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The Lost Education of Horace Tate: Uncovering the Hidden Heroes Who Fought for Justice in Schools

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The harrowing account of the black Southern educators who “bravely pressed on for justice in schools” (The New York Review of Books) even as the bright lodestar of desegregation faded This “well-told and inspiring” story (Publishers Weekly, starred review) is the monumental product of Lillian Smith Book Award–winning author Vanessa Siddle Walker’s two-decade investigation i The harrowing account of the black Southern educators who “bravely pressed on for justice in schools” (The New York Review of Books) even as the bright lodestar of desegregation faded This “well-told and inspiring” story (Publishers Weekly, starred review) is the monumental product of Lillian Smith Book Award–winning author Vanessa Siddle Walker’s two-decade investigation into the clandestine travels and meetings—with other educators, Dr. King, Georgia politicians, and even U.S. presidents—of one Dr. Horace Tate, a former Georgia school teacher, principal, and state senator. In a sweeping work “that reads like a companion piece to ‘Hidden Figures,’” (Atlanta Journal-Constitution), post-Brown generations will encounter invaluable lessons for today from the educators behind countless historical battles—in courtrooms, schools, and communities—for the quality education of black children. For two years, an aging Tate told Siddle Walker fascinating stories about a lifetime advocating for racial justice in schools. On his deathbed, he asked her return to his office in Atlanta, where upon his passing she discovered an attic filled with a massive archive documenting the underground actors and covert strategies behind the most significant era of the fight for educational justice. Until now, the courageous tale of how black Americans in the South won so much and subsequently fell so far has been incomplete. The Lost Education of Horace Tate is “a powerful reminder of the link between educators and the struggle for equality and justice in American history” (The Wall Street Journal).


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The harrowing account of the black Southern educators who “bravely pressed on for justice in schools” (The New York Review of Books) even as the bright lodestar of desegregation faded This “well-told and inspiring” story (Publishers Weekly, starred review) is the monumental product of Lillian Smith Book Award–winning author Vanessa Siddle Walker’s two-decade investigation i The harrowing account of the black Southern educators who “bravely pressed on for justice in schools” (The New York Review of Books) even as the bright lodestar of desegregation faded This “well-told and inspiring” story (Publishers Weekly, starred review) is the monumental product of Lillian Smith Book Award–winning author Vanessa Siddle Walker’s two-decade investigation into the clandestine travels and meetings—with other educators, Dr. King, Georgia politicians, and even U.S. presidents—of one Dr. Horace Tate, a former Georgia school teacher, principal, and state senator. In a sweeping work “that reads like a companion piece to ‘Hidden Figures,’” (Atlanta Journal-Constitution), post-Brown generations will encounter invaluable lessons for today from the educators behind countless historical battles—in courtrooms, schools, and communities—for the quality education of black children. For two years, an aging Tate told Siddle Walker fascinating stories about a lifetime advocating for racial justice in schools. On his deathbed, he asked her return to his office in Atlanta, where upon his passing she discovered an attic filled with a massive archive documenting the underground actors and covert strategies behind the most significant era of the fight for educational justice. Until now, the courageous tale of how black Americans in the South won so much and subsequently fell so far has been incomplete. The Lost Education of Horace Tate is “a powerful reminder of the link between educators and the struggle for equality and justice in American history” (The Wall Street Journal).

30 review for The Lost Education of Horace Tate: Uncovering the Hidden Heroes Who Fought for Justice in Schools

  1. 4 out of 5

    Miriam Axel-lute

    If you are interested in racial justice in education, or want to understand why racism wasn't 'fixed' by integration, I strongly recommend this book. Full disclosure: It's a long slog. Not because it's badly written--it's not. But it is long and full of So. Much. Detail. The author is a scholar, and the detail is in many ways crucial for building up her point, as you feel the weight of the betrayal by the end differently. But I also think it could really use a shorter more accessible version, bec If you are interested in racial justice in education, or want to understand why racism wasn't 'fixed' by integration, I strongly recommend this book. Full disclosure: It's a long slog. Not because it's badly written--it's not. But it is long and full of So. Much. Detail. The author is a scholar, and the detail is in many ways crucial for building up her point, as you feel the weight of the betrayal by the end differently. But I also think it could really use a shorter more accessible version, because the story line is so important and so different from the official story. The book takes us through the activities of the Black teacher's association in Georgia, starting with an in-depth look at how it and its members quietly, powerfully, and behind-the-scenes (like clandestine midnight drives by principals to pick up lawyers they couldn't been see with and keep their jobs behind-the-scenes) fought for better conditions and equal resources for segregated schools and taught the children in them to be full participants in a democracy. It shows how despite the discrimination against them, those schools were lacking in resources but not in teaching skills or outcomes. And then it walks us through the pitched, and ultimately unsuccessful, battle for a real, equal integration, instead of a second class integration that involved the firing or demotion of black educators and leaders, abandonment of black schools, and worse, as well as a merger with the larger white teacher's association that wasn't as committed to fighting for Black students. It wasn't surprising exactly (though in this age of 'don't call me a racist!' the blatantness is still weird), but it does give the reader a much more visceral and moving sense of how we ended up where we are despite nominal victories at the Supreme Court level.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Nathan

    Black educators supported and wanted integration. They imagined an additive model, in which black children would have more than what they already had. They had school climates that taught black students to aspire. They took the negative messages from the larger society, reconstructed them, and made children believe they could be anything they wanted to be. They had black educators working through their powerful organizational networks across the South, advocating on black children’s behalf. What Black educators supported and wanted integration. They imagined an additive model, in which black children would have more than what they already had. They had school climates that taught black students to aspire. They took the negative messages from the larger society, reconstructed them, and made children believe they could be anything they wanted to be. They had black educators working through their powerful organizational networks across the South, advocating on black children’s behalf. What they wanted was access—to newer school buildings and textbooks, bus transportation, science equipment, and playgrounds. They wanted for black children what many white people already had for their children. It was their expectation that integration would retain the aspiration and advocacy, and they would gain access. Instead, with integration, they closed most of the black schools and fired many of the black teachers—there goes the aspiring school climates. There was a push following the Brown case to merge black and white teacher organizations in the South, to be on board with integration also. But white educational organizations never advocated for what black children needed. Many of the members of the white organizations were the very superintendents and principals who were oppressing black children. You put the two together—the capacity to advocate is lost. Ultimately, all we got was compromised access. White southerners pulled their children out of public schools, so the access was never what the black educators envisioned integration—that additive model—would look like. But the momentum to desegregate in the late 1960s and early ‘70s—the good feelings that followed Brown v. Board—was too much of a distraction for mainstream supporters of integration. Nobody could hear black educators’ objections in real time. Fast-forward to today, and think about the massive data on black children’s educational outcomes. Schools with climates that encourage black students to aspire are relatively rare. The advocacy structures—very tightly networked organizations that had been around since the turn of the century—are gone. And the access that we once had, as scholars have identified, is going backwards. So the question is: Where are we today? Excellent and detailed account of African American educators fight for equitable education for black children and how that pursuit was distorted in the implementation of “integration.” Dr. Tate is heroic, as were all of those unnamed black teachers who quietly participated in this struggle.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Larkin Tackett

    This is a deep ethnographic historical analysis of the long fight for educational equality by the Black Georgia Teachers & Educators Association (GT&EA) from the turn of the 20th century to the 197os. I thought I was going to read about how integration harmed the education of Black students. The author writes, "Dismantling all the organizational structures and pedagogical precepts of black educators seemed to be the price for the Supreme Court decision intended to eradicate inequality, and it wa This is a deep ethnographic historical analysis of the long fight for educational equality by the Black Georgia Teachers & Educators Association (GT&EA) from the turn of the 20th century to the 197os. I thought I was going to read about how integration harmed the education of Black students. The author writes, "Dismantling all the organizational structures and pedagogical precepts of black educators seemed to be the price for the Supreme Court decision intended to eradicate inequality, and it was wrong." But that part of the book was limited (and perhaps the focus of another of the author's books, Their Highest Potential), and most focused on the clandestine and powerful role of the GT&EA in the NAACP's legal battles and the long and challenging road towards the integration of the Black GT&EA with the White Georgia Education Association (GEA). Between the pages and pages of political history of the GT&EA to fight for the rights of Black students and educators, are statements that give insight into the power of teachers who reflect the identify of their students. The author quotes a previous GT&EA president, who said during an education conference, "Each student had to be confident that the teachers were giving him the 'true facts of life and . . . making him feel that nothing is impossible for him.' Teachers needed to understand their influence in the community, be intentional about ways to cooperate with parents, and do anything that would help Negro people in general have a better quality of living. If they loved the children, the children would love them back, he told them. Teachers were to be 'deeply concerned; about the children, to consider being entrusted with the children a 'great responsibility' they could not afford to dismiss." Among the biggest lessons of this book, in addition to the lots of horrific examples of racism and oppression of Black students and teachers by White administrators, is the role the Black school staff played in advancing the policy agenda. "Black educators had the dual responsibility of advocating for justice amid persistent inequalities," writes the author, "while simultaneously helping eager minds who needed opportunities for expression, originality, and recreation—who needed to aspire to know their individual dignity and human worth."

  4. 4 out of 5

    Debmeinke

    The story of black educators in the 20th century south told through the lens of Dr. Horace Tate was a difficult read. This book is a combination of narrative storytelling, and a meticulously documented account of how black educators taught their children under extreme deprivation, forming networks of parents, teachers, and administrators to fight for their children's education. Then in the post-Brown era of school desegregation, conditions only improved somewhat as black teachers and principals The story of black educators in the 20th century south told through the lens of Dr. Horace Tate was a difficult read. This book is a combination of narrative storytelling, and a meticulously documented account of how black educators taught their children under extreme deprivation, forming networks of parents, teachers, and administrators to fight for their children's education. Then in the post-Brown era of school desegregation, conditions only improved somewhat as black teachers and principals needed to use a combination of tricks and lawsuits (threatened or actual) to elicit a meager flow of resources. I was constantly pricked by the shame of my ignorance regarding this period of history when I was a student in the American public education system, benefiting from the privilege of well-resourced white suburban schools. I recall only 2 black students in my high school and none in prior years. I failed to realize that black schools were the victims of second class integration in which black students remained (whites had fled to private academies) and black teachers and principals were replaced by whites, ostensibly because the black teachers were inferior. Nothing could be farther from the truth. It was black educators with the clear-eyed understanding of racism and the needs of their children who were stripped of any power to advocate for them. Now 70 years after Brown v. Board, the same siphoning off of resources cheats black students and teachers. How dare any aspiring white school board members and parents deny that racism is still deeply at work in schools that blame black parents for failure and expect less of their black and brown students! Justice has not yet been served, nor true integration even attempted in most schools. The 1619 Project is sorely needed to teach the full history of slavery and its fallout over the centuries.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Lynn Dixon

    The Lost Education of Horace Tate was a gem waiting to be unearthed for me. I like to have something sizeable and of substance to read during the Holidays and Divine Providence answered that request. Quite by happenstance, Dr. Vanessa Siddle Walker’s comprehensive study of black education fell into my lap. As a pupil of Southern segregation, a current educator and one who briefly chatted with Senator Tate, this book is monumental on so many levels. Enough cannot be said of this scholar’s ability The Lost Education of Horace Tate was a gem waiting to be unearthed for me. I like to have something sizeable and of substance to read during the Holidays and Divine Providence answered that request. Quite by happenstance, Dr. Vanessa Siddle Walker’s comprehensive study of black education fell into my lap. As a pupil of Southern segregation, a current educator and one who briefly chatted with Senator Tate, this book is monumental on so many levels. Enough cannot be said of this scholar’s ability to take documents, interviews and pictures and put them in a creative, artful narrative. I held onto every word. I am certain that Dr. Tate is smiling down on her success in putting it all together. What an engaging storyteller!

  6. 5 out of 5

    Christian A Moulton

    This is just fantastic! If you've heard of Brown v Board of Education, but couldn't tell me much more about what was going on, then you really need to read this. The clandestine, life-endangering work of folks like Horace Tate is practically unknown even in African-American communities. Men like Tate put their lives on the line week after week, constantly putting pressure on Georgia whites to just provide to African Americans something closer to what the whites kids had always been getting. Oh, This is just fantastic! If you've heard of Brown v Board of Education, but couldn't tell me much more about what was going on, then you really need to read this. The clandestine, life-endangering work of folks like Horace Tate is practically unknown even in African-American communities. Men like Tate put their lives on the line week after week, constantly putting pressure on Georgia whites to just provide to African Americans something closer to what the whites kids had always been getting. Oh, and they had to take care of the teachers, too.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Emily VA

    This book blew my mind. While it sometimes dragged a bit through replicating lots of formal, mid-20th century, flowery prose, it’s core story is basically a true story of amazingly courageous, persistent heroes. All teachers are heroes. The black educators of the segregated south who quietly collected data and organized citizens committees while also fighting for the souls and hope of their students... they took it to another level. And this is their amazing story.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Julia

    This is a meticulously researched book that tells a very important history of segregation and integration in Georgia. Two thirds of the way through, it became a bit of a slog, however. I think some of the minute details (e.g. start and end times of conference registrations) could have edited to make the book more readable for a lay audience.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Summer

    This book taught me a lot about a side of integration that is kept in shadow, out of the sun of the popular narrative about segregation. My only complaint is the book purports to be about Dr. Tate but is really about the GTE&A. Which is fine but since it was supposed to be about Dr. Tate I found myself wanting more info on his personal life or what he did after the final scene in the book.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Grace

    DNF in March

  11. 5 out of 5

    Darren Beck

    Powerful. Deeply moving. Took time to digest because of the depth of this work and how intensely personal the story of complete strangers can often be.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Salamah

    Excellent book about Black educators who went above and beyond to ensure Black children received an education.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Nate Madden

    Probably one of the most important books I've ever read, especially as a teacher in pursuit of justice. Indispensable history. Probably one of the most important books I've ever read, especially as a teacher in pursuit of justice. Indispensable history.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Kyrstin

    The untold history of Black education in Georgia and the United States...devastating and enlightening at the same time.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Brent

    Great book: I'm martialing my thoughts for a revised review asap. Great book: I'm martialing my thoughts for a revised review asap.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Amanda

  17. 5 out of 5

    Theblackrock

  18. 5 out of 5

    grace walford

  19. 4 out of 5

    Marivic Macabuhay

  20. 4 out of 5

    Melissa Cheresnick

  21. 4 out of 5

    Carol Kearns

  22. 4 out of 5

    wendy lecker

  23. 4 out of 5

    Jigar Contractor

  24. 4 out of 5

    Terry

  25. 4 out of 5

    Marithza Ibarra

  26. 5 out of 5

    Will Hornbeck

  27. 5 out of 5

    Kaitlyn

  28. 5 out of 5

    Natasha

  29. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer

  30. 4 out of 5

    Cat

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