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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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This book represents the culmination of several years of work and dedication. All of our efforts were motivated by a tremendous determination to tell this story to the best of our ability. We recognized our limitations, White women who are not native to New Orleans. In fact, we considered not writing the book because of this. However, William Frantz Public School kept coming back to us, and ultimately, we decided to record the rich story it represents.

We would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge all who offered their resources, time, talent, and funding to us. Rowan University, Stockton University, and the University of Nebraska at Omaha provided financial support through travel grants and research support. We are grateful for these contributions that allowed us to immerse ourselves into the research and writing of this book.

We spent weeks engaged in research in New Orleans. During this time, we were fortunate to have met many people who supported our work. Many thanks to Phillip Cunningham and his colleagues at the Amistad Research Center, Connie Phelps and her staff in the Special Collections at the University of New Orleans, Earl K. Long Library, and Christina Bryant at the New Orleans Public Library for providing access to numerous collections including archived documents, newspapers, microfilm, audio tapes, photographs, and public records. Not only did they provide the items we asked for, they also made helpful suggestions to expand our research. Without their assistance and expertise this...

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