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Segregation or "Thinking Black"?: Community Activism and the Development Of Black-Focused Schools in Toronto and London, 1968–2008


by Lauri Johnson — 2013

Background/Context: On January 29, 2008 the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) approved a city-wide Africentric elementary school under their Alternative School policy, sparking a contentious debate. Calls for Black-focused schools also arose in 2008 in London in response to the disengagement of African Caribbean youth. The historical record indicates, however, that community campaigns for Black educational programs stretch back over 40 years in both cities.

Focus of the Study: This paper analyzes the development of Black-focused education in Toronto and London from 1968 to 2008 through the responses of Black parents and community activists to the historic underachievement of African Caribbean students (particularly males) in the public schools of both cities. Black-focused education is situated within the larger social, political, and national contexts and the critical incidents that fueled the development of race equality policy. The article explores how the “politics of place” influenced the trajectory of Black-focused education in each city.

Research Methodology: Two parallel historical case studies were conducted using primary source material from community-based archives, secondary sources on the history of African Caribbean immigration and the development of Black community organizations, and oral history interviews with 10 Black education activists in Toronto and 7 activists in London.

Conclusions: This comparative study conceptualizes this transnational phenomena as "resistance to racism" and examines how Black-focused curriculum and ideology was adapted to local conditions in Canada and Britain. Parents and community activists aimed to develop the citizenship rights of African Caribbean students, establish a diasporic sensibility, and promote the right of children of African descent to a quality education wherever they may reside.



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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 115 Number 11, 2013, p. 1-25
http://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 17206, Date Accessed: 7/23/2014 1:45:35 AM

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About the Author
  • Lauri Johnson
    Boston College
    E-mail Author
    LAURI JOHNSON is an Associate Professor and Program Coordinator of Educational Leadership at Boston College. She researches culturally responsive leadership practices and preparation in national and international contexts; historical and contemporary studies of community activism in urban school reform; and successful school leadership in high poverty schools. Her writings have appeared in the Journal of Teacher Education, Journal of School Leadership, Leadership and Policy in Schools, Journal of Educational Administration, International Studies in Educational Administration, Theory and Research in Social Education, Journal of African American History, Race, Ethnicity, and Education, Urban Education, and in three books: Dealing With Diversity Through Multicultural Fiction: Library-Classroom Partnerships (Johnson & Smith, ALA, 1993), Urban Education With an Attitude (Johnson, Finn, & Lewis, SUNY Press, 2005), and Multicultural Policies in Canada and the United States (Joshee & Johnson, UBC Press, 2007) which won the 2008 AESA Critics’ Choice Award.
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