An African American Dilemma: A History of School Integration and Civil Rights in the North


Product Details

Oxford University Press, USA
Publish Date
6.1 X 9.3 X 1.1 inches | 1.23 pounds

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About the Author

Zoë Burkholder is Professor of Educational Foundations at Montclair State University. She is the author of Color in the Classroom: How American Schools Taught Race, 1900-1954 (OUP, 2011) and the co-author of Integrations: The Struggle for Racial Equality and Civic Renewal in Public Education.


"In this sweeping history, Professor Burkholder synthesises many local studies to give a national view of the struggles surrounding integration versus separation among Black educational activists.... Through this exhaustively researched and beautifully written book we learn that public schools have been 'spectacular and important sites of northern civil rights activism'...and that white communities consistently opposed Black educational equality, in the northern as well as the southern United States. Burkholder shows definitively that integration was not the only goal for African American educational activists and concludes that education reform must draw on notions of both integration and separate, Black-controlled schools. In taking this position...this book offers both lessons and caveats for those looking towards the future." -- Christine Woyshner, History of Education

"With stunning precision, Zoë Burkholder portrays the long struggle of African Americans for equal education in the northern states--from their fight against systemic racial disparities in the 1840s to the racial disparities in public schools in the twenty-first century. Her impressive research reveals equality to mean far more than the Janus-faced goal of integrated schools versus separate, black-controlled schools. Burkholder situates the promise and pitfalls of each within the complex and changing contexts of specific urban school systems, judicial decisions, as well as ideological and policy debates at various critical moments. Her brilliant insights into public education's unfolding, yet still unresolved dilemma for African Americans make this book an especially cogent read for our present time." -- Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham, Harvard University

"A much needed, sweeping new history of the high-stakes, fiercely fought debates that have informed African American attempts to dismantle unequal and segregated schools. Burkholder brings our understanding of the many, disparate attempts to attain educational justice--across time and in a vast range of locales in the North--into a coherent narrative. Black leaders and parents fought relentlessly against educational injustice and amongst themselves over the question of whether Black controlled 'separate' or desegregated schools were the answer to endemic racism in education. Often they tacked between two, creatively responding to ever shifting political winds. An African American Dilemma keeps the urgent question of education itself and the lived experience of those who were too often denied it at its center. An impressive achievement." -- Rachel Devlin, author of A Girl Stands at the Door: The Generation of Young Women who Desegregated America's Schools

"In her important new book Zoë Burkholder follows the fierce debates over school segregation that have long cut through northern African-American communities. She takes us into Boston's antebellum battles over its Common Schools, Philadelphia's early twentieth century descent into segregation, New Rochelle's transformation into 'The Little Rock of the North, ' the bitter clash between Newark's nascent Black political class and its largely-white teachers' union, and Hartford's extensive efforts to lure white suburbanites back to its schools. An African-American Dilemma is a thorough, thoughtful history of one of the American dilemma's most enduring issues." -- Kevin Boyle, author of Arc of Justice: A Saga of Race, Civil Rights and Murder in the Jazz Age

'Burkholder delivers an eye-opening history of school integration in the North from the 1840s to the present-day...This fine-grained survey adds crucial perspective to a long-simmering social issue." --Publishers Weekly

"Zoe Burkholder has produced a book that should be widely read, discussed, and considered by educationalists who often live in the moment without regard to the legacy of historical struggle African Americans, and other people of color, have endured." --Teachers College Record