Thanks to Rann Miller for another fantastic guest post. 

Increased attention has been given to the need for more Black teachers in public schools. Scholars and journalists alike have offered evidence that show the importance of Black teachers; to Black students in particular. Math and reading achievement is significantly positively influenced by the race/ethnicity of their teacher; for Black students, the impacts are larger in math than in reading.[1] Black students are more likely to be identified as bright and recommended to gifted and talented classrooms when taught by a Black teacher.[2] When a Black student has a Black teacher that teacher is much, much less likely to see behavioral problems than when the same Black student has a White teacher.[3] Black students are more likely to graduate from high school and express interest in attending college if they’ve had at least one Black teacher versus Black students who have never had a Black teacher.[4] A Johns Hopkins University study found that when a White teacher and a Black teacher consider the same Black student, the white teacher is 30 percent less likely to think the student will graduate from a four-year college; White teachers are nearly 40 percent less likely to think their Black students will graduate from high school.[5]

According to the U.S. Department of Education, 16% of all public school students are Black; only 7% of teachers are Black; less than 2% are Black males.[6] When it comes to recruiting prospective Black teachers, many school leaders and human resource managers claim that there aren’t enough viable Black teacher candidates available to hire. However, there is evidence that teaching is one of the more popular professions among emerging Black professionals. Black men and women have made the occupation of primary school teacher as their number one choice.[7] District leadership will also argue they don’t know where to find Black teacher candidates. I’ve previously point towards HBCU’s as places where prospective Black teachers can be found.[8] However, there may be something to the assertion that more Black teachers cannot be found. Supporters of Black teachers in the classroom for call for more Black teachers to enter the teaching ranks. Maybe there is a shortage of Black teachers; not because Black teachers aren’t going into teaching but rather because the pool of Black teachers were sent away from the teaching profession altogether. Integration may have brought two societies together, however it very well destroyed the institution of Black education. Integration itself is not at fault, but rather the execution of it. Integration was Black America’s burden. To understand why, we need simply to revisit Brown v. Board of Education.

The Court opinion in Brown offered their interpretation of the presented question; does segregation of children in public schools solely on the basis of race, even though the physical facilities and other “tangible” factors may be equal, deprive the children of the minority group of equal educational opportunities?[9] The Court believed that it did.

To separate them from others of similar age and qualifications solely because of their race generates a feeling of inferiority as to their status in the community that may affect their hearts and minds in a way unlikely ever to be undone… Segregation of white and colored children in public schools has a detrimental effect upon the colored children. The impact is greater when it has the sanction of the law, for the policy of separating the races is usually interpreted as denoting the inferiority of the Negro group. A sense of inferiority affects the motivation of a child to learn. Segregation with the sanction of law, therefore, has a tendency to [retard] the educational and mental development of Negro children and to deprive them of some of the benefits they would receive in a racial[ly] integrated school system.”[10]

The Court’s opinion speaks of the adverse impact segregation has on Black children. Whether or not the Court believed segregation had an adverse effect on White children, the Court does not go on to say. An argument can be made for the adverse effect segregation has on White children, both past and present, but I digress. The Court however explicitly states in the above mentioned quote that splitting Black children from White children in the public school had a “detrimental effect upon the colored children.” It can be inferred that the Court believed that there was something to be gained by Black children attending school with White children. Specifically, Black children attending public school with White children would prevent segregation’s “tendency to [retard] the educational and mental development of Negro children.” The Court is saying something here without saying it. The Court is saying that the Black school is inferior to the White school; that the Black school isn’t good enough to overcome, “a sense of inferiority in the Negro group.” Notice the Court does not condemn the notion of Black inferiority; only condemning the Black school for failing to overcome an inferiority complex of White supremacy’s creation. The Court places at the feet of Black people the blame that should rightfully be attributed to the systematic racism found in the institutions of White society. Again, segregation was a beast of White supremacy’s creation. Black people had nothing to do with the events that led to the Brown case other than challenging the hypocrisy of White America. Yet the Court contradicted itself when it said earlier in its opinion that “many Negroes have achieved outstanding success in the arts and sciences, as well as in the business and professional world.[11] Those many outstanding successes were rooted in the education those many Negroes received in Black schools with Black teachers and Black administrators.

Many Black people believed that Black schools were good quality schools; that the education their children received was on par with the education White children received. According to Leola Brown, mother of Linda Brown and wife of Oliver Brown,[12] the lawsuit was a matter of principle. When she was asked about the quality of the Black school her daughter would have attended, Mrs. Brown said

Oh, it was wonderful! I tell you, it was wonderful. And had it not been for this walking, you know, to school and going so far to school, we possibly never would have, you know, done what we did… We didn’t have any bone to pick with our school as far as education was concerned nor the teachers cause they were qualified and they did what they were supposed to do.”[13]

Unfortunately, the opinion of Black people did not matter. The Brown ruling brought an end to the Black school. The integration of public schools did not mean a shifting of students and teachers or even the freedom of school choice convenience according to geography for students and families. School integration meant that Black people were to carry the weight of the “merging” of two societies; their desire to be part of one society of equal value would cost them their own society of safety, affirmation and protection. Naturally, state governments would dictate the course for integration in their states. State governments were predominately White, if not all White. The same was true with school boards. White people did not want to send their children to Black schools or have them taught by Black teachers. Therefore, for White people, the White school was the only option to house the new integration model of schooling. They were emboldened by the Brown decision. The Court said that the “segregation of white and colored children in public schools has a detrimental effect upon the colored children.” It was the Black school reasoned to be inferior, not the White school. And so, Black schools were closed. Some argue that the closing of Black schools had unintended consequences.[14] I contend that the closing of Black schools was intentional move to maintain the narrative of White dominance and repercussions be damned.

A 1965 National Education Association task force gave this rational, “in a system with no classes for Negroes, there were simply no position for Negro teachers,” as it is “widely assumed by many school board members that Negroes, both students and teachers are intellectually inferior.”[15] According to the a 1971 U.S. Senate report, the number of Black principals in nine southern states declined from 1,424 in the mid 1960’s to 225 in around 1970; in about three or four years, the number of Black principals had been reduced in these states by more than 84%.[16] Today, only 7% of teachers are Black. It is not because Black teachers aren’t good enough in the eyes of Black students.[17] It is not that Black teachers choose not to enter the profession. It is because the Court in Brown essentially said Black teachers aren’t good enough. It is not up to Black teachers to reenter the teaching profession in mass. It is up to policymakers, practitioners and reformers to acknowledge the implicit racism embedded in public school integration policy and that Black teachers weren’t welcome in the first place. School leaders shouldn’t say they don’t know where to find Black teacher. They should lobby policymakers, and policymakers should create policies to, facilitate the mass hiring of Black teachers and Black school leaders. University of Pennsylvania professor Marybeth Gasman argued that the reason why colleges don’t hire more faculty of color is because colleges do not want them.[18] Unfortunately, the national statistics show the same is true of K-12 school districts concerning Black teachers. This too is the legacy of Brown v. Board of Education. If we are serious about growing the number of Black teachers, we must grapple with this legacy.

Rann Miller directs the 21st Century Community Learning Center, a federally-funded after-school program located in southern New Jersey. He spent 6 years teaching in charter schools in Camden, New Jersey. He writes the Urban Education Mixtape Blog. Follow him on Twitter: @UrbanEdDJ. This article is excerpted from Rann’s forthcoming book, A Pedagogy for Black Liberation and the Education of Black Students. The book is scheduled for a February 2018 release.







[6] U.S. Department of Education Policy & Program Studies Service. (2016). The State of Racial Diversity in the Educator Workforce. Washington D.C.: U.S. Department of Education Office of Planning, Evaluation and Policy Development. Retrieved March 3, 2017 from & Mitchell, C. (2016). Black Male Teachers a Dwindling Demographic. Education Week. Retrieved on March 3, 2017 from

[7] According to Dr. Ivory Toldson, in a 2012 analysis of the top 10 occupations among Black and White males who have at least a bachelor’s degree, primary school teacher was the number one profession of college-educated black men (number 3 for White men and number 1 for Black women also); secondary school teacher was the fifth ranked profession of college-educated black men (number 14 for White men). – Citation: Toldson, I. A., & Snitman, A. (2010). Editor’s Comments: Education Parity and Economic Disparities: Correcting Education Attainment Discrepancies among Black People in the United States. The Journal of Negro Education, 79, 1-5.



[10] Ibid

[11] Ibid

[12] The Brown family was the leading plaintiff in Brown v. Board of Education case.


[14] This argument is made by Stuart Buck in his book, Acting White: The Ironic Legacy of Desegregation.

[15] Foster, M. (1998). Black Teachers on Teaching. New York: The New Press.

[16] Smith, J. W., & Smith, B. M. (1974). Desegregation in the South and the Demise of the Black Educator. Journal of Social and Behavioral Sciences, 33-40.



Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *