Eventos Académicos, 39 ISCHE. Educación y emancipación

Tamaño de fuente: 
Freedom Takes Many Forms:Sovereignty and Schooling in New York City and San Juan, Puerto Rico, 1948-1975
Lauren Lefty

Última modificación: 2017-07-16


On a fall day in 1970 protests erupted at East Harlem’s Benjamin Franklin High School. In the wake of a longtime principal’s transfer, a coalition of parents elected acting dean Melvin Taylor to assume the vacant position. Yet the New York City Board of Education denied the request on grounds of inadequate qualification. In response, students staged a walkout, 4,400 pupils boycotted classes, and hundreds of parents and activists picketed on the sidewalks of 116th Street, eventually occupying the school building until their demands were met. While the New York Times portrayed the event as a standard case of civil rights inspired community control activism, Richie Peréz of the Young Lords Party put it this way: “The issue at Franklin is not just a matter of a principal. It’s a matter of whether or not we have the right to control our own lives…Seize the schools! Que viva Puerto Rico libre!”

As Peréz’s comments suggest, and the Puerto Rican flags draped from the second-floor windows of the high school symbolized, the contours of New York City school politics were far from purely local. The Young Lords and many other Puerto Ricans, who made up a quarter of the city’s public-school population by the 1960s, placed their daily struggles within a global framework of anti-imperialism, understanding their mainland experiences as integrally entwined with the colonial status of the island. And as with other Cold War battles across the globe, the school became a crucial site in this political standoff, serving as a practical and symbolic arena to negotiate American power.

This paper will explore the way Puerto Ricans in both New York and San Juan debated, defined, and constructed the meaning of sovereignty from the vantage of the schoolhouse in the postwar period. In particular, it will look to the writings and actions of prominent activists such as Antonia Pantoja and Evelina Antonetty, organizations such as the United Bronx Parents and Aspira, politicians such as Luís Muñoz Marín and Joseph Monserrat, and teachers, researchers, and administrators in both cities, considering how struggles for educational justice on the mainland linked to those on the island and a long history of Puerto Rican liberation movements. While some argued that sovereignty of the mind, as reflected in culturally nationalist school curriculum, represented liberation, others called for outright political independence from the U.S. and its institutions of power, while still others found freedom in a middle-way path of compromise.

By dissecting these viewpoints, I seek to consider the various meanings of “freedom” as it exists in the realm of education, and consider the role of schooling in matters of sovereignty and empire. By engaging in multi-sited archival work on the island and mainland, I also seek to bring a transnational, hemispheric perspective to postwar U.S. American educational history, which often places Black and Latino activism within the contours of a nationally-bounded civil rights movement.