Black Educators Matter: Black Teachers and Education Struggles in Chicago since the 1960s

Bette Weneck's picture

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October 11, 2017
New York, United States
Subject Fields: 
African American History / Studies, American History / Studies, History Education, Urban History / Studies

Date: October 11, 2017

Time: 4:00 - 5:00 pm (Light reception to follow) 

Location:  Teachers College, Columbia University (306 Russell Hall)

Speaker: Elizabeth Todd-Breland, Assistant Professor, Department of History, University of Illinois at Chicago

Sponsors: Teachers College Program in History and Education & the Center on History and Education 



Black educators were on the front lines of educational and political struggles in Chicago. Increasingly during the 1960s, Black teachers engaged in dual struggles -- organizing and advocating to improve the quality of education for Black students and to improve their own standing within the predominantly White teaching force and teachers union. From the 1960s to the 1980s, Black educators in Chicago grew from an insurgent group of activist teachers into a political base of the coalition that elected Harold Washington as the first Black mayor of Chicago.  The growing number of Black teachers and school staff transformed Black politics as anchors of communities, caretakers of children, and as a relatively stable Black urban middle-class employed in the public sector during a period of deindustrialization and growth in the lower wage service sector. Understanding this history is even more urgent given the recent political attacks on public school teachers and public sector employees nationally, which have had a disproportionately negative impact on Black workers and Black communities. 


Elizabeth Todd-Breland is an Assistant Professor of History at the University of Illinois at Chicago.  She is currently a National Academy of Education/Spencer Postdoctoral Fellow. Her research and teaching focuses on U.S. urban history, African American history, and the history of education. She is completing a book, A Political Education: Black Politics and Education Reform in Chicago since the 1960s, which analyzes transformations in Black politics, shifts in modes of educational organizing, and the racial politics of education reform in the late 1960s to the present. Professor Todd-Breland has also organized professional development workshops, curricula, and courses for K-12 teachers on critical pedagogy, African American history, urban education, and college readiness. 




Contact Info: 

Bette Weneck

Associate Director 

Center on History and Education

Teachers College, Columbia University

phone: 212-678-3705

Contact Email: 
Categories: Conference