The History of Institutional Racism in U.S. Public Schools is a book intended to challenge the authority of the policymakers and misanthropic funders who are wreaking havoc in public schools, closing schools in Black and Brown neighborhoods, and pushing segregated charter schools on communities that have every right to exceptional learning environments in fully funded public schools.
The book is in three parts. In Part One Susan DuFresne writes about the remarkable journey she took that resulted in the creation of the three 15 foot graphic panels that depict historically accurate pictures of racism in U.S. public schools. In Part Two the panels depicting racism and discrimination are transformed into a graphic novel in which the paintings Susan created tell the story of three hundred years of racial injustice that is still endemic today. In Part Three the information that Susan painted in the margins of the paintings is presented together with notes from Susan on suggested questions that could be asked and actions that could be taken.
At Garn Press we applaud Susan’s activism and commitment to racial justice, and we are convinced that this book is transformational and destined to be a lightning rod for justice in U.S. society. Susan, who is a teacher and activist as well as an artist of exceptional talent, writes of the three fifteen foot panels she produced:
"I felt on my brush the weight of historical injustice as I depicted the findings of my research. But I also felt the tugging of my brush to depict the fight for justice, which was also there throughout history. There have always been activists, many of them teachers, ready to fight for justice in U.S. public schools. Teachers especially have always been courageous in their resistance to racism and oppression, and I wanted to share this history to inspire others through the images I was painting to take up that truth and join the resistance movement to end institutional racism in public schools."
The paintings Susan produced are truly works of art, which have already inspired strong reactions that could quite possibly result in policy makers recognizing the negative impact they are having on the lives of students and teachers in U.S. public schools.
But make no mistake this is a book of hope as well as condemnation, which is destined to be studied by teachers and parents who want a re-Visioning of the role of public education in their children’s lives, for the emphasis is also on restorative justice and reconciliation. The graphic depictions of the history of racism and discrimination unite the struggles of resistance movements – including Black Lives Matter and the Badass Teachers Association. It is a call for the re-Imagining of public schools as places of racial justice that welcome every child – in a society that recognizes the nation has an ethical responsibility to honor the civil rights of every child and to ensure that each child has the very finest education U.S. public schools can provide.
At a time when the Southern Poverty Law Center is raising concerns about the inadequacy of teaching about slavery, both Susan and Garn hope that every teacher and school administrator who has an opportunity to read The History of Institutional Racism in U.S. Public Schools will consider using it as the foundational text in the curriculum on restorative justice and the history of racism in public schools and American society.
This book supports the activism of the Badass Teachers Association and the Network for Public Education. The author and Garn Press will donate part of net profits to Black Lives Matter and to the Lakota People’s Law Project.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This is an amazing book! Whole libraries of books have been written about institutional racism and its connection to public schools. DuFresne differs in two important ways. First, she doesn't just tell the story, she shows it. Her illustrations speak louder than most dissertations. The graphic novel type format brings the story to life in a way that is exceptionally clear and visceral. I found myself feeling both ennobled by the beauty of her work and yet disgusted by the horror of our history. Second, DuFresne makes connection here that not all historians are willing to make because she is not writing from an ivory tower. She is writing from within the classroom itself. And that makes all the difference. Her book can be enjoyed in so many ways. I suggest starting with the illustrations. Read through them. Experience the art and the pain it portrays. Feel the struggle set before you. Then go back and read the text examining it. This is a great book for schools, homes, colleges, and coffee tables. It must be seen to be believed. Do yourself a favor and buy yourself a copy today!
Institutional racism in this country is pervasive throughout society, but DuFresne focuses on how it is historically embedded in our public schools. I cannot recall another book that presents a timeline of racist practices in education, so this accessible format is a highly recommended addition to classrooms and school libraries. Because the author is a teacher of kindergarten students, her chosen graphic novel approach allows the youngest readers to share the images with adults who can answer their questions and guide them through the difficult facts. As a teacher of high school students, I can think of many uses in classes including Social Studies, English, Science, Languages, and Art. In fact, in the hands of qualified educators, this is a rare tome that can be used instructionally K-12 in all curriculum areas. DeFresne starts the discussion; it is up to us to share her book widely, recognize the problem, and work towards ending institutional racism in public schools.
This is a much-needed book, beautifully rendered. The raw truthtelling DuFresne delivers is demanded by the lies we are being told. When our president asserts that “Our ancestors tamed a continent,” it is imperative that the real history be laid bare. Beginning from the age of Columbus, DuFresne shows how the children of the indigenous and enslaved were special targets for the settlers arriving on a continent inhabited by well developed cultures, and various forms of “education” were used to eliminate those cultures and languages. Through her hand-painted illustrations, DuFresne brings scenes to life, so we see the faces of the Native American children taken from their families to be “re-educated” at boarding schools. We learn of the rationales that supported these practices. We also learn of resistance – the schools organized to serve African American children after the Civil War. We learn of the Freedom Schools of the Civil Rights Movement. But the book does not treat racism as a thing of the past. DuFresne draws a direct line between the racism of the Eugenics movement, which brought standardized testing into the mainstream a hundred years ago, and the use of such tests today to justify school closures. Her pictures convey the impact of phony reforms like No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top and the Common Core, and the billionaires promoting them. Some of the proceeds of the book will be donated to anti-racist movements. Recent research has shown that when students are taught that our social systems are “fair” to all, this has a perverse effect. Students of color reach middle school age and discover that this fairness is a myth, and in fact, racism continues to limit their opportunities. This discovery can lead to bitter disillusion, and even rebellious behavior. Those of us who have taught middle school students are familiar with this. This book offers us a chance to acknowledge and understand the reality that our students are grappling with. It should be required reading by educators and students alike, as it helps us understand the world we live in, so we can work together to change it.