Loyola Magazine

Faculty Author Addresses Race Issues in Education

Not Paved for Us: Challenging school systems for an antiracist future
Camika Royal portrait photo
Photo credits: Maria Linz O'Brien, '05

In her new book, Not Paved for Us: Black Educators and Public School Reform in Philadelphia, Camika Royal, Ph.D., associate professor of urban education at Loyola, captures the experiences of Black educators in the School District of Philadelphia. She also identifies and challenges racism in the history of education and educational reforms over a 50-year period.

What made you want to complete this research and write this book?

This book began in the first year of my doctoral studies while I was taking the course Origins of Urban Education at Temple University. My professor, Bill Cutler, Ph.D., had us reading about school desegregation issues in Philadelphia in the 1960s. He assigned us to conduct original research regarding urban school history.

As a native Philadelphian raised in a Black church with numerous elders who were also educators in Philadelphia, I knew some of them had dealt with school desegregation issues. So, this book began with an oral history of three Black educators in Philadelphia who experienced the voluntary transfer program for teachers in the School District of Philadelphia in 1964.

My interviews with them led to more questions about the shifting political landscape, locally and nationally, over time. This research then became the focus of my dissertation. I knew the stories and perspectives were so important and needed to be told more broadly, so I continued to deepen and widen my data sources and the years I examined to add complexity for the book.

What do you hope readers will take away from Not Paved for Us?

What readers take away will be largely influenced by their entry points to this text. Teachers will likely have different takeaways from school leaders, who may perceive this differently from community members and activists, who may have different takeaways from policymakers, who will likely understand different marching orders from this book than students.

Even though it’s about Black educators and the politics of school reform in Philadelphia, I hope a wide array of people decide to read it to see how useful it can be in their sphere of influence. No matter one’s racial identity or relationship to public schooling, creating policies and practices that center marginalized students and communities to retain and increase the presence of Black educators is essential if school systems aim to be anti-racist and anti-oppressive.

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