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Guest Talk: "An Educator’s Commitment": Harlem, Black Parents, and Teacher Unionism, 1930-2012, with Jonna Perillo


Please join us on Wednesday, February 5th for a lecture entitled, "An Educator’s Commitment": Harlem, Black Parents, and Teacher Unionism, 1930-2012, with Jonna Perrillo, author of Uncivil Rights (University of Chicago Press, 2012). Writes Dr. Perrillo, "Even in a nation with a highly regionalized history of educational equity movements, Harlem played a uniquely important role in the development of teacher unionism and the organization of minority parents. This talk will examine Harlem’s centrality to teachers’ and parents’ historical efforts to define what constitutes good teaching, fair and professional work conditions, and an educator’s commitment to her students. As we will see, the debates that developed around these questions in Harlem eighty years ago continue to influence national education policy and public education institutions today."

Jonna Perrillo is Associate Professor of English Education at the University of Texas in El Paso. She received her Ph.D. in Teaching and Learning from New York University, where she trained both in English Education and education history. Her book Uncivil Rights: Teachers, Unions, and Race in the Battle for School Equity (University of Chicago Press, 2012) examines how teacher unionists and civil rights activists collaborated and conflicted with each other in their efforts to reform public schools and improve teacher quality through the twentieth century. The book won with AERA’s New Scholar book award for 2012. In addition, her work has been published in English Education and the History of Education Quarterly and has been supported with grants and awards from the Rockefeller Foundation, the American Federation of Teachers, the University of Texas at El Paso, the University of Michigan, and the History of Education Society.

From 2005 to 2011, Jonna Perrillo directed the West Texas Writing Project a branch of the National Writing Project, where she developed teacher-led research and inservice projects for the El Paso schools. Her research and teaching focus on teachers’ professional development and teacher quality, inquiry-based teaching practices, building communities of practice, and school reform discourse and policies.

This guest talk is part of Educating Harlem: Histories of Learning and Schooling in an American Community. It is sponsored by the Teachers College Center on History and Education; Program in History and Education; Institute for Urban and Minority Education; and Gottesman Libraries.

Please rsvp with details via online support or email histanded@tc.columbia.edu by Monday, February 3rd if interested in attending.

Where: 306 Russell, with reception in 305 Russell



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Individuals with disabilities are invited to request reasonable accommodations including, but not limited to sign language interpretation, Braille or large print materials, and a campus map of accessible features. Address these requests to the Office of Access and Services for Individuals with Disabilities at (212) 678-3689, keller@tc.edu, or Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services at (212) 678-3853 V/TTY, rgf2104@tc.columbia.edu.


  • Jennifer Govan
  • 212-678-3022
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