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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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If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.

—Toni Morrison

Firsts and Only’s

For most of my life, I have been fascinated by Black Americans who were either the first or the only to accomplish something. Whether that was Jackie Robinson, Thurgood Marshall, Tom Bradley, Althea Gibson, Colin Powell, or Barack Obama, I have always had a deep reverence for the resilience, courage, and intestinal fortitude it takes to live as the example for others. I’m sure part of my fascination with these and other individuals has a lot to do with the fact that I have spent the greater part of my life being a first and only. Certainly, not to the scale and magnitude of those mentioned above, but I am nonetheless intimately familiar with the weight of the burden and perseverance necessary to carry the hopes and aspirations of those like me. ← xix | xx →

For me, the reality of this weight became self-evident in my youth. As one of the few Black children in my suburban San Diego neighborhood and almost always the only Black student in each of my classrooms, I became accustomed to what it meant to be a living example of one’s race at an early age. Never having the advantage of blending in or the privilege of being seen for my individuality, I have almost always known the responsibility that “only-ness...

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