In the spring of 2013, approximately 12,000 children in Chicago received notice that their last day of school would be not only the final day of the year, but also the final day of their school’s very existence. The nation’s third largest school district would eventually shutter 53 schools, citing budget limitations, building underutilization, and concerns about academic performance. Of the thousands of displaced students, 94% were low-income and 88% were African-American, leading critics to accuse district CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett and Mayor Rahm Emanuel of racism. “[The mayor] says that he wants to turn around the city of Chicago, make a new Chicago,” one activist told a reporter. “Does that new Chicago mean no black folks? Where are people going to go?”
Ghosts in the Schoolyard tells the story of these school closings, from their unfolding to their aftermath, in Bronzeville, a historically significant African-American community on the South Side of Chicago. The book details the resistance efforts of the residents of Bronzeville, inspired by the legacy of a storied past and driven to fight back against the malfeasance and disregard of city political leaders. But at its core, this is a book about what schools really mean to Americans and to African-Americans in particular, beyond the brick and mortar that compose them or the test scores and graduation rates that garner the most public attention. The book tells a story of love and loss, and the ongoing struggle of black people in America toward thriving livelihoods and self-determination.
For press inquiries or advanced review copies, contact Levi Stahl, levi AT uchicago DOT edu
“the best book about education this year… The book reads like a novel. Let me add that I have waited for this book for a long time, not knowing if it would ever be written…I found it difficult to put down.”
- Diane Ravitch
"Ewing acts as a keen shaman, reminding us of what has been lost and instructing us on how to value Black children's education going forward. A powerful book on so many levels."
- Mary Pattillo
“Ewing peels back the seemingly anodyne messaging of reform ('school choice') and its ostensibly objective standards ('test scores') to reveal the insidious assumptions lying beneath. Perhaps most importantly, Ewing gives direct voice to those served by those schools often dismissed as failing.”
"an engaging, critical, and accessible analysis of the Chicago Public School closings. with brilliant analysis and beautiful prose...This is a rare and urgent text that should be read by scholars, parents, teachers, and students alike.”
—Marc Lamont Hill
"[D]eeply moving...Ewing’s work, a tribute to students, parents, teachers, and community members, is essential for general readers confronting the issues of ‘school choice’ and school funding, as well as useful for historians of the African-American experience."
- Publishers Weekly