This chapter examines the movement for community control that developed in Chicago during the 1960s and 1970s. Students, parents, and community organizations pursued community control of schools through citywide educational conferences, Black Power organizing, student protests, and in the Woodlawn Experimental Schools Project (WESP), Chicago’s experiment with decentralization and community control of schools. Using War on Poverty funds and led by Rev. Arthur Brazier and Barbara Sizemore, WESP was a joint project between the University of Chicago, Chicago Public Schools, and The Woodlawn Organization. The War on Poverty is remembered as a moment when government programs expanded dramatically while incorporating more local participation and leadership from members of impacted communities in implementing these programs. This narrative conceals the role of powerful private entities—like the University of Chicago—in publicly funded War on Poverty programs. Originating in a different historical context, WESP was a precursor to national educational trends of semiautonomous school governance and public-private partnerships. The shift from desegregation to community control was not solely a response to the state’s failure to desegregate schools. It also reflected the prominence of a strain of Black political thought that foregrounded Black empowerment and self-governance in efforts to increase Black achievement.
Keywords: community control, Black Power, War on Poverty, Woodlawn Experimental Schools Project, University of Chicago, Barbara Sizemore, Arthur Brazier, student protest, Black achievement, The Woodlawn Organization
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