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Political EducationBlack Politics and Education Reform in Chicago since the 1960s$
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Elizabeth Todd-Breland

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9781469646589

Published to North Carolina Scholarship Online: May 2019

DOI: 10.5149/northcarolina/9781469646589.001.0001

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Teacher Power

Teacher Power

Black Teachers and the Politics of Representation

(p.111) 4 Teacher Power
Political Education

Elizabeth Todd-Breland

University of North Carolina Press

This chapter examines Black educators’ growth from an insurgent group of teachers in the 1960s into a powerful political base of the coalition that elected the first Black mayor of Chicago in 1983. In the 1960s, Black teachers—frustrated with the inadequate conditions in schools serving Black children and their marginalized role in the schools and teachers union—protested the union and considered creating an alternative Black teachers’ union. Educators like Lillie Peoples, of Operation Breadbasket’s Teachers Division, challenged the racist policies of the union and Board of Education while embracing a self-determinist politics of Black achievement that critiqued racial liberalism. Race and gender shaped Black women educators’ professional lives and political activism, as Black women teachers were never adequately recognized for their integral leadership in these movements. By the 1980s, internal and external pressures on the union and Board of Education resulted in a significant increase in the proportion of Black employees in the school system. Black teachers served as anchors of communities, caretakers of children, and a relatively stable Black urban middle-class labor force through their employment in the public sector during a time of deindustrialization. Black educators transformed Black communities and Black political power in the city.

Keywords:   African-American/Black teachers, African-American/Black women, public sector, teachers union, Lillie Peoples, Operation Breadbasket, deindustrialization, labor, politics, gender

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