Charles Payne

Henry Rutgers Professor of African and African American Studies;  Director, Joseph C. Cornwall Center for Metropolitan Studies,
Rutgers University Newark

About the Speaker

Charles M. Payne is the Henry Rutgers Distinguished Professor of African American Studies at Rutgers University- Newark where he also directs the Joseph Cornwall Center for Metropolitan Research.

He co-edited the anthology, Teach Freedom: The African American Tradition of Education For Liberation (Teachers College Press, 2008), which is concerned with education as a tool for liberation  from Reconstruction through Children’s Defense Fund Freedom Schools.  He is also the author of Getting What We Ask For:  The Ambiguity of Success and Failure In Urban Education (1984) and I've Got the Light of Freedom: The Organizing Tradition in the Mississippi Civil Rights Movement (1995).  The latter has won awards from the Southern Regional Council, Choice Magazine, the Simon Wisenthal Center and the Gustavus Myers Center for the Study of Human Rights in North America.  He is co-author of Debating the Civil Rights Movement (1999) and co-editor of Time Longer Than Rope: A Century of African American Activism, 1850 -1950 (2003).

One of his current book projects is a continuation of the discussion from So Much Reform. Entitled Schooling the Ghetto: Fifty Years of “Reforming” Urban Schools, it is an attempt to synthesize what we should have learned about improving the schooling and life outcomes of children from disenfranchised communities.  He is also finishing a collection of essays with the working title of   Nobody’s Fault But Mine:  Reframing the Conversation About Black Youth which argues that the current national debate about education has become narrowly academic in a way that underestimates the importance of the sense of disconnection that many minority youth feel from the larger society and its institutions and the importance of helping those youth develop the capacity to think critically about their social identities.  With the support of the Carnegie Foundation, he is exploring how schooling for minorities in France, the United Kingdom and Hungary compares to the United States.

He has been the recipient of a Senior Scholar grant from the Spencer Foundation and was a Resident Fellow at the foundation for 2006-7. He has won an Alphonse Fletcher Fellowship, granted in recognition of work that contributes to improving race relations in American society and furthers the broad social goals of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board of Education decision.  He spent the 2014-15 school year as a fellow at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton.

Payne has been a member of the Board of the Chicago Algebra Project, of the Steering Committee for the Consortium on Chicago School Research, the Board of Directors of MDRC, the Research Advisory Committee for the Chicago Annenberg Project, the editorial boards of Catalyst, the Sociology of Education and Educational Researcher, the advisory board for Teacher College Press’ series on social justice.  He has served on the MDRC Education Committee and the research committee for the Public Education Fund in Chicago.  He continues to serve as Senior Fellow for the Center for the Study Policy.  He is a co-founder of the Duke Curriculum Project, which involved university faculty in the professional development of public school teachers and also co-founder of the John Hope Franklin Scholars, which tries to better prepare high school youngsters for college.  He is among the founders of the Education for Liberation Network, which encourages the development of educational initiatives that encourage young people to think critically about social issues and understand their own capacity for addressing them. Payne was also founding director of the Urban Education Project in Orange, New Jersey, a nonprofit community center that tried to interest urban youngsters in technical careers.

Payne has taught at Southern University, Williams College, Haverford College, Northwestern University and Duke University.  He has won several teaching awards; at Northwestern, he held the Charles Deering McCormick Chair for Teaching Excellence and at Duke, the Sally Dalton Robinson Chair for Excellence in Teaching and Research. In 2010-11, he served as the acting executive director of the Woodlawn Children’s Promise Community, an effort, modeled on the Harlem Children’s Zone, to dramatically improve youth outcomes in the Woodlawn neighborhood of Chicago.  He served briefly as Interim Chief Education Officer for Chicago Public Schools.          

Payne holds a bachelor's degree in Afro-American studies from Syracuse University and a doctorate in sociology from Northwestern.  

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