A historian of black education discovers an underground network of advocates and reformers.
Drawing on two years of interviews and more than 15 years of research, Walker (African-American Education Studies/Emory Univ.; Hello Professor: A Black Principal and Professional Leadership in the Segregated South, 2009, etc.) focuses on the career of teacher, school principal, and Georgia state senator Horace Tate (1922-2002) to offer a new perspective on segregated schooling and education reform in the South. Before embarking on research for this book, Walker believed the “repeatedly told and almost universally accepted” story that “the NAACP protested injustice and crafted the successful Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court case” that incited grass-roots movements, civil disobedience, and legal protests. Tate’s testimony, however, along with the massive amount of archival material he provided for her, revealed generations of black educators acting strategically and covertly to achieve change. While the NAACP served as the face of reform, the organization could not have succeeded without these behind-the-scenes players. Much of Tate’s career happened by accident: He attended Fort Valley State College, where by chance he took a part-time job as student chauffeur for the college’s president, Horace Mann Bond, a savvy administrator who “manipulated the levers needed” to solve problems. By observing Bond, Tate learned how to achieve goals by focusing on the weaknesses, psychology, and prejudices of his opponents. Tate’s first teaching job came by accident, too, when a principal, studying at Fort Valley, needed to hire a college graduate to teach in his high school. Through that position, Tate became a member of the Georgia Teachers and Education Association, an active and influential society of black educators (Tate eventually became executive secretary). When the principal was drafted into World War II, Tate took over as administrator. As he rose in the profession, he became involved in teacher training and designing innovative curricula that he kept “concealed from white eyes” who would object to an ambitious vision for black students.
A fresh, well-documented study of the complex struggle for equality in education.