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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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Chicago School Reform

Chicago School Reform

Harold Washington and a New Era of Decentralization

(p.143) 5 Chicago School Reform
Political Education

Elizabeth Todd-Breland

University of North Carolina Press

This chapter analyzes the racial politics of Mayor Harold Washington’s election, his education summit, and the supporters and critics of the 1988 Chicago School Reform Act. Harold Washington’s election as the first Black mayor of Chicago in 1983 was heralded by many as the ultimate attainment of Black Power and the success of the local Black Freedom Movement. His electoral victory was grounded in years of grassroots struggle by Black organizers fighting for integration, community control, and Black empowerment. While historians have largely considered the 1980s as a product of the political triumph of conservatism and the “Reagan revolution,” in Chicago a Black-led, urban, antimachine, progressive coalitional politics led to Washington’s electoral victory. The disparate programmatic and ideological camps detailed in previous chapters (desegregation activists, community control organizers, founders of independent Black institutions, Black educators) staked claims in Mayor Washington and his political organization. The politics of Washington’s education reform summits, however, exposed the fractures within this political coalition. The interracial and intraracial struggles over school reform in Chicago during the 1980s reveal the tensions between a politics of racial representation and a politics of progressive transformation and prefigure the increased privatization of public education in the decades that followed.

Keywords:   Harold Washington, Black Power, African-American/Black politics, Black Freedom Movement, Chicago School Reform Act, education reform, machine politics, decentralization, local school council, Reagan administration

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