Historical, Social, and Cultural Contexts of the African American Immersion Schools
The African American Immersion Schools were established within an atmosphere of crisis. This crisis was based both on the general belief that education in the United States was in need of major reform and on the overwhelming evidence that existing school models and programs had failed miserably to educate African American children, particularly those in poor urban communities. The two African American Immersion Schools in Milwaukee, although viewed by some as controversial, were greeted by others with considerable hope and optimism. Educators, parents, and others who were supporters of these schools viewed them as educational innovations that might finally succeed where other school models had failed to educate African American children successfully.
The concept that the history and culture of African Americans could form the basis of an educational program is not new, particularly for African Americans in the United States. It is important, however, to understand the historical and contemporary contexts from which these schools emerged as well as the reasons underlying the establishment of the African-centered educational models in Milwaukee.
This chapter discusses the historical and contemporary contexts within which the African American Immersion Schools in Milwaukee were implemented. In this chapter, the following questions are addressed: (1) What were the precursors to Milwaukee's African American Immersion Schools? (2) What were the conditions in urban black America that led to or were associated with an increased interest in African-centered education on a national level? (3) What were the specific conditions or characteristics in Milwaukee that led this public school district to be one of the first to initiate an African-centered educational model? The answers to these questions will provide a perspective on the national and local contexts within which these schools emerged.