New Lecture Series Honors Edmund Gordon | Teachers College Columbia University

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New Lecture Series Honors Edmund Gordon

At TC's inaugural Edmund Gordon Lecture last fall, noted African- American historian Charles M. Payne sought to puncture the stereotype of "the wounded Negro."

“There’s a reduction going on,” said Payne, the Frank P. Hixon Distinguished Service Professor in the University of Chicago’s School of Social Service Administration and former Chief Education Officer for Chicago Public Schools. Even among well-intended activists for progress, “black people are reduced to their oppression.”

Payne said the “wounded-Negro” trope has been used by everyone from abolitionists mobilizing slaves to tell “horrible per sonal stories” to Depression-era communists portraying blacks as oppressed workers rather than as protagonists “developed enough” to be capable of Marxist “scientific analysis of society.” In the 1970s, he said, the stereotype was perpetuated by the claim that African- American children were handicapped by cultural factors and the purported breakdown of the black family. Today it lurks in arguments that poverty and related factors “overwhelm the capacity of schools” to deliver positive outcomes.

Payne’s lecture, which honored Edmund Gordon, Richard March Hoe Professor Emeritus of Psychology and Education, was part of the Educating Harlem project, a collaboration between the College’s Program in History and Education and the Institute for Urban and Minority Education, which Gordon founded in 1973. The Project is also supported by TC’s Center on History and Education.

To support the Edmund Gordon Lecture Fund with a gift of any amount, contact Kerry Dillon at 212-678-3980 or

Published Tuesday, Jun. 3, 2014