Ghosts in the Schoolyard: Racism and School Closings on Chicago's South Side

Univ. of Chicago. Oct. 2018. 240p. illus. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780226526027. $22.50. ED
OrangeReviewStarIn 2013, Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced that dozens of Chicago's public schools would be shut down. Eventually 49 neighborhood schools in largely black sections of the Windy City closed, an unprecedented move that sparked immediate backlash. "A fight for a school is never just about a school," Ewing (Univ. of Chicago Sch. of Social Service Administration) notes in her bracing account of that turbulent time, relying on a blend of historical and ethnographic research to show how the closures were only the most recent manifestation of a decades-long pattern of disinvestment by Chicago Public Schools. In one chapter, the author describes how grassroots movements staged effective protests that ultimately led to one community saving their high school from the chopping block. In another, Ewing examines the grieving process that parents, students, and alumni undergo when their institutions are lost. Most important, this book effectively connects school closings in largely African American neighborhoods to the devaluation of black lives in general.
VERDICT Ewing's graceful prose enlivens what might otherwise be a depressing topic in this timely, powerful read. Recommended to public, high school, and university libraries.
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