Theses Doctoral

Taking Action: African American Mother Activists Working for Change in City Schools

Edstrom, Lisa Naomi

African American parents have engaged in education activism throughout United States history, in attempts to gain better access to education for their children. Activism is taking direct actions to achieve a social or political goal. For some parents, the goal is positive change in schooling, at the local, community or state or national level, making their actions educational activism. In New York City, the nation’s largest public school system, parent activism has been documented describing actions of African American parents in cases such as the Harlem school boycott of 1958 and the struggle for control over the Ocean Hill-Brownsville schools in1967. The purpose of this dissertation is to add to a growing body of literature on education activism, moving beyond describing the actions by focusing on the experiences of the activists.
Using Black feminist thought as a theoretical framework, this study employs a storytelling methodology to understand the lived experiences of seven African American mothers who engage in educational activism in New York City today. Black feminist thought provides a framework to understand the situated experiences of the mothers as they navigate oppression while seeking structural change in education. It also provides a means for understanding how the activities of these mothers are in fact activism, as their roles as “othermothers” are explored. The methodology, which employed conversational interviews and a focus group, was designed to center the mothers’ stories in the research, using their own words to make sense of what it means to be a Black woman, mother, education activist.
The findings of this research present a picture of what activism is for these mothers and where it happens – at the local, state and national levels: highlighting how it happens both within and outside of existing structures for parent involvement. Another finding highlights the importance of having allies for activism. This research has implications for how teachers and others work with parents, suggesting strong collaborations with parent activists as a way to create positive change in schools.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Curriculum and Teaching
Thesis Advisors
Mensah, Felicia
Ed.D., Teachers College, Columbia University
Published Here
June 10, 2018