1st Edition

James Baldwin and the American Schoolhouse

By Carl A. Grant Copyright 2021
    214 Pages
    by Routledge

    214 Pages
    by Routledge

    This book – written for teacher educators, teachers and admirers of James Baldwin –employs his essays and speeches to discuss how the effects of race and racism enter the souls of African American students and become attached and difficult to dislodge. Yet, his essays also provide educators and students with purpose, meaning and suggestions for how to stand up against racism, develop an authentic self and fight oppression. Whereas this book takes advantage of the full body of Baldwin’s work – fiction, nonfiction, interviews, lectures, speeches and letters – its foundation is three speeches James Baldwin gave in the 1960s on the education of African American children and African American and European American race relations in the United States. The purpose of education, defying myths, freedom, willful ignorance and developing identity are discussed through a Baldwinian lens. African American and European American teachers are encouraged to "Go for Broke" as this book explores the important role Baldwin’s work can play in schools and universities.

    Author’s Note: Exercising a New Voice?;  Preface;   One: Welcome to America Schoolhouse, James Arthur Baldwin ;  Two: The Teacher within Him, James Arthur Baldwin;  Three: Baldwin and Education: Purpose, Freedom, Defying Myth Making, Truth & Innocence;  Four: "Go for Broke";  Five: Students be You: Developing Identity, Defying Place, Taking Role;  Acknowledgements


    Carl A. Grant is Hoefs-Bascom Professor in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction and former Chair of the Afro American Studies Department at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

    In James Baldwin and the American Schoolhouse, Carl Grant writes with fervor and conviction of an urgent need for teachers to be exposed to the writings of James Baldwin. Grant eloquently contends that Baldwin's work can influence educators to transform schooling, particularly in this moment of racial awakening. The analyses in James Baldwin and the American Schoolhouse make a convincing case for how all teachers can show that Black Lives Matter.

    -Brian D. Schultz, Professor and Chair of Teacher Education at Miami University and author of Spectacular Things Happen Along the Way: Lessons from an Urban Classroom


    Professor Grant’s book, in which he develops a soliloquy story of James Baldwin’s self- identity discovery, thoughtful analytical writings, and passionate speeches, which dissected systemic racism is a must read for all teachers and teacher educators. Professor Grant has revealed through his thorough and intriguing research of Baldwin’s extensive papers and other artefacts that "knowledge is socially distributed, that what you know is what you have been allowed to know." What Professor Grant uncovers in his book for the reader is an enormous amount of written thoughts and ideas shared by Baldwin as he connected with teachers and students. Most significantly, unfortunately his ideas for combatting systemic racism in our schools, especially schools serving "Negro Students" have not received the distribution they deserved. Professor Grant’s extensive research, and collection of references and resources incorporated into this book demonstrates a superior scholarly resource for all of us engaged in combatting racism in the United States of America.

    My deep appreciation to Professor Grant for providing a book with such enlightening knowledge of Mr. James Baldwin.

    H. Prentice Baptiste, Regents Professor, Multicultural and Science Education Founder, President, National Association for Multicultural Education and Co-Editor of Visioning Multicultural Education


    James Baldwin and the American Schoolhouse demonstrates how Baldwin’s lessons are simultaneously timely and timeless – why we need Baldwin just as much in 2020 as we did in 1963 – why we need Baldwin just as much in the field of education as we do in Black Studies. With extreme care and consideration, Grant explores Baldwin’s writings and speeches, meticulously delineating Baldwin’s messages to teachers and students alike. Baldwin believed that teachers must recognize the ways white supremacy and anti-blackness necessitate the miseducation of Black students, and "go for broke" in their relentless charge to help students refuse and resist. While Grant effectively interrogates the myriad ways Baldwin calls attention to students’ racialized oppression, this book is even more powerful in its articulation of Baldwin’s desire for education to empower and inspire a revolution – the way his message is crafted through a lens of "hope and love." Despite Baldwin not considering himself a teacher, Grant’s latest must read work illuminates why Baldwin is one of the best educators of past and present, why his words are an absolute necessity in schools of education across the country, and why anyone who desires to be an effective teacher of Black students must first be a student of Baldwin.

    Kihana miraya ross, Assistant Professor, African American Studies, Northwestern University

    A compelling story, deeply researched, and richly textured that is simultaneously challenging and inviting to know more about this man, James Baldwin, and to join him in his advocacies and journeys toward the full liberation and humanization of African Americans. Grant often writes about Baldwin in the first person, and in the moment of occurrence such that the reader feels like being THERE when the events happen, yet still in the here and now. Analyses of concerns, explanations, and suggested resolutions of raced-based problems in the U. S. "travel" seamlessly between when Baldwin lived and the present, while maintaining a resolute level of relevance. Both the artist (Baldwin) and the analyst (Grant) are masterful teachers in promoting the humanity, dignity, resilience, and competence of African Americans in the face of persistent and pervasive racism. A must read for gaining historical, personal, and collective perspectives on the necessity of reality-based anti-racist and culturally relevant education for African Americans in schools and society at large.

    Geneva Gay, Professor Emeritus, College of Education, University of Washington, Seattle


    What we learn about the inimitable James Baldwin’s incomparable genius, his humanity and fearlessness through this illumination of his incisive social analysis, and what we learn also about Carl Grant’s painstaking contributions to Black intellectual thought are nothing less than a "balm in Gilead" for our wounded souls. James Baldwin and the American Schoolhouse is the book that every educator needs to read and take to heart.


    Joyce E. King, Georgia State University

    In the Fall of 2020, I taught a newly developed graduate-level course focused on Black intellectual thought in education. The course was motivated by a text of the same name that was written by Carl Grant and his colleagues, Keffrelyn Brown and Anthony Brown. That course, the first of its kind for me and all of the students–proved to be to be transformative for all of us. Not only did it help us discover the thoughts and ideas of powerful Black thinkers and activists, and consider those thoughts and ideas in historical and contemporary context, it helped us to cope with the societal fires that were burning at that time–COVID-19 and intensified anti-Black racism. In this new text: James Baldwin and The American School House, Carl Grant continues digging into the reservoirs of Black intellectual thought to re-surface and re-articulate James Baldwin as teacher, teacher educator, and critical race theorist of education. Drawing on the speeches and commentaries of Baldwin, Grant skillfully demonstrates how Baldwin was, and remains, an important source to help educators and policy makers understand some of the most persistent and pressing issues in the field, especially in relation to Black learners. Professor Grant presents Baldwin without equivocation, and tells hard truths that need to heard, especially by white educators. This text will be a valuable companion for all educators when we face the fires next time.


    Danny Bernard Martin, University of Illinois at Chicago