Black Power, Black Schools, Black Freedom: Pedagogy as an Adaptable Tool for Resistance in Black Power-Era Independent Schools

Abigail Mariam, Harvard University

In the wake of the American civil rights movement of the 1950’s and 1960’s, Black Power activists articulated an agenda of change that staunchly insisted on Black independent institutions. Worn and wary of unfulfilled promises of change through institutional channels, in the 1970’s several Black Power activists took to developing community organizations to meet the needs of Black people, including community schools. This paper explores the pedagogical approaches of two schools, the Oakland Community School (OCS) founded by the Black Panther Party and the New Concept Development Center (NCDC) founded by the Institute for Positive Education in Chicago, and highlights how each school reflects a different philosophy on how Black communities can secure lasting economic, political, and cultural gains for themselves. Drawing on data from archival material and interviews with former school affiliates, this paper asserts that each school adopted a pedagogy that reflected the philosophies of resistance practiced by its founders, teachers, and staff. Specifically, those pedagogies focused on developing student identities by rooting them in different approaches to Black resistance in the face of discrimination and oppression. The OCS embraced a pedagogical approach in which one’s identity derived from one’s participation in anti-imperialist struggles contra the American capitalist state. Alternatively, the NCDC’s pedagogy drew from one’s identity being rooted in African heritage and oriented toward building Black nationhood. This paper expands the social movement literature on strategy development and education as a forum for movement work by offering insight into the underlying motivations and mechanisms by which activists’ strategies were enacted through schools. This paper also considers how schools and educational programs today can incorporate strategies of resistance into their pedagogical approaches.

No extended abstract or paper available

 Presented in Session 98. Colonization, Race and Education