Elizabeth Todd-Breland

Elizabeth Todd-Breland is a scholar of 20th-century U.S. urban and social history, African American history, and the history of education. Her work also explores interdisciplinary considerations of racial and economic inequality, urban public policy, neighborhood transformation, education policy, and civic engagement. Her award-winning first book, A Political Education: Black Politics and Education Reform in Chicago since the 1960s (2018), analyzes transformations in Black politics, shifts in modes of education organizing, and the racial politics of education reform from the 1960s into the 21st century. Todd-Breland’s writing has appeared in scholarly journals and edited volumes. She has also contributed to local and national radio, television, print, and online media, including NPR, ESPN, and the Washington Post. She is an Associate Professor of History and an Affiliated Faculty member in Black Studies at the University of Illinois Chicago. A frequent public speaker, Todd-Breland also organizes professional development workshops and develops curricula on African American history, urban education, and racial justice. In 2019, Todd-Breland was appointed as a member of the Chicago Board of Education.

OAH Lectures by Elizabeth Todd-Breland

This lecture explores the historical significance of Black teachers in Black communities, racial and economic justice struggles led by Black teachers from the mid-20th century to the present, and current challenges in supporting Black teachers and growing a more racially representative teaching force.

This lecture explores transformations in Black politics, shifts in education organizing, and the racial politics of education reform from the 1960s into the 21st century. It tells the story of Black students, educators, parents, and activists' community-based strategies to improve education beginning during the 1960s, as support for desegregation transformed into community control, experimental schooling models that predated charter schools, and Black teachers' organizing that challenged the teachers' union. The lecture uses examples from Chicago to tell a national story that makes connections between history and current problems with racism in education today.


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