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William Frantz Public School

A Story of Race, Resistance, Resiliency, and Recovery in New Orleans


Connie L. Schaffer, Meg White and Martha Graham Viator

Why should you care about what happened to William Frantz Public School? Yes, Ruby Bridges entered the iconic doors of William Frantz in 1960, but the building’s unique role in New Orleans school desegregation is only one part of the important history of this school. Many additional and equally important stories have unfolded within its walls and the neighborhoods surrounding it. These stories matter.

It matters that society has historically marginalized Black students and continues to do so. It matters that attempts to dismantle systemic racism in schools and other institutions still face strong resistance, and these issues continue to deeply divide the United States. It matters that the building remains standing as an indomitable symbol of the resiliency of public education despite decades of waning support, misguided accountability, and a city devasted by Hurricane Katrina. It matters that opportunism, under the guise of recovery, reshaped public education in New Orleans.

William Frantz Public School: A Story of Race, Resistance, Resiliency, and Recovery in New Orleans provides more than an examination of education in one school and one city. It recounts a story that matters to anyone who cares about public education.

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William Frantz Public School: A Story of Race, Resistance, Resiliency, and Recovery tells a complex story. We started out writing this book because we wanted to tell readers what happened to William Frantz Public School in the decades following its desegregation in 1960. As we learned more about the school, we found common threads that drew disparate events together and created a multi-faceted story. The story could not be told without centering the narrative on race and the never-ending resistance to any effort that might end years of de jure and de facto segregation. The resiliency of those the system oppressed—the poor students, Black students, and at times demoralized educators of William Frantz Public School—is equally important as is the so-called recovery of public education in the post-Katrina era.

You may not know the name of the school, but you are likely to recognize photographs of the building that were taken in 1960. Those pictures show a Black 6-year-old girl and four U.S. Federal Marshals walking into the school. The first-grade student entering the school was Ruby Bridges, and while she is a prominent figure in this story, Bridges is not the central character. This book is about events spanning the history of William Frantz Public School. If the walls of this elementary school could talk, they would retell the well-known story of its desegregation in 1960. They would also recount lesser-known, yet important stories, that provide further examination of public education in New...

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