ELITE VERSUS GRASSROOTS: Disjunctures between Parents' and Civil Rights Organizations' Demands for New York City's Public Schools

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Much of the sociological and historical literature, ignoring long-standing interclass disputes over integration, takes for granted that during the 1950s, all blacks, parents, and members of civil rights organizations included, sought desegregation. This article examines the interests of different segments of New York City's black community regarding the public schools during that era. I use contemporary newspaper accounts of protests and more recent theoretical insights to analyze and interpret differences in expressed goals and demands. This article not only documents considerable educationally oriented protest in a Northern city during a decade often overlooked by scholars, but highlights important class-based differences within a single city's black community regarding changes needed. Of particular interest to social movement scholars are findings that reveal a large disjuncture between the demands of the grassroots parents' organizations and established, elite civil rights organizations. While civil rights organizations sought abstract ideals of integration, parents demanded tangible improvements in their children's schools. Class-based cultures and experiences are posited as the root of this disjuncture.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1533-8525.2008.01134.x

Affiliations: Quinnipiac University

Publication date: December 1, 2009

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