An Educator’s Commitment: Harlem, Black Parents, and Teacher Unionism ~ Featuring Jonna Perrillo ☆

This Wednesday, February 5th, Teachers College will be hosting its fourth lecture in the Educating Harlem: Histories of Learning and Schooling in an American Community series.

“The point of this lecture series is to provide people with historical perspective,” said Ansley Erickson, director of the Educating Harlem series and Assistant Professor of History and Education at Teachers College. “It is important to make sure that we have a sense of how communities like Harlem have tried to achieve quality education for their children.”

Wednesday’s lecture, An Educator’s Commitment: Harlem, Black Parents, and Teacher Unionism, featuring Jonna Perrillo, author of Uncivil Rights: Teachers, Unions, and Race in the Battle for School Equity, will be held in Russell Hall 306 from 4-6pm and focus on the relationship between teachers, labor organizers, and the civil rights movement.

“Perrillo’s work comes at a useful time,” said Erickson. “The idea of the teachers union is being examined and she brings an important historical perspective about why teacher’s unions were formed and the various ways of organizing.”

Erickson also mentioned that without historical perspective the painted picture can be one of teachers versus children—one where the teachers often seem to be focusing on what the unions can do for them, rather than what the unions can do for students—but Perrillo’s work shows that, at many times, teachers unions really focused on creating better opportunities for students. In Perrillo’s work one can see where there is a division between teachers rights and student rights.

“We have tried to bring historical perspectives to issues that matter to the Teachers College community at large, “ said Erickson. “I think that teachers unions and social justice are good examples.”

The Educating Harlem series is partnered with the Institute for Urban and Minority Education (IUME), The Center for History and Education, and the History and Education program at Teachers College. All four lectures in the series are available by videotape on their blog: researchblogs.cul.columbia.edu/educatingharlem

Contributed by Allison Baldwin