Knocking at Our Own Door: Milton A. Galamison and the Struggle to Integrate New York City Schools

Knocking at Our Own Door: Milton A. Galamison and the Struggle to Integrate New York City Schools

Knocking at Our Own Door: Milton A. Galamison and the Struggle to Integrate New York City Schools

Knocking at Our Own Door: Milton A. Galamison and the Struggle to Integrate New York City Schools

Synopsis

The struggle for school integration in New York City, home to the nation's largest public school system, was one of the most wrenching episodes in the story of America's civil rights movement. Following a disastrous struggle in 1964 between a new community school board in Brooklyn and the largely white teachers' union, close to half a million children boycotted school to protest the lack of a firm policy on integration. What caused one of America's most promising civil-rights coalitions to implode on the eve of change?

Clarence Taylor confronts this troubled history, focusing on the city's preeminent integrationist figure, the Presbyterian pastor Milton Galamison. In Knocking at Our Own Door, Taylor presents a detailed account of this controversial but little-studied figure, whose militant approach to the struggle deeply divided the city, winning support in some circles and bitter criticism from others -- not only from anti-civil rights forces, but also from some of the more moderate factions of his own movement. Taylor shows how Galamison became a prominent activist through his Parents' Workshop for Equality, seeking to eliminate the barriers that burdened minority children in New York.

The book explores Galamison's early years and the political and social context of his radical thinking on desegregation and community control of schools. Taylor chronicles Galamison's emergence as a radical pastor, and the grassroots coalition of parents, teachers, ministers, civil rights activists, and community organizations he helped build. Disentangling the complex issues of race and class, local power and centralized politics, and the collapse of Jewish-Black relations sparked by allegations ofBlack anti-Semitism, Knocking at Our Own Door is a searching exploration of why New York's integrationist campaign disintegrated.

One of the few in-depth studies of the politics of urban integration, Knocking at Our Own D

Excerpt

Milton Arthur Galamison died in March 1988 of pancreatic cancer. The day of his funeral, Siloam Presbyterian Church was packed with loyal parishioners, family members, friends, and the curious. The Reverend Thomas Logan, former pastor of Saint Michael's and All Angels Episcopal Church, the church Galamison attended as a boy, sat among the mourners. Betty Shabazz, the widow of Malcolm X, was also there. She must have recalled the days when her husband was an outcast with few friends and how Galamison befriended the outspoken black nationalist leader. There were participants in the early school boycotts, such as Jetu Weusi (formerly known as Les Campbell). By the late 1960s, Weusi had become an advocate for community control of public schools in the black communities of New York and a critic of Galamison's integrationist approach.

There were also the less famous sitting in the church, people who had heard about the civil rights leader who had led the famous boycotts of 1964 and was a champion for racial and economic justice. A young woman assert-

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