Dr. Crim addresses 25,000 students

Our History

(Above photo) — Atlanta Public School Superintendent Dr. Alonzo A. Crim addressing 25,000 students, at the Atlanta Braves stadium, Atlanta, Georgia, May 8, 1984. From the Digital Collections Library.

Dr. Alonzo Crim

Dr. Alonzo A. Crim was extremely influential in helping to build the foundation for urban education in the Atlanta area. Crim graduated from Roosevelt College in 1950 with a degree in Sociology. In 1954, the same year the Supreme Court ruled in favor of desegregating the American public school system, Dr. Crim began his journey as an educator.

Articles to read for further enlightenment:

The Social Studies Curriculum in Atlanta Public Schools during the Desegregation Era by Chara Haeussler Bohan & Patricia Randolph

A COMMUNITY OF BELIEVERS By Alonzo A. Crim

While teaching at the racially mixed Jacob Riis Elementary some of his colleagues taught him progressive methods to reach more students. In 1961, three years after earning his M.A. from the University of Chicago, the same year Atlanta public schools were desegregated; Dr. Crim passed the Chicago principals exam. That same year, while America was moving further into the Civil Rights Era, and racial tensions were rising, Dr. Crim was hired as principal of Whittier Elementary. Despite the American racial climate in Chicago during the 60’s, Dr. Crim and his progressive methods proved to be successful. Dr. Crim went on to be a high school principal, and shortly after earning his Ph.D in Education from Harvard in 1969, he became the school District Superintendent in Compton, California. In 1973, not only did he become the first African-American Atlanta Public Schools Superintendent, but also he became the first African-American of a major school system in the South. Dr. Crim’s legacy can be defined by the success he had with using the critical pedagogical method of inspiring the community to take active roles in decisions surrounding educating the youth.

The Atlanta public schools had been engaged in desegregation litigation for over 15 years when Dr. Crim accepted the position of APS superintendent as part of the Atlanta Compromise plan of 1973, sometimes referred to as the “Second Atlanta Compromise.”

This compromise was a result of not being able to reach a school desegregation agreement in the courts. Once Dr. Crim took office, he devised a plan that would bring APS student achievement up to the national average by 1985. Prior to 1975, Atlanta public schools had never publicly reported national test scores. Although still way below the national norm, APS test scores in math and reading improved 10% the second school testing year 1976-1977 and test scores continued to improve over the next few years.

Dr. Benjamin E. Mays with Dr. Crim

Dr. Benjamin E. Mays, President of the Atlanta Board of Education and Dr. Alonzo A. Crim, APS Superintendent. From the Atlanta History Center collections.

So, in 1980, Dr. Crim’s leadership had proven effective not only by the improved academic student achievement numbers, but by the way he inspired community stakeholders to be involved with decisions concerning improving the educational outcomes of the communities children. Earning the trust of the community, community leaders, students and teachers by keeping his promise of working with and listening to them and keeping them informed. So when he rolled out his five year plan in October 1980 to get APS students achieving at or above national standards they believed him when he told them that each year for the next five years that APS scores would improve by 20% each year and by 1985, APS student will be performing at or above the national standards. In 1981, APS test scores were up 20%.

In 1988, after 15 years of fighting for quality and equality in education as APS superintendent, Dr. Alonzo A. Crim retired.  At the time of his retirement Dr. Crim was the longest tenured African-American superintendent in the nation. He later served as the Professor of Education at Georgia State University and established the Chair of the Benjamin E. Mays Professor of Urban Leadership. Although the world suffered a great loss on May 6, 2000 when Dr. Alonzo A. Crim passed away, his legacy lives on in the Alonzo A. Crim Center for Urban Educational Excellence at Georgia state University. In line with Dr. Crim’s vision the mission of the Crim center is to optimize the life opportunities of children and families in urban communities by ensuring the availability of a prosperous and equitable school environment.

Dr. Alonzo Crim accepts a certificate of excellence from Dr. Jerry Robbins

Dr. Alonzo Crim accepts a certificate of excellence for the Atlanta Teacher of the Year from Dr. Jerry Robbins, dean of the GSU College of Education, Atlanta, Georgia, circa 1980s.

Dr. Alonzo A. Crim, The First African-American Superintendent of Atlanta Public Schools

Although small in stature, Dr. Alonzo A. Crim was a giant among men courageous enough to point out, identify, and combat problems that prevented public school students from receiving an excellent education. Despite growing up in Depression Era Chicago, Dr. Crim’s parents, teachers, and his neighbors instilled in him a strong work ethic and the value of education. That work ethic can be seen as early as eight years old when Alonzo Crim delivered papers and at twelve, when he worked as a stock boy in a Chicago warehouse.

While teaching at the racially mixed Jacob Riis Elementary some of his colleagues taught him progressive methods to reach more students. In 1961, three years after earning his M.A. from the University of Chicago, the same year Atlanta public schools were desegregated; Dr. Crim passed the Chicago principals exam. That same year, while America was moving further into the Civil Rights Era, and racial tensions were rising, Dr. Crim was hired as principal of Whittier Elementary. Despite the American racial climate in Chicago during the 60’s, Dr. Crim and his progressive methods proved to be successful. Dr. Crim went on to be a high school principal, and shortly after earning his Ph.D in Education from Harvard in 1969, he became the school District Superintendent in Compton, California. In 1973, not only did he become the first African-American Atlanta Public Schools Superintendent, but also he became the first African-American of a major school system in the South. Dr. Crim’s legacy can be defined by the success he had with using the critical pedagogical method of inspiring the community to take active roles in decisions surrounding educating the youth.

School board meeting

1974 Atlanta School board of education meeting: Atlanta Board of Education members from left to right: Ann Woodward: Dr. Benjamin E. Mays: Superintendent Dr. Alonzo A. Crim: unidentified individual and June Cofer

The Atlanta Compromise Plan 0f 1973

The Atlanta public schools had been engaged in desegregation litigation for over 15 years when Dr. Crim accepted the position of APS superintendent as part of the Atlanta Compromise plan of 1973, sometimes referred to as the “Second Atlanta Compromise.”

This Compromise was an agreement between Black and White business leaders and Civil Rights leaders that was reached in hopes of quelling racial tensions that led to racial violence in cities like Little Rock and Birmingham - violence that had devastated business interests in those cities – violence that the city leaders feared would cause businesses to pack up and leave before they potentially lost everything as a result of impending racial violence. This agreement became known as the Compromise of 1973, and it paved the way for Dr. Crim to be brought in as the first African-American superintendent of Atlanta Public Schools. Provisions of this compromise were that the Atlanta Superintendent and half of all Atlanta public schools (APS) administrators be African-American and in turn attendance zones were redrawn so that only 4,800 of APS’s 92,000 students would be integrated into suburban schools. In the 1972-73 (school year) 80% of its students were African-American. Many civil rights leaders were angered at this compromise. They felt cheated. African-American Atlanta residents felt cheated. The New York Times reported that the Compromise of 1973, as it was called, dignified that Atlanta had accepted the minimum desegregation of students for the maximum integration of administrators.

Once Dr. Crim took office, he devised a plan that would bring APS student achievement up to the national average by 1985. Prior to 1975, Atlanta public schools had never publicly reported national test scores. Although still way below the national norm, APS test scores in math and reading improved 10% the second school testing year 1976-1977 and test scores continued to improve over the next few years.

In 1973, In 1973, when Dr. Crim was invited to interview for superintendent of (APS), he said, “I have always been of the opinion that Atlanta was the vanguard of solving some of the social problems that plagued the nation’s school systems.” Crim’s experience and success leading White and Black school systems prepared him for the political task that lay ahead as he threw himself into calming racial tensions and engaging community business leaders in the school system. Dr. Crim made it his mission to focus on providing quality education to every child in the district regardless of the complexion of their skin. Upon accepting his invitation, he remarked that he wanted to create a country “where students would know that people cared about them”, and provide them with the tools necessary to achieve their greatest potential.

A Community of Believers

Dr. Crim turned the focus from race to that of learning by initiating what he termed a “Community of Believers” — a network that consisted of Atlanta organizations and individuals who believed in the potential of the city’s children and who were willing to invest time and money in that potential. While interviewing for the job of APS superintendent in 1973, Dr. Crim said, “In my search of more than twenty-five years for creating the conditions that best promote the achievement of poor and minority students, I have found that you must build commitment for learning in students. That commitment does not come easily to persons who see few around them succeeding.” Dr. Crim developed a four part strategy to build commitment on students. on stu To Dr. Crim, “belief by the community at large must include the following factors:

Students must feel that people who are important to them must believe in the goal. School staff must develop a community of believers that includes peers, parents, educators at all levels, business persons, members of the clergy, and citizens-at-large. The public perception must be one of seeing students as winners rather than losers.

Students must be shown evidence that they are doing something worthwhile. Students must be helped to appreciate the rise in achievement. They must see themselves and others securing jobs and college placements.

Students must be given opportunities to express their views on the goals we set for them. This condition requires students to talk with adults rather than turning only to their peers for understanding.

Students must be challenged to improve their own performances. There can be no one model of challenge for youth that will be imposed rom the top, but thousands of conscious, decentralized experiments devised by caring adults that will attempt to drive students on.

So, in 1980, Dr. Crim’s leadership had proven effective not only by the improved academic student achievement numbers, but by the way he inspired community stakeholders to be involved with decisions concerning improving the educational outcomes of the communities children. Earning the trust of the community, community leaders, students and teachers by keeping his promise of working with and listening to them and keeping them informed. So when he rolled out his five year plan in October 1980 to get APS students achieving at or above national standards they believed him when he told them that each year for the next five years that APS scores would improve by 20% each year and by 1985, APS student will be performing at or above the national standards. In 1981, APS test scores were up 20%.

By 1986, Dr. Crim managed to increase the students’ performance level in basic skills to above the national average, significantly increased attendance rates to higher than 92%, and brought the graduation rate up to more than 70.  He was longest tenured African-American superintendent in the nation by 1986. Dr. Crim retired from the Atlanta School System in 1988 after 15 years of dynamic leadership. He later served as the Professor of Education at Georgia State University and established the Chair of the Benjamin E. Mays Professor of Urban Leadership.

Today, Dr. Crim’s legacy continues through the activities of the Alonzo A. Crim Center for Urban Educational Excellence, a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization at Georgia State University’s College of Education.

In 1974, Lisa Delpit earned her B.A., in Education Psychology from Antioch College, Yellow Springs, Ohio. In 1980 she received her Ed.M., in reading and Language Development from  Harvard Graduate School of Education, and in 1984 Department of Teaching, Curriculum and Learning Environments. In 1984, Lisa Delpit received her Ed.D. from Harvard Graduate School of Education.

Origins

Dr. Lisa Delpit grew up in the 50’s and early 60’s in "Old South Baton Rouge," the first black settlement in the city. The house on Lettsworth Street in which she lived as a child was built next to the "Chicken Shack," a community restaurant that her father started with 46¢ in his pocket. Much of her young life was spent in the kitchen with her father. Delpit was raised in a time and place where Black women could not try on a hat in a department store – a time and place when Black children were unable to attend school with White’s. Her upbringing and her experiences growing up in the Jim Crow era helped prepare and motivate Delpit to fight for equality and social justice. Her commitment led her to becoming a force in the education system.

Research and Work

Shortly after obtaining her Bachelors of Science in Education from radically progressive, Antioch College in Ohio, Delpit took her first teaching job in an inner-city open elementary school in Philadelphia, The students were 60 percent poor, black children from South Philadelphia and 40 percent white children from Society Hill. Delpit recalls: Conflict arose in teaching when she realized her strategies did not work for all her students; her white students zooming ahead while her black students played games and learned to read at a much slower rate than White students. Later, when she attended Harvard Graduate School of Education to pursue her Master's and Doctoral degrees in Curriculum, Instruction, and Research, she came to understand the importance of students learning to write in meaningful contexts.

Delpit’s placement as one of the foremost educators and writers on the subject of culturally-relevant approaches to educating students of color began with a series of eloquent, plain-spoken essays in the Harvard Educational Review. These essays questioned the validity of some popular teaching strategies for African-American students and were eventually spun off into a book titled, Other People’s Children: Cultural Conflict in the Classroom. The book, published in 1995 has been cited for the ongoing debate surrounding what she describes as “finding ways and means to best educate urban students, particularly African-American, and other students of color”.

Throughout her career, Delpit also functioned in a variety of other roles. As scholar, she served on the Commission for Research in Black Education (CORIBE). She also worked as teacher and Professor at Georgia State University and later assumed the capacity of Professor at Florida International University College of Education.

As an African-American researcher, Delpit's emphasis has been elementary education with a focus on language and literacy development. She has also been concerned with issues relating to race and access granted to minority groups in education.

Honors

Dr. Delpit has won accolades for her work on teaching and learning in urban schools and in diverse cultural settings. She studied education in both Alaska and New Guinea, published several books, and is a sought-after speaker.

Georgia State University, specifically, the Urban Teacher Leadership Master’s Degree Program, lost a giant on August 13, 2007 when educator, psychologist and historian Asa G. Hilliard III died while leading a study tour in Egypt. Asa Hilliard was the Fuller E. Callaway Professor of Urban Education. Some of his many accomplishments included: serving as Dean of School of Education at San Francisco State University, an expert witness in landmark federal cases on test validity, consultant to schools in Liberia, West Africa, VP and founding member of the Association for the Study of Classical African Civilizations. Dr. Hilliard taught for many years and exclusively in the UTL Master’s Degree Program and later, Ph.D. level seminars in the College of Education & Human Development. Hilliard’s classes focused on understanding the reality of the power of teaching and schooling to produce either excellent achievement or failure.

Born in Galveston, TX on August 22, 1933 to Asa G. Hilliard II and Dr. Lois O. Williams, Dr. Hilliard graduated from Manual High School (1951) in Denver, CO. He received a B.A. from the University of Denver (1955) and taught in the Denver Public Schools before joining the U.S. Army, where he served as a First Lieutenant, platoon leader, and battalion executive officer in the Third Armored Infantry (1955-1957). He later received his M.A. in Counseling (1961) and Ed.D. in Educational Psychology (1963) from the University of Denver. In pursuit of his education, Dr. Hilliard worked in many occupations including as a teacher in the Denver Public Schools, as a railroad maintenance worker, and as a bartender, waiter and cook.

The professional career of Dr. Hilliard spans the globe. He was on the faculty at San Francisco State University; consultant to the Peace Corp in Liberia, West Africa; superintendent of schools in Monrovia, Liberia; and returned to San Francisco State as department chair and Dean of Education. At the time of his death, Dr. Hilliard was the Fuller E. Calloway Professor of Urban Education at Georgia State University in Atlanta where he held joint appointments in the Department of Educational Policy Studies and the Department of Educational Psychology and Special Education.

Dr. Hilliard was a Board Certified Forensic Examiner and Diplomat of both the American Board of Forensic Examiners and the American Board of Forensic Medicine. He served as lead expert witness in several landmark federal cases on test validity and bias, including Larry P. v. Wilson Riles in California, Mattie T. v. Holliday in Mississippi, Deborah P. v. Turlington in Florida, and also in two Supreme Court cases, Ayers v. Fordice in Mississippi, and Marino v. Ortiz in New York City. Dr. Hilliard has lectured at leading universities and other institutions throughout the world, including the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the Smithsonian Institution, and the National Geographic Society.

As a distinguished consultant, Dr. Hilliard has worked with many of the leading school districts, publishers, public advocacy organizations, universities, government agencies and private corporations on valid assessment, African content in curriculum, teacher training, and public policy. Several of his programs in pluralistic curriculum, assessment, and valid teaching have become national models. Dr. Hilliard designed the approach and selected the essays that appeared in The Portland Baseline Essays (Portland, OR) which represent the first time that a comprehensive global and longitudinal view of people of African ancestry has been presented in a curriculum.

In 2001, Dr. Hilliard was enstooled as Development Chief for Mankranso, Ghana and given the name Nana Baffour Amankwatia, II, which means "generous one." Dr. Hilliard spent more than thirty years leading study groups to Egypt and Ghana, as part of his mission of teaching the truth about the history of Africa and the African Diaspora. He co-chaired the First National Conference on the Infusion of African and African- American Content in the School Curriculum in Atlanta. Dr. Hilliard was a founding member and First Vice President of the Association for the Study of Classical African Civilizations and a founding member of the National Black Child Development Institute. Dr. Hilliard was also a key advisor for the African Education for Every African Child Conference, held in Mali and sponsored by the government of Mali.

Dr. Hilliard has authored more than a thousand publications including journal articles, magazine articles, special reports, chapters in books, and books. Some of his publications include The Maroon Within Us: Selected Essays on African American Community Socialization (Black Classic Press 1995); SBA: The Reawakening of the African Mind (Makare Publishing 1997), and African Power: Affirming African Indigenous Socialization in the Face of the Cultural Wars (Makare Publishing, 2002), to name a few. Also, he has received hundreds of awards and recognitions from many prestigious organizations and institutions including the Morehouse College "Candle in the Dark Award in Education," National Alliance of Black School Educators "Distinguished Educator Award," American Evaluation Association, President's Award, and the Republic of Liberia Award as Knight Commander of the Humane Order of African Redemption.

"We do not know who we are, cannot explain how we got here, and have no sense of our destiny beyond mere survival. Most of us hope to hitch a ride on someone else's wagon with no thought whatsoever as to where that wagon may be going. We have no destination of our own. Ask our leadership, ask our women, men or children on the street what our agenda is. Ask them what plans Africans have and what we want to build for ourselves within the next five, ten, twenty-five, seventy-five or one-hundred years? We are so used to having others make long-term plans for us that the idea of our own five-year plan is petrifying to us."  —Asa G. Hillard, III

 

Sources Conference

Dr. Asa Hilliard III, past Georgia State University Fuller E. Callaway Professor of Urban Education, was the visionary of the Sources Conference. Dr. Susan Crim-McClendon, immediate past Director of the Alonzo A. Crim Center, gave life to that vision. It had always been Dr. Hilliard’s vision to have spaces to discuss the Afro-diasporic experience, the conditions of urban communities, and best practices in serving urban youth. In the winter of 2004 Dr. Hilliard expressed to Dr. Crim-McClendon his interest in creating opportunities for students in the College of Education to present such work. Dr. Crim- McClendon supported that idea and immediately began reaching out across the Georgia State University campus and the Atlanta community to develop a conference that would highlight the work of urban ed practitioners while also highlighting effective models of urban teaching and community building.

To read further about the history of the Sources Conference, please click below. More information about the Sources Conference can be found here, as well.

Download the 10th Conference Program 

Benjamin Mays

“It must be borne in mind that the tragedy of life does not lie in not reaching your goal. The tragedy of life lies in having no goal to reach.” – Benjamin E. Mays

Dr. Mays' biography will be published here shortly.

The Benjamin E. Mays Lecture Series

In the spring of 1988, the Benjamin E. Mays Chair of Urban Educational Leadership was approved by the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia and established in the College of Education at Georgia State University. Its goal was and continues to be the improvement of the quality of educational institutions in urban areas of the country, with special emphasis on the problems faced by the leadership of large city school districts.The founding holder of the Chair, Dr. Alonzo A. Crim, initiated the organization and sponsorship of the annual Benjamin E. Mays Memorial Lecture Series. It began in 1989 with Dr. Charles V. Willie, social scholar at Harvard University, and has continued to this past year’s lecturer, Dr. Sonia Nieto. By continuing to bring nationally prominent educators to Atlanta, each symposium, conference and lecture encourages the discussion of issues facing urban educational leaders.

This program not only honors the memory of Dr. Benjamin E. Mays, but also promotes his philosophy of educational excellence for those typically least served by society.

Please click here to read further about the Mays Lecture.