Of the hundreds of independent African American schools that exist today, many were founded as desegregation academies between 1964 and 1984. The Black Power movement and the civil rights movement were the driving forces behind the establishment of these institutions. The initial impetus, however, was more pragmatic: When communities adamantly objected through massive resistance to desegregated schools, even closing entire school systems down, desegregation academies served as a reliable and independent source of ongoing education from a perspective that fostered African American values. This entry looks at the origins and current status of these academies.
The spirit of desegregation academies was derived from the philosophy of cultural revolt taking place in universities and colleges around curriculum issues. Black college students wanted to change the European centered curriculum; they believed that it produced students who did not serve the Black community, either because they had no desire to do so or because their White-oriented education made it impossible to communicate with African Americans. Graduates from these programs established desegregated and independent academy schools in their communities.
These schools were also an outgrowth of parents’ struggles over control of their children’s education in existing public schools. During the 1960s and 1970s parental and community protest fueled the formation of independent schools. The result was the creation of a Pan-African educational movement. The Malcolm X Liberation University in Durham, North Carolina, and the Center for Black Education in Washington, D.C., for example, defined their primary educational mission as supplying skilled technicians to the African continent. While important, both of these efforts failed to properly understand the central nature of the Black Liberation movement in the United States.
Today, the Institute for Independent Education reports that over 400 independent Black inner-city or neighborhood academies serve children of color nationwide. More than 200 of these academies are owned and operated by African Americans. These schools are located primarily in urban areas and mostly in the Northeast, with the remaining scattered across the Southwest, South, Southeast, central United States, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. They are typically directed by individuals committed to social change, leaders who aim to promote academic excellence but can work within a small budget.
One half of the schools have waiting lists. The tuition is often weighted based upon the family income. While the schools tend to be racially homogenous, no school denies access to any child based on race, creed, religion, ethnicity, or political affiliation. The student teacher ratio for all schools is 14:1, slightly higher in religious or parochial schools and slightly lower in private secular schools. Most of the students who attend live in the immediate vicinity of the school.
Many teachers are employed at these schools an average of two years or less. Most hold bachelor’s degrees, while a few hold master’s degrees and/or doctorates. Teachers’ mean salaries range from $11,273 to $23,142 per year.
- Lomotey, K. (1992). Independent Black institutions: African-centered education models. Journal of Counseling Development, 61, 454–462.
- Shujaa, J. M. (1992). Afrocentric transformation and parental choice in African American independent schools. Journal of Negro Education, 61, 149–157.
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