Surviving Malcolm X, co-author of Spoken Soul: The Story of Black English, and editor of Beyond Boundaries: The Malcolm X Reader. Monday, October 17, 2016, 4 pm, 306 Russell Hall 

Liberated Territories and the Politics of Radical Black Education Rickford presents from his new book, We Are an African People, to explore the local and global ideas that motivated Black Power educators in creating independent schools in the 1970s.

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* 2nd Annual Edmund Gordon Lecture *

Vanessa Siddle Walker, Professor of History of American Education and of Qualitative Research Methods at Emory University and author of Their Highest Potential: An African American Community in the Segregated South and Hello Professor: The Professional Development and School Leadership of a Black Principal in the Segregated South, 1957-1968. Thursday, October 2, 2014, 5 pm, Milbank Chapel 

Continuing Problems and Forgotten Solutions: Resurrecting the Historical Resistance Strategies of Southern African American School Leaders Did black educators in de jure segregation simply accept the oppressive schooling conditions created by policies in southern states, or did they use the power available through pedagogy, curriculum, and school climates to seek equality? In this lecture, Vanessa Siddle Walker explores seven ways black educators worked intentionally against unjust schooling opportunities. While the strategies do not condone the oppressive climate in which they worked, the ideas from their era may provide a forgotten map of educational resistance.

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Jonna Perrillo, Associate Professor of English, University of Texas at El Paso and author of Uncivil Rights: Teachers, Unions, and Race in the Battle for School Equity, winner of the 2012 AERA New Scholar’s Book Award. Wednesday, February 5, 2014, 4-6pm; 306 Russell Hall

“An Educator’s Commitment”:  Harlem, Black Parents, and Teacher Unionism, 1930-2012  Even in a nation with a highly regionalized history of educational equity movements, Harlem played a uniquely important role in the development of teacher unionism and the organization of minority parents.  This talk will examine Harlem’s centrality to teachers’ and parents’ historical efforts to define what constitutes good teaching, fair and professional work conditions, and an educator’s commitment to her students.  As we will see, the debates that developed around these questions in Harlem eighty years ago continue to influence national education policy and public education institutions today.


Charles M. Payne, the Frank P. Hixon Distinguished Service Professor in the School of Social Service Administration, University of Chicago Thursday, October 5 2013, 6-8pm; Milbank Chapel

“Whatever Happened to the Negro Question? Educational Discourse and the Lost Question of Race” To what extent has thinking about education and the making of education policy substantially engaged issues of race and racism? From 1930s radicals debating whether the “class question” trumped the “Negro question,” to Brown v. Board of Education’s focus on segregation, but not unequal power and exploitation, Charles Payne argues that there has been an historic avoidance of thinking directly about race and education. Both an esteemed voice on American civil rights movements and a keen observer of contemporary school reform efforts, Payne will discuss how historical accounts provoke key questions for educators today.

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Khalil MuhammadDirector of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture,The New York Public Library, Wednesday, April 24 2013, 4-6pm; 179 Grace Dodge Hall

Grand Simplification: Historical Illiteracy in the Age of Mass Incarceration Muhammad is at the forefront of scholarship on the enduring link between race and crime that has shaped and limited opportunities for African Americans. Muhammad is now working on his second book, Disappearing Acts: The End of White Criminality in the Age of Jim Crow, which traces the historical roots of the changing demographics of crime and punishment so evident today.

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Martha BiondiDirector of Graduate Studies and ‚Ä®Associate Professor of African American Studies and History, Northwestern University, Wednesday, March 27 2013, 4-6pm; 306 Russell Hall 

“Viva Harlem U”: Black and Puerto Rican Students and the Transformation of City College  In the spring of 1969, students at every single division of the City University of New York rose up in protest. The two-week occupation of City College in Harlem precipitated a political crisis in the city and ushered in a major shift in public policy; as a result, it received extensive local and national media attention, but strikingly, it has garnered little attention from historians. The black student movement in New York City won reforms that transformed public higher education and paved the way for the expansion of the black middle class in the New York City region. While the students achieved a great deal, they inspired formidable opposition, which anticipated the political conservatism that would later gain ascendancy in urban, state and federal governments.

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