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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.


On January 29, 2008 the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) voted 11–9 to approve the development of an Africentric1 school in a four-hour school board meeting that was televised throughout the city. This historic decision followed months of contentious debate in the media and over 100 videotaped deputations from a spectrum of advocacy groups, religious leaders, and individual citizens about the meaning of Black-focused schooling in a Canadian context. Several high-ranking city and provincial officials came out in strong opposition to the decision, including Ontario’s Minister of Education Kathleen Wynne and Ontario Premier Dalton McGinty, who declared he was "disappointed with the board's decision" and would intervene if Toronto's Africentric school became a province-wide trend.2

A rarity in big urban school districts in the 21st century, the Toronto District School Board, the largest in Canada,3 is governed by 22 trustees who are elected by their constituents and represent geographically distinct areas of Toronto and their neighborhood interests.4 Of the four proposals that were passed by the TDSB that evening, the establishment of a new Africentric alternative school was the most hotly debated. Other resolutions that addressed the educational needs of African Canadian students included the development of a pilot program to integrate the culture and histories of people of African descent in three existing schools in the district (16 to 4); the establishment of a research center to develop and assess the best practices for improving school achievement for marginalized and vulnerable students (19 to 1); and the development of an action plan for addressing student underachievement for marginalized and vulnerable students (19 to 1).

The discourse in the media, from governmental leaders, and in some quarters of Toronto's Black community described Black-focused schooling as segregation and claimed that it was contrary to the values of the Toronto school system and Canadian society as a whole.5 Invoking the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, several of the trustees and some Black parents who opposed the plan argued that Black-focused schools would separate students by race. Trustee Tonk, who cast his vote on the resolution by way of a public conference call from Barbados, noted, "I cannot support the proposal . . . anything that implicitly or explicitly separates students. Although this proposal is not segregation . . . it will lead to cultural separation."6

Other trustees who supported the proposal emphasized educational choice and urged the Toronto District School Board to "follow their own procedure," which enables parent organizations and community groups to propose new schools under the Toronto District School Board's Alternative School policy.7 As Trustee Gary Crawford put it: "It's about choice. Giving parents and communities the ability to make choices. It's all about community-based education. Give it off to the communities." Trustee Shaun Chen, who invoked Critical Race Theory in his support of the measure cautioned: "Don’t buy into the politics of fear. Segregation was used to uphold systematic racial inequalities. This program is about choice, leveling the playing field and an issue of equity."8

Parent advocates like Angela Wilson and Donna Harrow, who helped develop and promoted the proposal for an Africentric alternative school in 2007, argued that it wasn't segregation but self-determination. The frustration and anguish of the parents who spoke in favor of the initiative was palpable during the highly charged school board meeting. They questioned whether Black parents were being held to a higher standard than other groups who had proposed previous alternative schools in the district.9 Speaker after speaker mentioned the 40% dropout rate of African Canadian students and underscored the urgency of their educational plight.10 In a sentiment echoed by other parents that night, Vicki McPhee noted, “This is not about segregation. Our children are already segregated in the public school system. Our children remain disengaged every day. Black-focused schools are not a must, they’re a right.”11 Despite four decades of lobbying the Toronto school board, activism by African Canadian parents and community members had failed to stem the tide of underachievement, overrepresentation in special education and vocational programs, and the disproportionate number of suspensions and exclusions of Black students from the city's schools.12 The school board debate that night regarding Africentric education went well beyond the educational merits of opening a new alternative school in the city. It challenged White Canadians' (and others) longtime view of their country as a cultural mosaic and Toronto's international reputation as an inclusive, multicultural city.13

Calls for the establishment of Black-focused schools also surfaced in the British media in 2008 as a response to the rise in gang violence, disengagement among Black youth, and an effort to raise the educational standards for African Caribbean students in London. Black activists like Lee Jasper, former London mayor Ken Livingstone's advisor on race relations, promoted an African Academy, arguing that, "it's time the black community ran its own schools, devised a curriculum that suited the needs of our children, employed teachers that look like the young people they are teaching."14 Jasper reached out to supporters of Toronto's Africentric school, in part for suggestions about how to respond to charges that Black-focused schools in London constituted segregation.15 While the plan for an African Academy in London has since failed to gain traction, other Black-led organizations in England have recently submitted several proposals for community-sponsored Free Schools. These are schools that are exempt from government regulations and local authority oversight (similar to U.S. charter schools) under the neoliberal educational reforms proposed by Britain's Conservative-Liberal Coalition government.16 Critics argue that Free Schools, which have been established since 2011, have catered to White, middle-class parents and that proposals from Black community groups have not been given the same attention by England's Department for Education (DfE).17

Black activism in the London schools has a long history that dates back to the late 1960s when parents and community leaders organized rallies, signed petitions, and staged demonstrations against the overrepresentation of African Caribbean students in ESN (Educationally Subnormal) schools.18 Adopting the motto “we are our own educators,” Black community groups established supplementary or Saturday Schools which provided community-based education in the living rooms, churches, and meeting halls of African Caribbean neighborhoods like Haringey and Brixton.19

This comparative study argues that the historical origins of Black-focused schools in both London and Toronto developed as one strategy (among many) utilized by Black activists to address the historic underachievement of Black students in the public schools and to advocate for the incorporation of Black cultural knowledge and history into the school curriculum. As “resistance to racism,” Black-focused schools emerged as part of a larger agenda by parent and community leaders in the 1970s and 1980s to assert the citizenship rights of immigrants of African descent, establish a diasporic sensibility, and improve the opportunities and life chances for African Canadian students in Toronto and African Caribbean youth in London.20 In this article, I use archival sources and oral histories with community activists21 to situate the development of Black educational programs in each city within the larger demographic, social, and political contexts and trace key incidents that fueled the development of race equity policies. While the curricular focus of these Black-focused programs in Toronto and London bear many similarities to Afrocentric or African-Centered schools in the United States, I argue that differences in historical realities and the “politics of place” in each city influenced efforts by community activists to promote the education of children of African descent.22


With a current population of 2.5 million (over 5.5 million in the GTA or Greater Toronto Area), Toronto is often described as one of the most multicultural cities in the world. Half of Toronto’s population was born outside of Canada, and 47% of its residents are members of a racialized group.23 Although Canadians of African descent only constitute 2.7% of Canada’s population, they make up 10% of the Toronto population. Of Toronto's total Black population, 40% were born in Canada (many of Caribbean background), 39% in the Caribbean, 14% in Africa, and 7% born elsewhere.24 Some Toronto community activists characterize the African Canadian community as hybridized, with a cultural ethos that is distinct from African American communities south of the border.25 Residential patterns, driven by differential housing costs, indicate a growing segregation by income and race in Toronto over the last forty years. Central city neighborhoods have become increasing White (82%) and wealthier, and outlying neighborhoods in the northwestern and northeastern parts of the city (like York West and Scarborough) have incorporated a larger percentage of "visible minorities" (66%), immigrants (61%), and families in poverty (30%).26


Toronto's Black community dates from the city's earliest days as a settlement. Black Loyalists who fought with the British came to Canada after the Revolutionary War, and African Americans escaping slavery, as well as free Blacks, emigrated north to escape oppressive laws that restricted their rights to citizenship throughout the first half of the 1800s. While most settled in Southern Ontario, by the mid-1850s there were about 1,000 Blacks in Toronto out of a total population of 47,000. They built businesses, started churches, and formed self-help organizations, but employment discrimination meant that few jobs were available to these new African Canadians outside the Black community. Many Black women worked in White homes as domestics while Black men were recruited to work as porters on the Canadian Pacific Railroad. With an unofficial policy that restricted Black immigration in the last half of the 19th century, and formal immigration standards established in the late 1920s that gave preference to immigrants from a European background, Toronto's Black community grew slowly during the first half of the twentieth century.27

In 1967, racially-based criteria were finally removed that had been used to restrict immigration into Canada. The African Caribbean immigrants that followed in the 1960s included female domestic workers, professional and skilled workers, Blacks of Caribbean background who left Britain because of increasing racism, and Caribbean university students, many of whom stayed in Canada after completing their studies.28 The influx of Caribbean immigrants peaked in the 1970s and 1980s and added a new political and cultural dimension to Toronto’s small but established Black community.

The removal of racial barriers in immigration also challenged the Canadian myth of racial tolerance.29 Black Toronto residents confronted segregation in housing, increasing police violence toward Black males, and growing disillusionment with the school system. The 1970s and early 1980s proved the genesis for the development of Black advocacy groups to respond to the needs of recent immigrant students from the Caribbean as well as community-based educational programs designed to address the shortcomings of the provincial curriculum. Often cited as one of the first Black advocacy groups, the Black Education Project (BEP), directed by Marlene Green, involved university students from York University, joined by community members, who provided an after school and Saturday tutoring program for 50–70 students that operated out of the Marcus Garvey UNIA (Universal Negro Improvement Association) Hall at 355 College Street in the heart of Toronto's early Black community.30 When the Black Education Project waned in the late 1970s, key members of the group went on to form the Black Liaison Committee, which was formally recognized by the Toronto School Board in 1977 and became the prototype for several Board committees that followed, designed to provide a voice in the school system for Toronto's ethnic and cultural communities. Comprised of Black parents and other community activists, the Black Liaison Committee pressured the Toronto School Board to investigate racism and set up a subcommittee on race relations.31

Culture-based community organizations, such as the Black Heritage Program, formed in 1969 and changed their name to the African Canadian Heritage Association (ACHA) in the mid-1970s. As Louis March, the longtime communications director of ACHA, described the genesis of the organization, "Parents in the community were angered at the fact that their children were coming home from school crying their eyes out saying that they didn't want to be Black."32 ACHA established a Saturday program at a community center in the North York Board of Education, which encompassed an African-centered approach that spanned the Diaspora. The program's curriculum was about "creating a space where the children could see themselves in a positive light and feel comfortable in their skin. It was African centered, Caribbean, Canadian, (and) American. It was Martin Luther King and Malcolm X. It was Kwame Nkrumah. It was Apartheid in South Africa. It was about the great kingdoms, Mali, Timbuktu. (ACHA was also) taking a critical look at the content, the material and the impact (the public school curriculum) was having on our kids. It was a war, if you can call it a war, with many different battlefields."33

Black educator organizations also created Saturday schools, staffed by African Canadian teachers who volunteered their time on the weekends. John Viera, a cofounder of the Canadian Association of Black Educators (CABE), along with Oscar Brathwaite, began the Saturday Morning Tutorial at Vaughn Road Collegiate School in the former City of York Board in 1982.34 Vernon Farrell, one of Toronto's first Black principals and a founder of the African Heritage Educators Network (AHEN), began Project 90 in his middle school in the North York school board, which included more than 100 students and their parents during its heyday in the 1980s. In addition to literacy and numeracy, Project 90 taught parents how to advocate for their children and navigate the public school system.35


With the support of a majority of progressive NDP (New Democratic Party) trustees on the school board throughout the 1970s, Toronto took the lead in the development of school district equity policies, often in the face of ongoing pressure by groups like the Black Liaison Committee. They passed a far-ranging Race Relations policy in 1978, the first and most comprehensive race equity policy developed by a North American school board. Among its 119 recommendations, this policy called for a “no tolerance” response to biased verbal exchanges; racial and ethnic graffiti; inservice programs in human relations, race relations, and human rights; a new position of Equal Opportunity Advisor; and multicultural courses to be included as part of supervisory and principalship certification at local universities.36

Advocacy by parent organizations also proved influential in the development of equity policy. The Organization of Parents of Black Children (OPBC) was cofounded by community activist Keren Brathwaite in 1980. Brathwaite had come to Toronto from Antigua to attend graduate school at the University of Toronto on a Commonwealth Scholarship in 1967 and was quickly politicized by the racism she encountered and the lack of access for Black students and other students of color at the university. Along with OPBC, Brathwaite developed the Transitional Year Programme (TYP) at the University of Toronto to open access to Black and First Nations students, single mothers, and students from poor neighborhoods. She recalls how OPBC met once a month for 20 years and invited teachers, students, and school board officials to speak to the group about issues affecting Black students. Young scholars such as George Sefa Dei, who was a new assistant professor at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE) in 1992 and would later become a prominent international advocate for Africentric education, worked with this community group in the 1990s. He notes that his experiences with OPBC were influential in "conscientizing (him) to the issues and experiences of the Black community in the Canadian context."37 On November 28, 1985, the Organization of Parents of Black Children met with the Associate Director of Education of the Toronto School Board to present their ongoing concerns: the high dropout rate of Black students, the lack of Black teachers, culturally biased IQ tests, low expectations for Black students, and teachers’ lack of knowledge about Black culture and the history of Blacks in Canada.

As a result of this meeting, the Toronto School Board established a Consultative Committee on the Education of Black Children whose membership included parents as well as school district officials. The insider–outsider composition of this committee became a hallmark of school board equity committees in the 1980s.38 The first charge of the committee was to evaluate the implementation of the 1978 Race Relations Act.39 In 1988, on the 10th anniversary of the Race Relations Policy, the Final Report of the consultative committee included 58 recommendations for further action and noted that few of the original provisions of the Race Relations policy had been implemented.40

Racial conflicts in Toronto in the early 1990s also spurred the development of race-based educational policy. On April 30, 1992, four White men were acquitted of beating Rodney King in Los Angeles. On May 2nd, the Toronto police shot and killed the eighth Black man in the city in four years. Two days later, a mass demonstration was organized by the Black Action Defense Committee (BADC) outside the U.S. Consulate on University Avenue to protest the Rodney King verdict and draw attention to ongoing police brutality in Toronto. Looting and confrontations with the police broke out when 1000 youths rallied on Yonge Street. What was later termed the “Yonge Street Riots” served as a wake up call to the larger community that Toronto was not immune to racial and cultural tensions.

Former NDP politician and AIDS activist Stephen Lewis was commissioned by Ontario’s premier, Bob Rae, to investigate the conflict and prepare a public response within a month. His report cited “anti-Black racism” and called for the creation of programs so that African Canadian youth might feel part of Canadian society. As Lewis noted in his short but influential report, “It is Blacks who are being shot, it is Black youth that is unemployed in excessive numbers, it is Black students who are being inappropriately streamed in schools, it is Black kids who are disproportionately dropping out.”41 While these conclusions were well known to Black community groups, the fact that a national political figure authored the report gave his findings about racism a high profile.42

Following the Lewis report, two commissions called for the implementation of Black-focused schools as a response to the ongoing failure of Canadian schools to respond to the needs of African Canadian students. In November 1992, a multilevel government task force in Ontario, termed the African-Canadian Community Working Group, proposed creating one predominately Black junior high in each of the six Metropolitan Toronto municipalities and a five-year pilot scheme to establish “Black-focused” schools.43 Newspapers across Canada described Black-focused education as raising the specter of “southern-style segregation” in a foreshadowing of the debates that would rage fifteen years later when Toronto's Africentric school proposal took shape.44

In 1994, the Royal Commission report, For the Love of Learning, called for representatives of the Black community, universities, school boards, and educational officials to collaborate in the development of demonstration schools with a predominately Black teaching staff in those jurisdictions with large numbers of Black students.45 Although the idea of demonstration schools failed to gain widespread support, a small alternative program, known as the Nighana Afrocentric Transitional Program, began in February 1995 at Eastdale Collegiate Institute for 24 Black students who had dropped out or were on the verge of dropping out of high school. The program had developed as the result of a study on Black youth by the Danforth Perth Community Centre who approached OPBC for support of the idea.46 Jamil Kalim served as the director and teacher of the program. Students studied art and history from a Black perspective through exploring African civilizations and incorporating youth culture into the curriculum.47


In the mid-1990s a change in Ontario's provincial administration also proved influential with regards to equity efforts for Black students in Toronto. After five years of a progressive NDP administration, the Conservative Party came to power in June 1995 with the promise to cut taxes, reduce big government and bureaucracy, and "provide the people of Ontario with better for less."48 Premier Mike Harris and his Tory "common sense revolution" instituted accountability measures such as provincial-wide testing, revised the Common Curriculum at the high school level to move away from an interdisciplinary curriculum and focus on discrete subject areas like math and science, and dismantled many of the antiracist and equity initiatives at the provincial level such as the Ministry of Education's Anti-Racism and Ethno-Cultural Equity Branch. Social services and government programs were drastically cut, including a reduction of over $1 billion dollars in school funding, which was passed on to local school districts. For the Toronto School Board, this meant a 22.7% cut in their provincial funding and teacher layoffs.49

An immediate effect of the Harris budget cuts on Black-focused educational programs was the institution of a Toronto school district policy that required community groups to pay hefty fees for the use of school buildings that they had previously utilized free of charge. In some cases, this meant $500 just to open the door each week, and additional fees for the use of each classroom.50 ACHA was forced to move their cultural program from Valley Park Middle School to a temporary home at the Harborfront Community Centre, far from the families in North York who attended the program. Vernon Farrell notes that Project 90, his North York tutorial program for African Canadian middle school students, folded because of these increased fees.51 Community activists like Oscar Brathwaite have characterized this policy move as "a deliberate sabotage of the Black educational and social programs for the Black community by the Harris government."52

Harris' administration also aimed to consolidate school boards under the banner of reducing bureaucracy and waste. The number of major school boards in the province was reduced by half, from 129 to 72. On January 1, 1998, seven distinct school boards in the Greater Toronto Area (i.e., Toronto, East York, North York, York, Etobicoke, Scarborough, and the Metropolitan Board) were amalgamated into one administration under the Toronto District School Board (TDSB). Budget cuts and consolidation in the mid-1990s also cut funding and staff for longstanding equity initiatives in the old Toronto School Board like the Equity Studies Centre. In light of the upcoming amalgamation, equity advocates from across the seven boards worked for the establishment of a new district-wide equity policy that would be inclusive of race, gender, class, disability, and sexual orientation. In December 1999, the newly formed amalgamated Toronto District School Board (TDSB) passed a far-ranging Anti-Racist and Equity for All Policy in consultation with representatives from local racial and ethnic communities, feminists, and LGBT advocates. The development and focus of this policy proved controversial, however, because of the lack of a primary and singular focus on race, which led to infighting among advocacy groups.53

In summary, utilizing a familiar Canadian avenue to address educational change, community concerns about the underachievement of African Canadian students in the Toronto schools would ultimately not be settled in the streets, but deliberated through Royal Commissions, government task forces, and school board committees. Black parents' early calls for a Black-focused school in the 1980s were not realized until 17 years later, when Toronto’s first public Africentric school opened its doors on September 9, 2009. After three years in operation, the Africentric Alternative School has expanded to grades K–8, demonstrated above-average scores on recent provincial standardized tests, and enrolled 147 students with a waiting list. A sister Africentric high school program, which has also faced controversy, was established in the TDSB in the fall of 2012.54


From the first immigrants who came from the Caribbean in the 1950s, by the 21st century Britain’s Black population has grown to 3% of the total British population, and 11% of the London population. While 17% of the students in the Inner London schools are of African origin and 11% are of Caribbean background, it is African Caribbean boys who remain at the bottom of the school league tables and the racial achievement gap.55

The great wave of post-war migration from the Caribbean to the UK symbolically began when the first group of 492 Jamaicans stepped off the gangplank of the ex-troopship, the S.S. Empire Windrush, on June 23, 1948. Many were ex-military who had served in Britain during the war, but that fateful voyage also included law students, dockers, boxers, and a complete dance band.56 By 1958 (ten years after the Windrush’s voyage), about 125,000 West Indians had emigrated to England. All were British citizens who had left behind few job prospects in the post-war Caribbean for the promise of a new life in the “Motherland.”

As the London press warned upon their arrival, however, “Britain is no Paradise.”57 When subsequent groups of Caribbean immigrants arrived at Waterloo Station throughout the 1950s, they were often confronted by demonstrators carrying banners that read “Keep Britain White.”58 New settlers found it difficult to find accommodations, were refused service in restaurants and pubs, and often worked 12–14 hours a day in difficult conditions for less than White workers.59

In the 1960s, the children of the Windrush generation were harassed by the police through stop and search (SUS) policies and disproportionately placed in ESN (Educationally Subnormal) schools. As London boroughs like Haringey became increasingly Black, community organizations sprang up to advocate for the rights of Caribbean students. From 1967 onwards, the North London West Indian Association had been concerned about the problems affecting the education of Black students in the Haringey schools. The Conservative-led Haringey Council issued a report on March 31, 1969 that claimed the children of West Indians were inferior in intelligence to their English contemporaries and moved to institute “banding” in order to disperse and bus Black children throughout the borough’s schools. The North London West Indian Association led an effective campaign against banding through petitions, rallies, demonstrations, and flyers distributed throughout North London that warned “ALL WEST INDIAN PARENTS . . . BEWARE YOUR CHILD’S FUTURE IS THREATENED. It’s time to get up and get NOW . . . This is just the smoke! More in the mortar beside the pestle! UNITE AND FIGHT FOR YOUR RIGHTS.”60


Some of the earliest educational advocates for Black children in London in the 1960s were the "Island Scholars" and other Caribbean university students who came to Britain for graduate study. In 1955, the West Indian Student Centre opened at No. 1 Collingham Gardens in Kensington, London as an information and support center for West Indian students. It quickly became a hub to debate rising Caribbean independence movements and promote Black arts throughout London. In the late 1960s, the West Indian Student Centre supported Black Nationalist movements and hosted guest speakers such as James Baldwin and Stokely Carmichael.61 Ansel Wong, who had emigrated from Trinidad as a graduate student in 1965, organized a Black Theater Arts workshop at the West Indian Student Centre that performed Black-themed plays throughout London. He also coordinated the CLR James School, an early Black supplementary school that enrolled the children of the Centre's graduate students and their friends.62

These activist scholars combined a focus on Caribbean arts with radical political organizing that linked Black British activists from locations throughout the Diaspora. Later, they would start the first Black publishing houses in Britain. Eric and Jessica Huntley, immigrants from Guyana in the late 1950s, established the Walter Rodney bookstore in West London where they published Caribbean poetry and literature, hosted visiting Black nationalists, and helped support several supplementary schools.63 John La Rose, the Trinidadian poet and union activist, established New Beacon Books in North London, which became a hub for organizing around race equality in education and campaigns against police harassment, as well as a lively venue for political lectures on Caribbean independence movements and poetry readings.

John La Rose also helped launch the Black Supplementary School movement in 1969 when he enrolled his own children, those of other Black activists, and local neighborhood youth in a Saturday School in the front room of his home in Finsbury Park. Named after the Trinidadian Pan Africanist and assistant to Kwame Nkrumah, the George Padmore School and its sister school for younger children (the Albertina Sylvester School) eventually moved to the Stapleton Hall Community Center and served about 15–20 students with a combined focus on improving academic skills and the development of a diasporic Black consciousness. Students worked on improving their writing through essays on “The Elimination of the British Slave Trade,” and improved their geography by identifying the formation of new nation states on a map of Africa.64 Family excursions organized by the school included field trips to the British seaside as well as attendance at community lectures that highlighted Caribbean history and Pan African political movements.65 Roxy Harris, activist, London teacher, and future university professor who taught for years at the George Padmore School, views these early supplementary schools as a "concrete outcome and lasting monument" of Black political activism in the 1970s and 1980s.66 For his daughter, Remi, attending Saturday School was a family event with activities that spanned "reciting times tables by heart," flashcards of the capitals of African countries, as well as "proper books" of Anansi stories, Caribbean folktales, and biographies of freedom fighters like Kwame Nkrumah, Toussaint L'Ouverture, and Nanny of the Maroons.67 Written essays that incorporated students' future aspirations and their views about "what really goes on in school" were used to teach writing skills as well as critical thinking and perspective taking. Social action projects in the George Padmore School arose out of real life struggles, like writing protest letters to the town council when a proposed motorway threatened to destroy the community center that housed the school as well as a local green space.68 A focus on Caribbean arts included student participation in a resident Mas Band known as the "People's War Carnival Band" which reinforced knowledge about freedom fighters learned in their Saturday classes.69

Other supplementary schools with a Black cultural orientation sprang up in London throughout the 1970s. On January 1, 1974, Ansel Wong began the Ahfiwe School in a community center across the street from the Brixton police station. As a young English teacher in the London schools in the late 1960s Wong became increasingly aware of the disengagement of Black students. He named the school "Ah Fi We" from the Jamaican patois, which he translates as "It is Ours" or "It is for Us." Wong notes this name symbolically represented to both students and parents that "the language we speak is a language we should be proud of."70 The school was funded by the Inner London Education Authority (ILEA) through the Community Relations Council as part of a new initiative in the 1970s to improve race relations in Brixton. Wong recruited 20 disengaged students from the local Brixton high school whom he describes as "truanting in their heads," an expression he coined to characterize those students who would not be considered official truants, because they were still in school, but who had effectively "checked out" of their classes.71 The school's curriculum incorporated Black theater and history, filmmaking, and youth outreach services by social worker Gerlyn Bean on evenings and weekends. Students at Ahfiwe also wrote and published a literary journal that depicted the realities of growing up Black in Britain.72 As the school became increasingly politicized, Wong was asked to resign by the ILEA authorities. When a poem written by Ahfiwe student Janet Morris was critical of the racial profiling of Black youth in Brixton by the police, the South London Press accused her of "inciting violence" and questioned the education Brixton's youth were receiving in the Ahfiwe program.73

By 1982, several London supplementary schools joined together into the newly organized Association of Black Supplementary Schools, which held its first conference to discuss curriculum, coordinate resources, and plan "the way forward.” While activists from the Black Parents Movement of the New Beacon Group headed up this initial effort, Roxy Harris notes that it became difficult to sustain the organization over time when other supplementary schools didn't "step up to the plate," and the New Beacon group's political campaigns against police violence increasingly took precedence.74


The ILEA (Inner London Educational Authority) governed the London schools from 1965 until it was abolished in 1990. While the ILEA produced the first document for multi-ethnic education in 1977, it was a series of events in 1981 that set the stage for an intense period of institutional activism with regards to equity issues. Uprisings in Brixton in April 1981 brought public attention to the police profiling of Black youth in London neighborhoods.75 The release of West Indian Children in Our Schools, commonly known as the Rampton Report, confirmed that African Caribbean children were underachieving in British schools and that low teacher expectations and "unintentional racism" were in part to blame. The report's 81 recommendations acknowledged that there was a general view throughout the British educational system that "regarded the presence of Black pupils as a problem."76

When Ken Livingstone and the Labour Party won control of the Greater London Council in 1981, the development of antiracist policies and multicultural curriculum resources would reach prominence. Black educator, historian, and community activist Len Garrison received financial support from the ILEA to establish the Afro-Caribbean Education Resource Project (ACER), which developed antiracist multicultural curriculum materials and provided professional development for teachers throughout the city.77 The Ethnic Minorities Section of the Equal Opportunities Unit, instituted in 1983, provided the first opportunity for Black and South Asian community representation on a school district consultative committee, although the group spent much of their two years of existence trying to get a hearing from senior officials.78

When the ILEA also offered financial support to Black supplementary schools in the mid-1980s, some Black activists argued against taking money from the educational authorities in order to preserve their school's ideological independence.79 By the late 1990s, many Saturday Schools had moved away from a political orientation and increasingly focused on academic skills to assist African Caribbean students in order to pass national exams.80 More recent educational activism in London has focused on exposing the racial achievement gap and the disproportionate numbers of school exclusions experienced by Black males, developing funding proposals to establish Black-led Free Schools, and a petition campaign to preserve Black historical figures in the National Curriculum.81


Black-focused education in Toronto and London emphasized similar themes of self-sufficiency and self-determination, yet followed a somewhat different historical trajectory over a 40-year period, in part because of the politics of educational reform and the policy options available. In the 1970s and 1980s, parent and community activists in Toronto developed a "both/and" strategy by working within (and against) the school system as well as developing culture-based organizations and Black professional groups that linked Black teachers with community concerns. At key moments, networks of Black parents, community members, K-12 educators, and university scholars worked in tandem with progressive school board officials to establish Black consultative committees, promote Black history curriculum, and advocate for the first Race Relations policy to be established in a major North American school district. Progressive school trustees from the New Democratic Party (NDP) throughout the 1980s provided material support as well. The Toronto School Board sponsored race relation studies, commissioned antiracist curriculum, and incorporated a Black Cultural Heritage Program held after school hours as part of the Heritage Languages Program supported by provincial policy.82 The effectiveness of these "insider-outsider" coalitions, which were forged in the 1980s, proved critical in the development of early equity policies in the district and, ultimately, in 2008 when key advocates from the TDSB, university scholars, and community organizations coalesced to marshal the research evidence, develop African-centered curriculum units, and lobby for school board support for a publically supported Africentric school.83

This campaign also exposed the fault lines and different educational realties for White and Black Torontonians, who experience what Hulchanski has termed "the three cities of Toronto"—the high-income downtown core (20% of the population) with an array of public and private educational options; more diverse but shrinking middle-class neighborhoods in the surrounding ring (29% of the population); and low-income and working-class residents who live on the periphery of the city (53% of the population), are disproportionately Black, Chinese, and South Asian, and must contend with poor access to transit and services and little educational choice.84

Based on Toronto's historical legacy of district equity policies, many White residents continue to view their local public schools as inclusive and characterized the recent Africentric school proposal as separatist and divisive. Some Black community activists, on the other hand, contend that these progressive policy changes in the Toronto school system over time have been largely "cosmetic" and have not substantially altered the career paths or life chances of African Canadian students. While publically supporting the Africentric Alternative school as a vehicle for educational change, they continue to pursue community-based educational strategies and programs.85

In contrast, largely shut out of decision-making and participatory structures in the London schools, particularly after the progressive ILEA was abolished in 1990 by the Thatcher government, Black parents and activists had no central London educational agency where they might lobby, protest, and take their concerns about the miseducation of their children. Short-lived multicultural programs and antiracist policies promoted by the ILEA in the mid-1980s proved more symbol than substance when they were quickly challenged and rolled back with the rise of the "new Right" Thatcher government.86 Instead, Black community groups pursued a network of supplementary or Saturday Schools, which now number 35 in the greater London area.87 Because these were grass roots efforts, the curriculum has varied across the programs, but generally focused on studying the three Rs . . . Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic, plus a fourth R . . . Racism. Free of governmental oversight, researchers Heidi Mirza and Diane Reay have argued that England’s supplementary schools created “spaces of Blackness which contest Whiteness as normative . . . sites of Black solidarity where teachers and students can create oppositional and empowering narratives of Blackness.” In short, a place and space for “thinking Black.”88

With deep roots in larger transnational political movements such as Pan-Africanism, early Black supplementary schools differed from the Saturday Schools in other London ethnic communities because of their radical political orientation and diasporic sensibility, which was inclusive of Black immigrants from several Caribbean (and some African) nations and empowered parents and students alike.89 Gus John, one of the first Black Directors of Education in London and a longtime African Caribbean community activist notes that early supplementary schools both "supported children in their learning, self development, and identify formation" as well as "encouraged parents to see themselves as people who had the capacity to support their children's learning."90

While the curriculum of these Black educational programs often referenced common African-centered frameworks and traditions, they also incorporated local hybridized cultural knowledge and place-based histories, as well as strategies to help immigrant students navigate their way through the mainstream educational system. As a graduate and former teacher in ACHA (African Cultural Heritage Association) and current TDSB principal notes, "they (early activists) were able to analyze the needs of their community and created spaces for Black students to address academic achievement, (yet) while they were advocating for changes to happen they didn't sit down and wait. They developed their own curriculum to help those children along the way."91 In both Toronto and London, professional Black educators often participated as teachers and school leaders in these endeavors, but they worked alongside parents, university scholars, and other community members as equal partners. The activism of Black educators and parents who advocated for Black educational programs despite funding setbacks, media opposition, and skepticism from government officials blurs the lines between educator and community activist and contributes an international dimension to the historical continuum of Black educational leaders as agents of change.92

British cultural theorist Stuart Hall has observed that one problem in thinking about diaspora is that we tend to “focus on its continuity and the return to its place of origins and not always and at the same time on its scattering, its further going out, its dissemination.”93 As a transnational phenomenon, Black-focused educational programs in Toronto and London reflect a long historical tradition of educational self-sufficiency in Black communities that links diasporic cultural knowledge with ties to a reimagined African homeland. Parents, educators, and community activists in both cities used the educational structures available to advocate for the needs of Black students, yet proved resourceful in developing new educational sites when government schools proved insufficient. These efforts might be more accurately viewed not only as curricular reforms, but essential community-building sites in an often hostile educational environment. Through their collective efforts, they successfully asserted the right of students of African descent to a high-quality education wherever they may reside.


Support for this research was provided by grants from the Baldy Center for Law and Social Policy and the Canadian-American Studies Committee at the University at Buffalo and a research expense grant from Boston College. My sincere thanks to Beverly-Jean Daniel, Reva Joshee, and colleagues at the Centre for Leadership and Diversity, Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto where I completed a residency as a Visiting Scholar. Thanks also to Rosemary Campbell-Stephens, Heidi Mirza, and the former Centre for Equalities, Rights, and Social Justice, Institute of Education, University of London where I was appointed as a Visiting Fellow during the early stages of this research.


1. While the term Afrocentric is common in the United States, Canadian activists have used Africentric because this spelling bears a closer resemblance to the term African-centered. Some educational researchers have described culture-based schools as "ethnocentric" niche schools, a term which has a pejorative connotation for advocates (see, e.g., Robert Fox, Nina K. Buchanan, Suzanne Eckes, and Letitia Basford, "The Line Between Cultural Education and Religious Education: Do Ethnocentric Charter Schools Have a Prayer?" Review of Research in Education, 36 (2012): 282–305.) In this article, I have used the term Black-focused as an overarching concept that refers to historical efforts to develop educational programs focused on Black cultural, historical, and political issues and concerns, with an understanding that there may be some differences regarding ideology, curriculum, and terminology between individual programs and across national contexts.

2. See Kristen Rushowy, "Black-Focused School Debate Set," Toronto Star, Nov. 7, 2007; Robert Benzie, "McGuinty Issues Warning on Black-Focused Schools," Toronto Star, February 1, 2008. Scores of articles in opposition to Toronto's Africentric school, including racist cartoons, appeared in the Toronto Star and the Globe and Mail in 2007 and 2008. They generally argued that segregating students would not prepare them for life in a multicultural society. For the range of responses to the Africentric school proposal in Toronto's Black community, see Isabelle Ekwa- Ekoko, "Afrocentric Schools within a Multicultural Context: Exploring Different Attitudes Towards the TDSB Proposal within the Black Community" (thesis, Ryerson University, 2008) and Rosina Agyepong, "Black-Focused Schools: What Do African Canadian Parents Say?" (dissertation, University of Toronto, 2010). For the responses of a select group of Black youth to the proposal, see Megan K. Gordan and Dawn Zinga, "'Fear of Stigmitization': Black Canadian Youths' Reaction to the Implementation of a Black-Focused School in Toronto," Canadian Journal of Educational Administration and Policy, 131 (2012), http://www.umanitoba.ca/publications/cjeap/pdf_files/gordon_zinga.pdf

3. The current Toronto District School Board (TDSB) school population includes 259,000 students enrolled in almost 600 schools. The TDSB was established on January 1, 1998 as a result of the amalgamation of seven distinct school boards in the Greater Toronto Area. In this article, Black advocacy organizations that developed in Toronto before 1998 will be identified by the school board in which they originated.

4. For example, in several of the largest urban school districts in the United States (i.e., New York City, Chicago, Los Angeles, Cleveland, and Philadelphia) school board members are appointed by city or state officials, not elected.

5. "Black Schools Wrong Answer," Toronto Star, January 21, 2008.

6. From the author’s field notes recorded during the Jan. 29, 2008 Toronto school board meeting as well as the videotape of the meeting by Rogers TV. Louis March notes that supporters of the school engaged in several community forums in the Black community in order to counter this impression. Louis March, interview with author, Toronto, May 3, 2012.

7. Alternative Schools, Toronto District School Board Policy P.062 CUR, Adopted June 27, 2007. Accessed at http://www.tdsb.on.ca/Leadership/Boardroom/AgendaMinutes.aspx?Type=M&Year=2007&Filename=70627.pdf. See also Toronto District School Board Minutes, Special Meeting, Jan. 29, 2008 for the board vote on the Africentric school.

8. Author's field notes, January 29, 2008.

9. There are currently 37 Alternative School programs listed in the Toronto District School Board. Alternative programs developed over the years include one that focused on First Nation issues and another whose curriculum was designed for LGBTQ students. Accessed at http://www.tdsb.on.ca/Findyour/School/AlternativeSchools.aspx

10. Author's field notes, January 29, 2008. See also the Discussion Paper on Africentric Alternative School, Toronto District School Board, December 19, 2007. As a series of investigative reports have shown, this dropout rate has remained remarkably constant over the last forty years.

11. Louise Brown and Brett Popplewell, “Board Okays Black-Focused School,” Toronto Star, January 30, 2008.

12. Charges by parents about the overrepresentation of Black students in special education classes and vocational programs in the Toronto schools date back to the 1970s. Lloyd McKell, interview with author, Toronto, Canada, May 2, 2012.

13. John Murray Gibbon, Canadian Mosaic: Making of a Modern Nation (Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 1938). This book envisioned that each immigrant group to Canada would retain their distinct ethnic identity yet contribute to the nation as a whole. A feature of Canadian multiculturalism policy in the 1970s, it has frequently been contrasted to the U.S. melting pot (see Reva Joshee and Lauri Johnson, Multicultural Policies in Canada and the United States (Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, 2007.) In 2004 the United Nations declared Toronto one of the most multicultural cities in the world.

14. Rashid Razaq, “Lee Jasper: Black-Only Schools Will Beat Gangs,” London Evening Standard (London, UK), September 9, 2008.

15. Louis March, May 3, 2012. Lee Jasper subsequently interviewed Louis March about the African Canadian Heritage Association (ACHA) and published information about the development of Toronto's Africentric school on his London blog. Accessed at: http://theafricanacademy.blogspot.com/

16. See Marcus Cato (interview with Author, London, England, March 7, 2012) and email correspondence with Rosemary Campbell-Stephens (June 11, 2012) who, along with others, submitted proposals to the Department for Education for the establishment of Black-led Free Schools.

17. John Burn-Murdoch, "Over Three Quarters of Free Schools Take Fewer Deprived Pupils than Their State-Funded Equivalents," The Guardian, April 23, 2012. This lack of support for Black-sponsored Free Schools was underscored by Patricia Lamour, one of the designers and promoters of the African Academy proposal, during the 2011 London Schools and Our Children conference. Previously known as the London Schools and the Black Child conference (initiated by Black MP Dianne Abbott in 2000), the conference was renamed in 2011 by London Mayor Boris Johnson whom Lee Jasper claimed had hijacked and "whitewashed" it. See Lester Holloway's blog, accessed at: http://cllrlesterholloway.wordpress.com/2011/11/12/i-dont-give-a-monkeys-boris-tells-black-conference/; also Lee Jasper's blog accessed at: http://leejasper.blogspot.com/2011/11/london-schools-black-child-conference.html. For more data about race inequalities in Free Schools, see Eleanor Stokes, Elizabeth Walker, Emma Rees, Fahmida Sultana, Manuel Casertano, and Barbara Nea, Inclusive Schools: The Free Schools Monitoring Project (London: Race on the Agenda, 2012).

18. ESN (aka Educationally Subnormal) schools in London, intended for intellectually disabled students, were disproportionately Black in the late 1960s. See Bernard Coard, How the West Indian Child is Made Educationally Subnormal in the British School System: The Scandal of the Black Child in Schools in Britain (London: New Beacon Books, 1971).

19. Diane Reay and Heidi Mirza, “Uncovering Genealogies of the Margins: Black Supplementary Schooling,” British Journal of Sociology of Education 18, no. 4 (1997): 477–499; Heidi Mirza and Diane Reay, “Spaces and Places of Black Educational Desire: Rethinking Black Supplemental Schools as a New Social Movement,” Sociology 34, no. 3 (2000): 521–544. For recent historical work on the development of Black supplementary schools in England, see Kevin Myers and Ian Grosvenor, "Exploring Supplementary Education: Margins, Theories and Methods," History of Education 40, no. 4 (2011): 501–520; Jessie Gerrard, "Self Help and Protest: The Emergence of Black Supplementary Schooling in England," Race Ethnicity and Education 16 (2013): 32–58.

20. Nah Dove, Racism and its Effect on the Quality of Education and the Educational Performance of the Black Child (thesis, Institute of Education, University of London, 1990); Nah Dove, “The Emergence of Black Supplementary Schools: Resistance to Racism in the United Kingdom,” Urban Education 27 no. 4 (1993): 430–447.

21. Data sources from Toronto included surveying forty years of published school board minutes (1968–2008), Black history curriculum guides, school district reports and memos on the status of African Canadian students, and board member correspondence in the TDSB archives; newspaper articles, editorial essays, and photographs in the Toronto Star, the Globe and Mail and community ethnic newspapers such as Share; and deputations from parents and community members videotaped by the TDSB before and during the January 29, 2008 school board meeting. Sources accessed in London included newspaper clippings and journal articles from mainstream media such as The London Times Educational Supplement and the Guardian; antiracist newsletters and journals, such as Race Today; and ethnic community newspapers like the West Indian World. Notes, correspondence, petitions, flyers, meeting minutes, photographs, and sample curriculum developed by activist groups were researched at the George Padmore Institute (GPI), the Black Cultural Archives (BCA), and the London Metropolitan Archives (LMA). Oral history interviews were conducted with 10 activists in Toronto and 7 activists in London who were involved in advocacy efforts and the development of early Black educational programs and supplementary schools in the 1970s and 1980s. Key informants were initially identified from the archival records. Through a snowball sampling procedure, others were subsequently located and interviewed who were also involved in advocacy efforts.

22. Katherine McKittrick and Clyde Woods, eds., Black Geographies and the Politics of Place (Toronto: Between the Lines Press, 2007).

23. On the 2006 Canadian census, “visible minorities” are defined by Statistics Canada as “persons, other than Aboriginal peoples, who are non-Caucasian in race or non-white in colour." In 2006, the top five visible minority groups in Ontario included South Asians (794,170), Chinese (576,980), Black (474,765), Filipino (203,220), and Latin American (147,135). This designation remains a controversial term amongst many racial and ethnic groups in Canada.

24. Carl James, David Este, Wanda Thomas Bernard, Akua Benjamin, Bethan Lloyd, and Tana Turner, Race & Well-Being: The Lives, Hopes, and Activism of African Canadians (Halifax & Winnepeg: Fernwood Publishing, 2010).

25. TDSB Adminstrator, interview with author, Toronto, May 3, 2012.

26. J. David Hulchanski, The Three Cities within Toronto: Income Polarization among Toronto's Neighborhoods, 1970–2005 (Toronto: Centre for Urban and Community Studies, 2010). Accessed at: http://www.urbancentre.utoronto.ca/pdfs/curp/tnrn/Three-Cities-Within-Toronto-2010-Final.pdf

27. Daniel G. Hill, "Black History in Early Toronto," Polyphony 6 (1984): 28–30; Carl James, et al., Race & Well-Being, 2010, p. 45.

28. Carl James et al., Race & Well-Being, 49.

29. Frances Henry, The Caribbean Diaspora in Toronto: Learning to Live with Racism (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1994).

30. Keren Braithwaite, interview with author, Toronto, Canada, February 2, 2012; Amoaba Gooden, “Community Organizing by African Caribbean People in Toronto, Ontario,” Journal of Black Studies 38 no. 3 (2008): 413–426; Tim McCaskell, Race to Equity: Disrupting Educational Inequality (Toronto: Between the Lines Press, 2005); Oscar Brathwaite, interview with author, Toronto, Canada, May 4, 2012.

31. Minutes of the Board of Education, Toronto Board of Education, Thursday, April 13, 1978, 355–356.

32. Louis March, May 3, 2012.

33. Ibid. Over forty years later, ACHA continues to provide an African-centered Saturday program that involves cultural classes and field trips inspired by Black history. It now involves the third generation of African Canadian students and their parents.

34. Keren Brathwaite, February 2, 2012.

35. Vernon Farrell, interview with Author, Toronto, Canada, May 4, 2012.

36. Minutes of the Board of Education, Toronto Board of Education, Thursday, November 23, 1978, 1099–1118.

37. George Sefa Dei, interview with Author, Toronto, Canada, May 1, 2012.

38. Oscar Brathwaite, May 4, 2012; Lloyd McKell, May 2, 2012.

39. Minutes of the Board of Education, Toronto Board of Education, Thursday, March 6, 1986, 147–151; “The Education of Black Students in Toronto Schools,” Toronto Board of Education, 1988.

40. Minutes of the Board of Education, Toronto Board of Education, Thursday, June 30, 1988, 539.

41. Stephen Lewis, Consultative Report on Race Relations (Toronto: Ontario Ministry of Citizenship, 1992).

42. George Sefa Dei, May 1, 2012.

43. John G. Dennison, “Toward a New Beginning” (Toronto: Four Level Government/African Canadian Community Working Group, 1992).

44. "Black-Focused Schools Proposal Sparks Debate: Southern-Style Segregation Feared under Ontario Task Force Concept," Winnipeg Free Press, December 21, 1992, A3; "Black-Focused School Plan Raises Spectre of Segregation,” Vancouver Sun, December 21, 1992, B9.

45. Royal Commission on Learning, For the Love of Learning. Accessed at http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/general/abcs/rcom/full/index.html

46. Tim McCaskell, Race to Equity, 216–217.

47. Virginia Galt, "Program Teaches Students to Overcome," The Globe and Mail, 1996, A12; Andrew Duffy, "Trustees Approve Programs for Blacks, Gays," The Toronto Star, August 25, 1995, A6.

48. R. D. Gidney, From Hope to Harris: The Reshaping of Ontario's Schools (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1999).

49. Ibid.

50. Louis March, May 3, 2012.

51. Vernon Farrell, May 4, 2012.

52. Oscar Brathwaite, May 4, 2012.

53. Tim McCaskell, Race to Equity, 255–272. See also Tara Goldstein, “Support for the Adoption of the Anti-Racism and Equity for All Policy,” October 27, 1998. Dozens of letters discussing support for the more inclusive version of this policy can be found in journalist and activist Michelle Landsburg’s papers located in the City of Toronto Archives.

54. Louise Brown, “First Africentric School to Open Tuesday,” Toronto Star, September 3, 2009. On November 17, 2011, the TDSB approved the development of an Africentric high school by a vote of 14–6. Although the proposed school received strong support from then TDSB Director Chris Spence, parents and students of Oakwood Collegiate came out in opposition when it was leaked that the district was considering their high school building as a site for the new program. The Africentric high school, termed the Leonard Braithwaite program, opened in September, 2012 at Winston Churchill Collegiate with just six students. Kristin Rushowy, "Africentric High School Wins Board's Blessing," Toronto Star, Nov. 17, 2011; Kate Hammer, "Toronto's Africentric High School Has Modest Start," Globe and Mail, September 20, 2012.

55. Tim Brighouse and Leisha Fullick, Education in the Global City: Essays From London (London: Institute of Education, 2007).

56. Lord Kitchner, the Calypso artist, was on the S.S. Windrush maiden voyage and became an important figure to West Indian immigrants in London in the 1950s. He moved back to Trinidad in 1962. See Sam Walker and Alvin Elcock, The Windrush Legacy: Memories of Britain’s Post-war Caribbean Immigrants (Lambeth: Black Cultural Archives, 1998).

57. “Driburg Tells the Jamaicans Britain is No Paradise,” South London Press, June 25, 1948.

58. “Colored Folk Get a Cold Welcome,” The Windrush Legacy, 12.

59. Ibid., 14–15.

60. “Haringey Education Committee Flyer,” April 12, 1969, George Padmore Institute, GB2904 BEM/3/1/1/4.

61. James Baldwin's talk at the West Indian Student Centre in 1968 was filmed by Horace Ove, a Trinidadian filmmaker who had emigrated to London to attend art school. He produced it as a low-budget independent film entitled Baldwin's Nigger (1969). The film can be accessed at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ryuAW_gnjYQ; Stokely Carmichael's visit to London in July 1967 helped launch the Black Power movement in London.

62. Ansel Wong, interview with author, Paddington Arts Center, London, England, July 30, 2011.

63. The Huntleys were involved in the development of the Marcus Garvey Supplementary School in Shepard’s Bush, and opened the Peter Moses Supplementary School in November, 1986. “Draft Report to Council on the Peter Moses School,” LMA/4463/D/10, London Metropolitan Archives.

64. George Padmore Institute, GB2904 BEM/3/1/1/4.

65. “Excursion to Great Yarmouth,” “Black Community School Invites You to a Public Lecture by CLR James,” Supplementary Schools, LMA/4463/D/10, London Metropolitan Archives.

66. Roxy Harris, interview with author, George Padmore Institute, London, England, June 15, 2009.

67. Nanny of the Maroons was an Asante woman and leader of a community of escaped slaves who outwitted the British army in Jamaica in the eighteenth century. She is a Jamaican national hero. Remi Harris, interview with author. March 5, 2012.

68. Ibid.

69. Remi Harris notes that Nanny of the Maroons also appeared as a character in their People's War Carnival Band, complete with guns hidden under her dress as part of her outfit. Remi Harris, March 5, 2012.

70. Ansel Wong, July 30, 2011.

71. Ibid.

72. “AHFIWE: Journal of the Ahfiwe School and Abeng,” Wong/2, Black Cultural Archives, Lambeth.

73. Ansel Wong, July 30, 2011. The uneasy relationship between Black youth in many London neighborhoods and the police continues today.

74. Roxy Harris, June 15, 2009. See also “Day Conference-Black Supplementary Schools,” George Padmore Institute, BPM 4/2/1/2.

75. John Benyon, Scarman and After: Essays Reflecting on Lord Scarman's Report, the Riots and Their Aftermath (Oxford: Pergamon Press, 1984).

76. Anthony Rampton, West Indian Children in Our Schools: Interim Report of the Committee of Inquiry into the Education of Children from Ethnic Minority Groups (London: HMSO, 1981). See also Sarah Olowe, Against the Tide: Black Experience in the ILEA (London: The Inner London Educational Authority, 1990).

77. Afro-Caribbean Education Resource Center, Resources for Anti-racist Education, Black Cultural Archives, Garrison/2/2/8.

78. "Minutes of the Ethnic Minorities Section of the Equal Opportunities Sub-Committee of the Inner London Education Authority," January 17, 1984; July 4, 1984; September 18, 1984; October 23, 1984; December 4, 1984; February 12, 1985; March 26, 1985; June 25, 1985; September 3, 1985; December 3, 1985; January 7, 1986; February 11, 1986, London Metropolitan Archives, ILEA/EO/09.

79. Jessie Gerrard, "Self Help and Protest," 48–49; See also Roxy Harris, June 15, 2009.

80. Gus John, interview with author, Institute of Education, London, June 17, 2009.

81. Gus John, June 17, 2009; Interview with Gerry German, June 18, 2009. Rosemary Campbell-Stephens, June 11, 2012. Britain's Secretary of State for Education Michael Gove proposed to remove Black Britons Mary Seacole and Olaudah Equiano from the national curriculum to make room for "traditional historical figures like Oliver Cromwell and Winston Churchill." Operation Black Vote sponsored a petition against this move that garnered over 30,000 signatures within days (http://www.obv.org.uk/).

82. “Anti-Racist Curriculum Implementation at Lord Dufferin Public School 1987–88”; “Black Cultural Heritage Program,” Toronto Board of Education.

83. Some longtime board employees, such as Lloyd McKell, began as staff in the Department of School Community Relations in the mid-1970s and then continued to serve as a bridge between Black activists and school trustees over the course of the next thirty years. McKell promoted the notion of a Black-focused school from inside the TDSB in his role as Executive Officer for Student and Community Equity. See Lloyd McKell, May 2, 2012.

84. Hulchanski, "The Three Cities within Toronto," 11.

85. Oscar Brathwaite, May 4, 2012.

86. Barry Troyna, "The Local Management of Schools and Racial Equality," in Ethnic Relations in Schooling: Policy and Practice for the 1990s, eds. Sally Tomlinson and Maurice Craft (London: Athlone Press, 1995), 140–154. Troyna argued that local authorities play a critical role in supporting (or hindering) antiracist policies and practices.

87. As cited by the National Association of Black Supplementary Schools. Accessed at http://www.nabss.org.uk/#/london/4529353385

88. Quoted in Mirza and Reay, “Spaces and Places of Black Educational Desire,” 536.

89. For an explanation of "diasporic sensibility," see Amoaba Gooden, “Community Organizing by African Caribbean people in Toronto Ontario,” 2008. Her definition incorporates those community organizations that served Black people regardless of place of origin.

90. Gus John, June 17, 2009.

91. TDSB Administrator, May 3, 2012.

92. For historical perspectives on African American school leaders who were also community activists see Lauri Johnson, "A Generation of Women Activists: African American Female Educators in Harlem, 1930–1950," Journal of African American History 89 (2004): 223–240; Adah L. Ward Randolph, "'It Is Better to Light a Candle than to Curse the Darkness': Ethel Thompson Overby and Democratic Schooling in Richmond, Virginia, 1910–1958," Educational Studies 48 (2012): 220–243. For a discussion of African Canadian teachers as activists see Annette Henry, "African Canadian Women Teachers’ Activism: Recreating Communities of Caring and Resistance," Journal of Negro Education 61 (1992): 392–404.

93. Cited in Anthony Bogues, “The African Diaspora Today: Flows and Motions,” Radical History Review 103(Winter 2009): 215–219.

Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 115 Number 11, 2013, p. 1-25
http://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 17206, Date Accessed: 7/5/2015 3:24:22 PM

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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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