Education As My Agenda: Gertrude Williams, Race, and the Baltimore Public Schools (Palgrave Studies in Oral History Series) / Edition 1

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When Gertrude Williams retired in 1998, after forty-nine years in the Baltimore public schools, The Baltimore Sun called her "the most powerful of principals" who "tangled with two superintendents and beat them both." In this oral memoir, Williams identifies the essential elements of sound education and describes the battles she waged to secure those elements, first as teacher, then a counselor, and, for twenty-five years, as principal. She also described her own education - growing up black in largely white Germantown, Pennsylvania; studying black history and culture for the first time at Cheyney State Teachers College; and meeting the rigorous demands of the program which she graduated from in 1949. In retracing her career, Williams examines the highs and lows of urban public education since World War II. She is at once an outspoken critic and spirited advocate of the system to which she devoted her life.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"Jo Ann Robinson's oral biography, Education as My Agenda: Gertrude Williams, Race, and the Baltimore Public Schools, is an incredibly rich and compelling exploration of the gross disparities that existed in our educational system as witnessed first hand by Gertrude Williams. Ms. Williams' account is that of an extraordinary woman who worked tirelessly to ensure that all children, regardless of race, were given the tools to succeed in life. The lessons and histories that Robinson recounts are riveting and still pertinent today. It is a must read for parents, educators, and concerned citizens, not only in Baltimore and Maryland, but across the nation."--Kweisi Mfume, former U.S. Congressman and CEO of the NAACP

"Education As My Agenda is a gripping narrative thoughtfully and clearly told by Gertrude Williams, deeply contextualized by Jo Ann Robinson. Williams recounts the struggle for excellent public education in Baltimore for almost half a century, always fighting for the good of the city's children. The book is an exemplary use of oral history, in which Williams tells her story with clarity and passion and Robinson places Williams's words within the framework of American education in the second half of the twentieth century."--Rebecca Sharpless, Baylor University Institute for Oral History

"According to Gertrude S. Williams, a veteran educator, sometimes you have 'to make thunder and lightning' to shake up the bureaucracy and get resources that teachers and students need. Her oral autobiography flashes with wisdom. Williams and Jo Ann O. Robinson offer a compelling primer on the politics of school reform, community organizing, and how to create schools that bring out the best in students."--Lu Ann Jones, author of Mama Learned Us to Work: Farm Women in the New South
"This book is readable, enjoyable, and instructive, telling the story of an educator single-mindedly focused on teaching children. It shows how a principal can work with teachers, parents, and community institutions to develop an effective school in, and often despite and against, a large urban school system. Robinson and Williams speak with refreshing honesty and directness about race and schools. The book's frankness helpfully alerts us to the challenges of bureaucracy, entrenched interest, staff and student mobility, chance, passage of time, and human foibles in implementing and sustaining school reform."--Howell Baum, Professor of Urban Studies and Planning, University of Maryland at College Park, and author of Community Action and School Reform

"Ms. Williams's story rings true to the values I care most about. What every kid needs is a bunch of feisty adults to teach them with passion about everything from where to put a comma to what it means to be respectful and how to stand up for oneself and one's community."--Deborah Meier, Kindergarten teacher, Founder and principal of Central Park East and Mission Hill, and author of In Schools We Trust

"Education As My Agenda is a fascinating story about one woman's journey as teacher, counselor, and principal in the Baltimore City Public School System. This book is a must read for all those who want to know why urban school districts face so many challenges and how we should address them."--Marion Orr, Brown University, author of Black Social Capital: The Politics of School Reform in Baltimore, 1986-1998

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780312295431
  • Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan
  • Publication date: 10/14/2005
  • Series: Palgrave Studies in Oral History Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 336
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.78 (d)

Meet the Author

Jo Ann Robinson is Professor of History, Morgan State University. She is the author of Abraham Went Out: A Biography of A.J. Muste and the editor of Affirmative Action: A Documentary History

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Table of Contents

• Teacher Training at Cheyney State
• Teacher at Charles Carroll of Carrollton
• Counselor at Mordecai Gist
• Vice Principal at Barclay School
• Principal at Barclay, Part One: "Barclay is Everybody's Business"
• Principal at Barclay, Part Two: "Gertie is So Goddamned Stubborn"
• Principal at Barclay, Part Three: "We Decided to Create a Middle School
• Principal at Barclay, Part Four: "We did not Want a Poor Man's Curriculum"
• Principal at Barclay, Part Five: "The Program Was Not a Panacea"
• Retirement

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