Underrepresentation Of African American Males In Educational Leadership Education Essay

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In education today, there is a demand for leaders in administration. With emerging avenues provided by state institutions and service centers, educators are able to pursue certification in education administration. Although legislation was enacted during the 1970's and 1980's to extend equal opportunities at jobs and promotions to minorities, there still remains an under-representation of African Americans and other minorities in principalships in this country (Long, 2005). One cannot discuss issues or experiences pertaining to Blacks as school admin­istrators without exploring how the past continues to enlighten and influence the role of Black school administrators today. The history of Black Americans as school admin­istrators in America has been long and involved. However, much of the fairly sparse literature about Black school administrators begins with the assumption that they are relative newcomers to this role (Franklin, 1990; Perkins, 1983; Long, 2005). To a large degree, the research in the last 75 years associated to the administrator position has relied on white samples (Tallerico, 2000).

Minority Applicant Pool

For the last 25 years, the number of minority students enrolled in public schools has continued to rise while the numbers of minority teachers has declined (Digest of Educational Statistics, 2002). According to the National Education Association (NEA), minority students now make up approximately 40% of the elementary and secondary school-age population while the number of minority teachers constitutes less than 10% of the teaching field.

The lack of minority teachers in education has negative implications for minority children as well as majority children. It is believed that a teacher's background impacts children's attitude toward schooling. This quality education mandates that children be exposed to a variety of cultural perspectives that personify the nation as a whole. The critical shortage of minority role models is likely to weaken the urban troubles and lead to a collapse of all American students to learn the academic, personal, and social skills; they need in the multicultural workplace of the future (NEA, 2007).

Diversity across the nation is an issue that requires consideration. While the ethnic diversity of the school-aged population is increasing, K-12 teaching population is becoming homogeneous in terms of ethnicity. Increasing numbers of culturally diverse students in the public schools create a related need for well-prepared teachers who can communicate with students within the context of their cultures and native language (Talbert-Johnson, 2001). The problem can be stated simply: In state after state, the percentage of minority teachers is not increasing as fast as the percentage of minority students, and the gap is not narrowing. In the late 1980's the Southern Regional Education Board spotlighted the steady decline of minorities in the region's teacher work force. SREB attributed the decline to the dwindling numbers of minority students enrolling in and completing higher education and to the limited number of aggressive incentive and assistance programs to recruit minority teachers (SREB, 2003).

Nearly 18 million African-American, Asian, Hispanic and Native American students attend U.S. elementary and secondary schools. Minorities account for 43 percent of students in SREB states but only 21 percent of teachers. SREB states' percentages of minority students range from 5 percent to 57 percent. Outside the SREB region, 35 percent of students and 13 percent of teachers are minorities (SREB, 2003).

While the numbers of teacher education graduates have increased in some states relatively few of these graduates are minorities. Even though the number of minority graduates from teacher education programs in Kentucky more than doubled between 1995 and 2000, the number remained small. There were about 300 minority graduates from these programs in 2000. The number of African American graduates from teacher education programs in South Carolina increased slowly but steadily between 1989 and 1996, after which the growth rate slowed significantly. In 1989 there were 132 African American graduates of these programs. In 1996 the number had reached 402, but by 2000 there were only 293. In Maryland the number of minority graduates from teacher education programs has increased since 1997, while the total number of graduates has decrease. In 1997, minorities account for 338 (14 percent) of the 2,497 graduates of teacher educator programs in Maryland (SREB, 2003). In 2001 minorities accounted for 421 (18 percent) of the 2,332 graduates of teacher education programs. The state expects the overall number of teacher education graduates to increase by 2004. The numbers of minority graduate of all teacher education programs in Florida increase steadily during the 1990's, but the percentages remained low. In 2000, 12 percent of teacher education graduates were African American and 16 percent were Hispanic (SREB, 2003).

Pre-Brown vs. Board of Education

From the period immediately after the declaration of an end of slavery to the middle of this century, African Americans played important roles in establishing and running schools for African American children. For at least part of this period of almost 100 years, both women and men were involved in these enterprises (Franklin, 1990; Perkins, 1983; Tillman, L. C., 2003). Prior to the Civil War, many states developed laws prohibiting the education of Blacks, which made it illegal to teach slaves to read and write. Even during the days of slavery, when severe punishment was meted out to those who dared teach slaves to read and write, some Blacks acquired literacy and passed their knowledge on to others. In the difficult years following the Civil War, Blacks saw education as a means of building dig­nity and respect as well as developing the skills needed to gain control of their lives (Franklin, 1990; Perkins, 1983; Tillman, L. C., 2004). In addition, the educational philosophies of Black educators generally reflected the collective ethos of a Black community that believed that education was an integral part in increasing the likelihood for success in their children.

On June 7th, 1892 Homer Plessy, a man of seven-eighth Caucasian and one-eighth African blood, paid for a first class passage on East Louisiana Railway from New Orleans to Covington. Under the sentence of expulsion from the train he was told to move to an empty seat.  He refused to do so and with aid of an officer was removed by force from the coach and taken to the Parish Jail of New Orleans, Louisiana where he was found guilty of criminally violating an act of the general assembly of the state. Plessy was entitled to every right and privilege secured to the United States of the white race and took possession of a vacant seat where passengers of the white race were supposed to be seated (Orefield, 2004).

The arrest of Homer Plessy (1862-1925) on June 7, 1892, was part of a planned challenge to the 1890 Louisiana Separate Car Act by the Citizens' Committee to Test the Constitutionality of the Separate Car Law by a small group of black professionals in New Orleans (Siddle Walker, 2001). After successfully leading a test case in which the Louisiana district court declared forced segregation in railroad cars traveling between states to be unconstitutional, the committee was anxious to test the constitutionality of segregation on railroad cars operating solely within a single state. The committees' strategy was to have someone with diverse blood violate the law, which would allow Tourgée to question the law's randomness (Siddle Walker, 2001). Homer Plessy, a native of south Louisiana who could "pass" as white, agreed to be the test case. The committee arranged with the railroad conductor and with a private detective to detain Plessy until he was arrested. When Plessy appeared before the Louisiana district court, the court ruled that a state had the constitutional power to regulate railroad companies operating solely within its borders and concluded that the Louisiana Separate Car Act was constitutional. The decision was appealed to the state supreme court in 1893 and was appealed again to the U.S. Supreme Court in 1896. By the time Plessy v. Ferguson arrived at the Supreme Court, Tourgée and his colleagues had solidified their strategy (Orefield, 2004). Tourgée argued that Plessy was denied his equal protection rights under the Fourteenth Amendment and violated the Thirteenth Amendment by perpetuating the essential features of slavery.

The fourteenth amendment states:

"All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are made citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside; and the states are forbidden from making or enforcing any law which shall bridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States, or shall deprive any person of life, liberty, or property without due process of law, or deny to any person within their jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws."

Brown vs. Board of Education

In the Plessy v. Ferguson case, the court found that the doctrine of "separate but equal" concerning segregation of public facilities did not violate the constitution. Separate education for whites and blacks became the status quo for the Southern Community (Echols, 2005; Tillman, 2004).

In the town of Topeka Kansas, a little girl by the name of Linda Brown rode the bus five miles to school each day, although a public school facility was a merely four blocks from her home. This particular school was not at capacity and Linda met all of the requirements to attend; however, being black prevented her from enrolling and blacks were not allowed to go to white children's schools.

It was not until May 17, 1954, that the doctrine of "separate but equal" was challenged in court. The case was argued by NAACP attorney Thurgood Marshall. This was an attempt to gain equal educational opportunities for African American children that were not provided for under the Plessy vs. Fergusen decision (Orefield, 2004). The African American community leaders took swift action against segregation in America's schools. Assisted by the NAACP, a group of 13 parents filed a class action law suit against the Board of Education of Topeka Schools.

The Supreme Court ruled in a unanimous decision that the "separate but equal" doctrine was unconstitutional because it violated the aforementioned Fourteenth Amendment rights by separating students solely on the classification of the color of their skin (Orefield, 2004). Chief Justice Warren delivered the courts' opinion, stating that "segregated schools are not equal and cannot be made equal, and hence they are deprived of the equal protection of the laws." This ruling in favor of integration was one of the most significant strides America has taken in favor of civil liberties (Orefield, 2004). Warren stressed the importance of education in the consciousness of American life:

"Today, education is perhaps the most important function of state and local governments. Compulsory school attendance laws and the great expenditures for education both demonstrate our recognition of the importance of education to our democratic society. It is required in the performance of our most basic public responsibilities, even service in the armed forces. It is the very foundation of good citizenship. Today it is a principal instrument n awakening the child to cultural values, in preparing him for later professional training and in helping him to adjust normally to his environment. In these days, it is doubtful that any child may reasonably be expected to succeed in life if he is denied the opportunity of an education. Such an opportunity, where the state has undertaken to provide it, is a right which must be made available to all on equal terms.

The basis of the decision rested upon the dehumanizing effects of segregation. The Court's believed that the segregation of "white" and "colored" children in public schools had a detrimental effect upon the colored children (Orefield, 2004). The affects of inferiority penetrates the motivation of a child to learn. Segregation with the sanction of law has the

Post Brown vs. Board of Education

The Brown case signaled the end of "de jure" segregation in the United States, that is, segregation of public places that is mandated by law. After the Brown ruling there was a large motivation in the African American community and liberal white Americans to place pressure on the legal system to end state supported segregation in all public facilities (Orefield, 2004).

The ruling handed down by the courts initiated the desegregation for all public schools. This would denote justice and equality within the educational community for all students; however, the ruling pertained to the desegregation of students and therefore would pose a potential problem for African American educators. The African American community rejoiced in the ruling, but was concerned about the impact the ruling would have on their children, administrators, and educators.

Black Teachers

Although Black educators in general were affected, Black teachers were most often the victims of segregated policies and practices that cost them their jobs. According to Tillman (2004), the displacement of Black educators after the Brown v. Board of Education decision was an extraordinary social injustice. Even though separate school systems were the order of the day in a pre-Brown era, it was the Black educators who taught and nurtured a crucial portion of the Black community, its children. Black teachers and principals served an important function as respected leaders and role models in the community. They also comprised a significant proportion of the African-American community's middle-class. In addition, education was one of the few vocations open to middle class in the pre-Brown era (Tillman, 2004).

Black teachers were hired primarily to teach black children. The teaching professions in the United States in 1940 totaled 63,697 and 46,381 of those were in the south (Echols, 2005). Over the course of a decade it was estimated that 82,000 African-American teachers provided instruction for a black student population numbering around two million in 1954. Within a span of ten years, almost 40,000 African-American teachers and administrators lost their jobs through the implementation of the Brown decision (Echols, 2005). The damage continued to mount in the wake of transfer policies which further drained black schools. Between 1975 and 1985, the number of students majoring in education declined by 66% and another 21,515 Black teachers lost their jobs between 1984 and 1989 (Hudson and Holmes, 1994). These mass firings were made easier because during desegregation all Black schools were usually closed down making Black educators expendable even when their credentials surpassed their White Peers (Echols, 2005). The National Education Association's figures from this period show that 85% of minority teachers had college degrees compared with 75% of White teachers. Black children left without the expertise of the more qualified Black teachers and a tremendous psychological and emotional well being (Echols, 2005).

The ways in which Black educators lost their positions were many and varied, but racism was the primary reason for the widespread firing of Black educators. The desire of White southerners and many northerners to maintain a segregated system of education unfolded in court verdicts and in documents such as the "Southern Manifesto" (Gordon, 2002).This Manifesto was issued in March of 1956 and came about when 96 congressman from 11 southern states joined together to derail the implementation of the Brown decision. According to the framers of this document, "Integration" would replace the present friendship and understanding between blacks and whites with hatred and suspicion and with that belief they vowed to resist by all lawful means.

Federal courts helped to maintain segregation by upholding the practices and policies in local school districts. Black educators, and particularly teachers, were often powerless to defeat school districts as courts upheld these discriminatory policies that allowed the mass firing of Blacks (Tillman, 2004).

It was also reported that Black educators were dismissed from positions because of their affiliations with Black organizations and civil rights activism. Black teachers were regularly dismissed because they were members of organizations such as the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People), the Urban League, and Black teacher organizations such as the American Teachers Association (ATA). For example, a White Citizens Council in Little Rock, Arkansas called for the dismissal of Black teachers who were members of the NAACP and Urban League. Black teachers in many states were required to submit a list of the names of organizations to which they belonged, and their employment was contingent upon this list (Echols, 2005; Orefield, 2004). A Louisiana school superintendent ordered Black teachers who supported integration to resign from the National Education Association (NEA). Registering to vote was also used against Black teachers. In many districts, those Black teachers who dared to register to vote and who participated in voter registration drives were usually fired from their jobs. Although Black educators had the legal right to vote and to hold membership in Black organization, these rights were still considered to be reserved for Whites only and Black educators could be punished for exercising their rights.

Other methods that were used to remove teachers consisted of: denying employment to Black educators included revoking their teaching licenses, eliminating college and university teacher education certification programs, and evaluating Black teachers based on standardized tests.

Black Principals

Black principals were central figures in segregated schooling and in the Black community. These Black principals served the community in many ways. They provided the communication piece between the school and the community. They encouraged parents to participate in the educational process by soliciting help via donating resources, fund raising for the schools, and also modeled leadership to the teachers and staff (Tillman, 2004). As instructional leaders in these segregated schools, Black principals, provided support by way of instilling the vision and purpose for the teachers, and assisted in implementing a sound curriculum.

During the 1860's African Americans established their own schools for the education of their children. African American women and men worked together in creating these institutions, and they played similar roles. African American administrators in these schools did not confine themselves to their educational role, but also served very actively within their communities. This provided a high level of connectedness that created trust within the Black community (Tillman, 2004).

It was not until the 1970's that African Americans, most of them men, were appointed to head urban school systems in any. According to Echols (2005) 90% of the Black high school principals in the 13 Southern and Border States lost their jobs. It was noted that the numbers were even higher for Black elementary principals in the states. Hooker reported that in a survey of 11 southern states, between 1967 and 1971, the number of Black principals in states such as North Carolina, Virginia, and Arkansas dropped dramatically. For example, the number of Black principals in North Carolina dropped from 620 to 40.

During the period immediately following Brown, Whites believed that Black children had not learned because Black principals had not been effective in assuring that these children were educated. "Expert witnesses" who testified during a period of constant legal proceedings about the issue of desegregation called for the dismantling of all Black schools and replacing Black principals with White Principals. For example, when Oklahoma, Missouri, Kentucky, West Virginia, Maryland, and Delaware closed most of their all Black schools between 1954 and 1965, more than 50% of the Black principals in these states were dismissed. In 1975, it was reported that more than 6,000 Black principals would need to be hired to reach equity and parity nationally (Siddle Walker, 2000).

One of the consequences of Brown and the subsequent desegregation of America's schools was the loss of Black principals and thus the exclusion of voices and perspectives that were critical to the education of Black children. Not only were positions lost in the numerical sense, but more important, there was a loss of a tradition of excellence, a loss of leadership as a cultural artifact in the Black community, and a loss of the expertise of educators who were committed to the education of Black children (Tillman, 2002).

Opportunities for Black males

The roles of African American principals have played an important part within the social conditions in which they work. African American principals acknowledged that race and gender statuses were important in shaping their social constructions of their roles as administrators and their views of their mission. In addition there exists a particular need for more research on contemporary African American Principals (Pollard, 1997; Tillman, 2004). As a result of historic and present structures of cultural, political, and economic domination, there are a disproportionate number of African Americans in educational leadership Positions. By understanding the characteristics common to those African Americans who have become educational leaders perhaps more young African Americans can aspire to these positions. This could, in turn, help counteract negative images and help encourage social change.

There is no evidence that identifies support systems that contribute to the recruit­ment and retention of Black male K-12 administrators in urban districts. Traditional protocol in the K-12 educational arena often prescribes and requires school adminis­trators to have prior teaching experiences before advancing to a career in school admin­istration. However, within this structure, there is a severely limited pool of Black male teachers in the United States. Thus the opportunity for Black males to become school administrators is woefully insufficient. There are no incentives to attract Black male school administrators such as recruitment programs, scholarship programs, state or federal grants, or mentoring programs (Oliver 1989; Tillman, 2004).

In general, about 7% of the teaching force is Black, compared to 17% of the student body (National Center for Education Statistics, 2002). Ethnic teachers represent about 9% of U.S. public school teachers, but that number is expected to drop to less than 5% in the coming years. Ethnic students constitute 40% of the total student body in the United States, and this proportion is expected to significantly increase (American Associ­ation of Colleges for Teacher Education [AACTE], 1999). The majority of elementary and secondary teachers are female (74%) and White (87%) (AACTE, 1999). This seems to suggest that a racial imbalance occurs in the distribution of Black male school administrators, further eroding the career opportunity to become school administrators. Additionally, during 1999-2000, a total of 83,790 principals worked in public schools across the United States (National Center for Education Statistics, 2002). Of all public school principals, less than 11% were Black (Digest of Educational Statistics, 2002). One of the difficulties in examining these data is that "Black males" and "Black females" were placed in one category. Therefore, it is not always apparent if references to "minorities" comprise both men and women. Considered together, these racial imbalances are alarming and clearly warrant reform in the educational system (Oliver, 1989; Jackson, 2006 ).

There is a great challenge for Black principals associated in acquiring success. Also, most principals come from the teaching ranks and fewer Blacks are entering the teaching profession. According to the U.S. Education Department's National Center for Education Statistics fewer than 2% of the nation's nearly 3 million public school teachers are Black males (Echols, 2006). Furthermore, the census statistics show that 42% of all Black boys have failed a grade at least once by the time they reach high school, and 60 % of Black males who enter high school in the 9th grade do not graduate.


Literature about African American school administrators begins with the assumption that they are newcomers to this role. This review has taken this postulation and put it to the test. African Americans have played important roles in establishing and running schools for African American Children. Today, African Americans are likely to preside over schools that are majority white teachers with a majority of minority students (Pollard, 1997; Tillman, 2004; Echols, 2005). African American Principals also deal with schools that are undergoing major social changes and mediating between teachers and students of different backgrounds. This presents a need to identify the perceptions held by African American principals as they take on challenges in schools today. Much educational re­search, particularly that conducted on women, African Americans, and other people of color, has taken an ahistorical and acontextual approach. In other words, researchers have failed to consider both the historical and contempo­rary experiences of these groups, particularly their experiences of resistance to oppression.