Jonathan Kozol Social Justice Champion

“Jonathan’s struggle is noble.  What he says must be heard.  His outcry must shake our nation out of its guilty indifference.” –Elie Wiesel 

An article  on the “Community Village” website informs us that Jonathan Kozol will be taking part in the panel discussion “Vision for America: A Future Without Poverty” on Thursday, January 17 at George Washington University in DC.  I know this will be an event worth seeing.

Jonathan Kozol is an outspoken critic of the separate and grossly unequal education poor children are receiving throughout this country.  His books and lectures expose the “tremendous assault upon inner-city kids and their teachers” and bring attention to the federal courts and how they’ve been dismantling Brown vs Board of Education since the 1980s and thereby allowing “apartheid” to exist in classrooms.

Kozol is a white man who grew up as a child of privilege in Newton, Massachusetts, just outside of Boston.  He graduated from Harvard University in 1958 where he majored in English Literature and then went off to Oxford after receiving a prestigious Rhodes scholarship. While attending school in Oxford, England he spent time in Paris, France learning how to write fiction and non-fiction from Richard Wright, Williams Styron and other writers.

In 1964 the KKK murdered civil rights activists James Chaney (a Black man), Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner (both white) outside of Philadelphia, Mississippi.  In response to this tragedy Jonathan visited a church in the Black community and asked the Black pastor if he could be of use.  Kozol wound up serving as the reading teacher at the church’s Freedom School.  He enjoyed the kids so much that when they returned to public school in September he tried to get a teaching job at their school so that he could remain in their lives. Initially he was a substitute teacher because he was not certified to teach, but later he became a 4th grade teacher in the segregated Boston school system.  In 1964 and 65 he left his affluent neighborhood and moved to the poor Black neighborhood where his students resided.

Kozol is a tireless advocate who has devoted nearly 50 years of his life to social justice.  He’s spent much of his time among inner-city children who are some of the “poorest of the poor.”  Many of his students know hunger, homelessness and many have fathers in prison.  More than a few have witnessed at least one murder and/or know someone who was murdered. Given what these children are subjected to before they even enter the classroom, Kozol believes that “a truly good society” would offer them the best education a rich society can afford.

His first book, “Death at an Early Age: The Destruction of the Hearts and Minds of Negro Children in the Boston Public Schools” was a searing exposé of the Boston school system in the 60s.  This book and many of Kozol’s other works are required reading for Education Majors at most universities.  The titles include: “Savage Inequalities,” “The Shame of the Nation,” “Rachel and Her Children: Homeless Families in America,” etc.


One response to this post.

  1. Thank you for amplifying the signal, browneyes 🙂
    I believe this is the specific article that you had seen:
    It links to the Smiley & West interview of Kozol if you click into it a couple times.
    Look for the “Listen on PRI” and “Listen on iTunes” links at the bottom of


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