Oct 02

Education for Liberation and Freedom Schooling


School segregation, racial and gender exclusion and savage inequality are as old as the United States. As are people's efforts to challenge this. This month's roundtable focuses on Freedom Schooling: how people imagined and created education that befit a free Black people. These four scholars all give us portraits of the various strategies and visions for liberation that parents, students, and community activists have developed over the past sixty years to press for and develop equal, excellent, and emancipatory education, particularly in New York City. They show how parents and community activists took on school segregation, unequal resources, decrepit facilities, racially biased curriculum, the need for more diversity in faculty and administration, as well as the need for more community control in the administration of schools serving young people of color. Please join Professors Charles Payne, Brian Purnell, Ujju Aggarwal and Nicole Burrowes for this timely roundtable.


  • Ujju Aggarwal

    The New School for Social Research

    Ujju Aggarwal is an Assistant Professor of Anthropology and Experiential Learning in the Schools of Public Engagement and an affiliate faculty member in Global Studies and the Department of Anthropology. Her research examines questions related to public infrastructures, urban space, racial capitalism, rights, gender, and the state.

    She is currently completing her first book, The Color of Choice: Raced Rights, the Structure of Citizenship, and Inequality in Education, a historically informed ethnography of choice as it emerged in the post-Civil Rights period in the United States. Her work has appeared in popular outlets, scholarly journals, and edited volumes including Transforming Anthropology, Scholar & Feminist Online, Educational Policy, and Feminists Rethink the Neoliberal State: Inequality, Exclusion, and Change. She is co-editor of What’s race got to do with it? How current school reform policy maintains racial and economic inequality.

    In addition to her academic training, Ujju also brings a long history of working to build local and national organizations that work for educational justice, immigrants’ rights, and transformative justice as well as projects that focus on the intersection of arts and social justice, popular education, and adult literacy.

  • Nicole Burrowes

    University of Virginia and CUNY Graduate Center

    Nicole Burrowes is a fellow at the Carter G. Woodson Institute for African-American and African Studies at the University of Virginia (UVA) and a PhD candidate in history at the CUNY Graduate Center. During the summer of 2014, in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Mississippi Freedom Project, she co-taught a multimedia undergraduate course at UVA entitled “Freedom Summer” which included movement history, a service-learning component, a moving classroom and discussion on current issues facing black communities.She has a history of involvement with contemporary models of Freedom Schools: for ten years she worked with Sista II Sista Freedom School for Young Women of Color in Bushwick, Brooklyn, which she cofounded, and early in her career, she served as a field staff for the Children’s Defense Fund’s Freedom Schools initiative in Harlem. Her research interests include social and labor movements in the African Diaspora, intersectionality, Latin American and Caribbean history and the politics of solidarity. She recently co-authored an article for the Fall 2014 issue of Southern Quarterly entitled: “Freedom Summer and Its Legacies in the Classroom.”

  • Charles Payne

    University of Chicago

    Charles M. Payne is the Frank P. Hixon Professor in the School of Social Service Administration at the University of Chicago. His interests include urban education and school reform, social inequality, social change and modern African American history. His books include So Much Reform, So Little Change (Harvard Education Publishing Group, 2008) which examines the persistence of failure in urban schools, and a co-edited anthology, Teach Freedom: The African American Tradition of Education For Liberation (Teachers College Press, 2008), which is concerned with education as a tool for liberation from Reconstruction through Children’s Defense Fund Freedom Schools.

  • Brian Purnell

    Bowdoin College

    Brian Purnell is Assistant Professor of Africana Studies and History at Bowdoin College. He grew up in the Coney Island-Brighton Beach section of Brooklyn. He lived in New York City until 2010, when he moved to Brunswick, Maine. From 2004-2010, he taught at Fordham University and directed the Bronx African American History Project, a community-university partnership dedicated to finding and preserving the history of black people in the Bronx. He is the author of, Fighting Jim Crow in the County of Kings: The Congress of Racial Equality in Brooklyn, which won the Dixon Ryan Fox manuscript prize from the New York State Historical Association.

    In addition to his scholarship, Brian Purnell served as a scholarly advisor to “Fighting for Justice: New York Voices of the Civil Rights Movement,” an oral history project led by the New York City Commission on Human Rights. He received his M.A. (2004) and Ph.D. (2006) in History at New York University and his B.A. (2000) in History and African American Studies from Fordham University. His edited collection, with Jeanne Theoharis and Komozi Woodard, The Strange Careers of Jim Crow North: Segregation and Struggle Outside of the South, will be out this spring.


Primary Resources


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