In 1990 when the Board of School Directors of Milwaukee made the decision to designate two of its schools as African American Immersion Schools, a national debate ensued. Educators, academicians, politicians, and other onlookers attempted to interpret the meaning and implications of this action at this juncture in the social history of American education. Both supporters and opponents of the establishment of the African American Immersion Schools were vociferous in making their positions heard in local and national media ( "Milwaukee Creating 2 Schools for Black Boys," 1990; "Milwaukee School Plan Needs Support," 1990; "Motivate, Don't Isolate Black Students," 1990).
Despite the level of interest these schools engendered, what these responses most often missed was an understanding of the complex nature of urban education generally and the impact of African Americans' presence in those schools in particular. In addition, many of the respondents did not fully understand the specific factors in the city that led to the establishment of the African American Immersion Schools at this particular moment in history. This book describes and analyzes the establishment of two African American Immersion Schools and analyzes the first five years of their implementation. The purpose of the book is twofold: first, to position the schools within their specific context and, second, to link them to broader issues related to educating people of African descent effectively in urban schools. To accomplish these goals, the book combines an in-depth case study of the two African American Immersion Schools with commentary from leading educational researchers who have studied African-centered education and the education of African American children. We collected the data on which this book is based as part of a six-year, longitudinal, in-depth documentation and evaluation study of these two schools.