The problems commonly associated with inner-city schools were not nearly as pervasive a century ago, when black children in most northern cities attended school alongside white children. In Schools Betrayed, her innovative history of race and urban education, Kathryn M. Neckerman tells the story of how and why these schools came to serve black children so much worse than their white counterparts.
Focusing on Chicago public schools between 1900 and 1960, Neckerman compares the circumstances of blacks and white immigrants, groups that had similarly little wealth and status yet came to gain vastly different benefits from their education. Their divergent educational outcomes, she contends, stemmed from Chicago officials’ decision to deal with rising African American migration by segregating schools and denying black students equal resources. And it deepened, she shows, because of techniques for managing academic failure that only reinforced inequality. Ultimately, these tactics eroded the legitimacy of the schools in Chicago’s black community, leaving educators unable to help their most disadvantaged students.
Schools Betrayed will be required reading for anyone who cares about urban education.