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From a Child at Risk to a Mover of Fences: Ulysses Byas

So who is Ulysses Byas?

According to Emory University Professor Vanessa Siddle Walker, who wrote an entire book about the man, he is “an extraordinary, amazing educator who demonstrated the values that enabled people to be resilient in a system that dehumanized them.”

According to Edmund Gordon, TC’s Richard March Hoe Professor Emeritus of Psychology and Education, he was a man as “concerned with the cultivation of education as a means of increasing capacity for to think” as he was with simply bettering the access of black children to school – and thus a champion of the agency of blacks living under the most adverse conditions.

Certainly Byas, a TC grad who, as principal of an all-black school in George in the early 1950s fought for better resources for his students (and subsequently enabled others across the region to do the same), was an amazingly resilient person who was himself the product of a proud and self-reliant black culture. As described by Walker, he grew up in poverty in Macon, Georgia, in a family of six children raised by a single mother. He dropped out of high school twice, only completing it when teachers nurtured his interest in carpentry, and only attending college, at least initially, as a means of remaining on the GI bill. He was, in short, the kind of kid who would be thought of as “at risk” today, but who made it by means of a combination of his own determination and the support of his community.

“He didn’t discover he was ‘disadvantaged’ until he came to Teachers College,” said Walker, drawing a laugh from the more than 50 TC alumni, faculty, students and others who attended a special afternoon panel on Byas at TC’s Academic Festival.

Walker showed a the audience a pretaped interview with Byas in which he talks about “moving fences” for children unfairly blamed for the disadvantages society has imposed on them. To view the video, click here.


Published Thursday, Apr. 29, 2010

From a Child at Risk to a Mover of Fences: Ulysses Byas

So who is Ulysses Byas?

According to Emory University Professor Vanessa Siddle Walker, who wrote an entire book about the man, he is “an extraordinary, amazing educator who demonstrated the values that enabled people to be resilient in a system that dehumanized them.”

According to Edmund Gordon, TC’s Richard March Hoe Professor Emeritus of Psychology and Education, he was a man as “concerned with the cultivation of education as a means of increasing capacity for to think” as he was with simply bettering the access of black children to school – and thus a champion of the agency of blacks living under the most adverse conditions.

Certainly Byas, a TC grad who, as principal of an all-black school in George in the early 1950s fought for better resources for his students (and subsequently enabled others across the region to do the same), was an amazingly resilient person who was himself the product of a proud and self-reliant black culture. As described by Walker, he grew up in poverty in Macon, Georgia, in a family of six children raised by a single mother. He dropped out of high school twice, only completing it when teachers nurtured his interest in carpentry, and only attending college, at least initially, as a means of remaining on the GI bill. He was, in short, the kind of kid who would be thought of as “at risk” today, but who made it by means of a combination of his own determination and the support of his community.

“He didn’t discover he was ‘disadvantaged’ until he came to Teachers College,” said Walker, drawing a laugh from the more than 50 TC alumni, faculty, students and others who attended a special afternoon panel on Byas at TC’s Academic Festival.

Walker showed a the audience a pretaped interview with Byas in which he talks about “moving fences” for children unfairly blamed for the disadvantages society has imposed on them. To view the video, click here.


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