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Leading While Black

Reflections on the Racial Realities of Black School Leaders Through the Obama Era and Beyond


Floyd Cobb

What does it mean to lead while Black in America? How do Black educators lead for equity to ensure a quality academic experience for Black children when calls for equality are routinely discredited in our post-racial context? Through this book, Floyd Cobb passionately and honestly draws from his personal and professional experiences to describe his path to accepting the harsh realities of being an equity-minded Black leader in K–12 schools. Offered through the performance of autoethnography, Cobb highlights and gives voice to the often-unacknowledged vulnerability of equity-minded Black leaders who work in suburban contexts. Using the era of the Obama presidency as the backdrop for this work, Cobb illuminates the challenges and complexities of advocating for marginalized children who come from a shared racial heritage in a society that far too often are reluctant to accept such efforts. Through Leading While Black, emerging and aspiring Black leaders will be reminded that they are not alone in their struggles, but must nonetheless persist if we are to do our part in making education a better experience for our children.

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Chapter One: Critical Moments in Postracial America


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Chapter 1


Critical Moments in Postracial America

For, while the tale of how we suffer, and how we are delighted and how we may triumph is never new, it always must be heard. There isn’t any other tale to tell, it’s the only light we’ve got in all this darkness.

—James Baldwin, Sonny’s Blues, 1957

Post-Racial Realism

Whenever I engage in conversations about educational leadership with emerging school leaders who are also Black, the first thing that comes to mind is my late father-in-law, John Buckner. Buckner was a mentor, someone I placed on a pedestal because he was a living example of everything I hoped to be. He was a kind man who had a beautiful family and was highly respected in the community, a sharp dresser, highly intellectual, and incredibly principled. He knew who he was and the things in which he believed, making it obvious to anyone he met that he was comfortable in his own skin. ← 1 | 2 →

Despite being my father-in-law, I held Buckner in such high regard that I never felt fully comfortable referring to him by his first name. As clinical as it might sound to some, I regarded the title of “father-in-law” as a term of endearment because he was a father figure in a way not too different from my birth father, whom I also love dearly. He was just that special to...

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