The Kennedy-King College Experiment in Chicago 1969-2007: How African Americans Reshaped the Curriculum and Purpose of Higher Education

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This social history narrates conditions that led to the founding of Kennedy-King College on the Southside of Chicago, Illinois, during the late 1960s. It connects the dots between birth of the college and the push for social justice led by the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). SCLC joined with other groups in 1966 and launched the “Chicago campaign” to tear down racial barriers. The main narrative tells how concerns with social justice and ethnic group efficacy gave birth to Kennedy-King College in the first place. As for political and cultural time of day, this was after the glory days of the civil rights movement. African Americans had pushed forcefully for social justice mainly with non-violent, direct action protest and had realized some gains. But calm change gave way to the black student movement during the late 1960s and early 1970s. Student activists used combative tactics to effect change at a number of college campuses in the city and nearby suburbs. With first-person accounts, the work reports details of the student led changeover from Wilson Junior College to Kennedy-King. Key persons who lived and made the college’s history during 1969-2007—presidents of the college, faculty, staff, and students—tell their own stories from memories of their experiences in their own terms. In the main, this work has great potential as a general reference in African American history and culture. It also has clear value as a teaching reference about what everyday people with shared needs did and can do. It makes clear in the end why so many viewed Kennedy-King College as a symbol of African American self-reliance.


“… the entire City Colleges of Chicago went through a profound transformation during this period. African Americans went from virtual exclusion to now holding most positions from engineer to chancellor. In the end, this work makes clear the roles of the civil rights and black student movements in [that] change.” – Prof. Leonard Wash, Kennedy-King College

"The authors do a great job in outlining the politics involved in forming the college. This project weaves together an interesting social history narrative by employing extensive interviews with former stakeholders (students, faculty, and staff). This work is exceptionally strong in focusing on the challenges of leadership in advancing the goals of the college in spite of, and in many cases, in the face of significant racial and political tensions from inside and outside of the college."
Prof. Lionel Kimble,
Chicago State University

"The interviews are invaluable and documents the players who took part in this dramatic process... This book provides a unique perspective as to that African American experience that many communities went through with the advent of the Black Power movement."
Robert Miller, Curator, the Vivian G. Harsh Research Collection of Afro-American History and Literature

"I believe that this is an extremely important historical document that the authors infuse with the historical backdrop of the Civil Rights Movement. It also describes, clearly, the work and influence of the African American students who attended the school."
Prof. Terry Clark, Kennedy-King College; Distinguished Professor

Table of Contents





Collection and Management of Conversations

Assumptions and Beliefs

Another Way of Thinking


Chapter 1: Connect the Dots

Historical Context and Social Forces

The Brown Decision

The Aftermath of Brown

African American Urbanization and Idle Federal Policy

Social Unrest in the City of Chicago

Affirmative Action and Minority Education

City Colleges of Chicago Politics: Sweet Home Chicago?

Basically an African American Institution

Political and Cultural Time of Day: A Summary Note

Chapter 2: Formative Years 1969-1976

Woodrow Wilson Junior College to Kennedy-King College

Maceo T. Bowie and Transition to a New College

Paradigm Shift

Chapter 3: Gilded-Age and Reconfiguration 1976-1986

Akin’s Meaning Environment and Worldview

Downturn in Student Enrollment

Political Conservatism and Mounting Tensions

Continuous Dismantling of Akin’s Administration

Administrative Reconfiguration

Chapter 4: Politics of Change 1987-1994

Chicago Politics and City Colleges

Formal Hierarchy and Informal Leadership

New Life Space or Meaning Environment

No-Confidence Vote Referendum

Attempt at Restoration

To Dare Mighty Things

Chapter 5: Dust of Changes Rising? 1994-1998

Career Watershed

Formal Hierarchy and Informal Leadership

Chancellor of the City Colleges of Chicago

Wayne D. Watson and Kennedy-King College in Context

New Meaning Environment and World View

Never-ending Debate

A New College Campus

Changes Rising or Sameness setting?

Chapter 6: Climbing Down the Same Tree 1998-1999

About Gender Politics and “Womanism”

Becoming College President

Formal Hierarchy and Informal Leadership

New Life Space or Meaning Environment

The Short Term and Aftermath

Chapter 7: Not Enough Time 1999-2003

A Good Fit at a Good Time

Shared Governance

Informal Leadership and Formal Hierarchy

New Life Space or Meaning Environment

Was Wellington Wilson a Good Selection?

Chapter 8: Pray What Needs Praying and Say What Needs Saying 2003-2009

Having the Right Stuff

Door to Opportunity Thrown Open

Formal Hierarchy and Informal Leadership

New Life Space or Meaning Environment

New Kennedy-King College

Chapter 9: Pillars of the Academy/Community

Mr. Leonard Wash

Ms. Iver Watson

Mr. Welton Murphy

Dr. James E. Moore

Ms. Eloys L. Goon

Dr. Robert E. Grimes

Ms. Quintyra Puckett

Dr. Harold Pates

Mr. Wellington Wilson

Mr. Clyde K. El’Amin

Chapter 10: Education, Community Activism, and Social Relevance 2007 and Beyond

A New Kennedy-King College

New Kennedy-King College and the Question of Social Relevance

Educational Achievement and the Earning Gap

A Finale Note

Chapter Notes



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