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A Political Education: Black Politics and Education Reform in Chicago Since the 1960's

In 2012, Chicago’s school year began with the city’s first teachers' strike in a quarter century and ended with the largest intentional mass closure of public schools in U.S. history. On one side, a union leader and veteran Black woman educator drew upon organizing strategies from Black and Latinx communities to demand increased school resources. On the other side, the mayor, backed by the Obama administration, argued that only corporate-style education reform could set the struggling school system aright.

Elizabeth Todd-Breland recovers the hidden history underlying this battle. She tells the story of Black education reformers' community-based strategies to improve education beginning during the 1960s, as support for desegregation transformed into community control, experimental schooling models that pre-dated charter schools, and Black teachers' challenges to a newly assertive teachers' union. This book reveals how these strategies collided with the corporate reorganization of the public sphere during the late twentieth century, laying bare ruptures and enduring tensions between the politics of Black achievement, urban inequality, and U.S. democracy.

The Potter’s House is accessible for all mobility devices. There are no stairs for entry or throughout the space. Our bathrooms are gender neutral, one of which has a changing table. If you have any questions or needs regarding accessibility, please feel free to reach out to Grace at

Later Event: November 30
Art Between Us