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Black Boys Apart

Racial Uplift and Respectability in All-Male Public Schools

2018
Author:

Freeden Blume Oeur

Black Boys Apart

How neoliberalism and the politics of respectability are transforming African American manhood

Black Boys Apart shows all-boys schools to be an odd mix of democratic empowerment and market imperatives, racial segregation and intentional sex separation, strict discipline and loving care. Challenging narratives that endorse these schools for nurturing individual resilience in young Black men, this perceptive and penetrating ethnography argues for a holistic approach in which Black communities and their allies promote a collective resilience.

In this sensitive, detailed ethnography, Freeden Blume Oeur takes readers into the world of all-male public schooling for African American boys. With clean, lucid prose and erudite analysis, Black Boys Apart challenges readers to rethink Black masculinity and education. Providing much-needed wisdom and humanity to the fractious school choice debate, this book is both timely and sure to make an enduring impact. An outstanding achievement.

Edward Morris, author of Learning the Hard Way: Masculinity, Place, and the Gender Gap in Education

While single-sex public schools face much criticism, many Black communities see in them a great promise: that they can remedy a crisis for their young men. Black Boys Apart reveals triumph, hope, and heartbreak at two all-male schools, a public high school and a charter high school, drawing on Freeden Blume Oeur’s ethnographic work. We meet young men who felt their schools empowered and emasculated them, parents who were frustrated with coed schools, teachers who helped pave the road to college, and administrators who saw in Black male academies the advantages of privatizing education.

While the two schools have distinctive histories and ultimately charted different paths, they were both shaped by the convergence of neoliberal ideologies and a politics of Black respectability. As Blume Oeur reveals, all-boys education is less a school reform initiative and instead joins a legacy of efforts to reform Black manhood during periods of stark racial inequality. Black male academies join long-standing attempts to achieve racial uplift in Black communities, but in ways that elevate exceptional young men and aggravate divisions within those communities.

Black Boys Apart shows all-boys schools to be an odd mix of democratic empowerment and market imperatives, racial segregation and intentional sex separation, strict discipline and loving care. Challenging narratives that endorse these schools for nurturing individual resilience in young Black men, this perceptive and penetrating ethnography argues for a holistic approach in which Black communities and their allies promote a collective resilience.

Black Boys Apart

Freeden Blume Oeur is associate professor of sociology at Tufts University. He is coeditor of Unmasking Masculinities: Men and Society.

Black Boys Apart

In this sensitive, detailed ethnography, Freeden Blume Oeur takes readers into the world of all-male public schooling for African American boys. With clean, lucid prose and erudite analysis, Black Boys Apart challenges readers to rethink Black masculinity and education. Providing much-needed wisdom and humanity to the fractious school choice debate, this book is both timely and sure to make an enduring impact. An outstanding achievement.

Edward Morris, author of Learning the Hard Way: Masculinity, Place, and the Gender Gap in Education

In Black Boys Apart, Freeden Blume Oeur demonstrates why he is one of the emerging go-to critical thinkers on the intersections of race and gender in schooling. In this descriptive and engaging book, we read of Blume Oeur’s bold multidisciplinary exploration and interrogation of the linkages among academic achievement, the politics of respectability, and the socialization of boys as men through dominant (and questionable) views of masculinity.

Prudence Carter, author of Stubborn Roots: Race, Culture, and Inequality in U.S. and South African Schools

Black Boys Apart

Introduction: Reform, Respectability, and the Crisis of Young Black Men
1. A Tale of Two (Neoliberal) Schools: The Origins of Perry High and Northside Academy
2. Contradictory Discourses: Separating Boys and Girls
3. Teaching Black Boys: From Cultural Relevance to Culturally Irrelevant Latin
4. Black Male Belonging: Race Leadership, Role Modeling, and Brotherhood
5. Heroic Family Men and Ambitious Entrepreneurs: The Making of Black Men
Conclusion: Hoping and Hustling Together
Acknowledgments
Appendix: Interview and Student Data
Notes
Bibliography
Index