Cover

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Title Page

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p. iii

Table of Contents

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p. vii

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Preface

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pp. ix-xi

In my youth I suspected that if I thought too much about the plight of the poor, uneducated, and powerless, I would become dangerously militant, a young Angela Davis probably facing jail time. I was wary of committing, like Rosa Parks, so stunningly simple an act of civil disobedience in so decisiveand irrevocable a manner as to take the nation’s breath away, bringing...

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Acknowledgments

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p. xiii

The number of people who gave me invaluable help with this book is staggering. Friends, colleagues, family, acquaintances, strangers–their contributions made the development and completion of my work possible. I thank them all...

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Part 1. Freedom’s Genesis

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pp. 1-2

Sometime after midnight on a starlit evening in the autumn of 1931, my mother and her siblings were awakened by loud knocks on the front door of their house, the snorting of horses, and the shouts of white men demanding that my grandfather come out...

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Chapter 1. Motivation, Means, and Method: Studying Educational Attainment

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pp. 3-13

While growing up black, female, poor, southern, without strong family support, and during the Great Depression effectively ensured that my mother would not become college educated, those conditions did not prevent her from enhancing the educational levels and lifestyle of her children...

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Part 2. The Economics of Oppression

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pp. 15-18

The role of godly power in the lives of the oppressed, I believe, is absolutely necessary. Under the Jim Crow laws of the south during my childhood, religion certainly was the most important connective element in our community...

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Chapter 2. In Their Words: Stories of First-Generation College-Graduate Activists

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pp. 19-88

In the following narratives, I recount the experiences of five of the participants in this study. I have chosen the narrative approach in order to provide a vivid, contextualized account of the complexity of the participants’ lives and the many obstacles and issues they negotiated as first-generation college graduates...

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Part 3. Building a Rock Foundation

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pp. 89-93

I fell gravely ill when I was a little over a year old. From an energetic toddler, I became listless, refused food, and cried often. The doctor recommended a diet of saltines and Coca-Cola, which proved ineffective, and my parents grew certain that I was dying....

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Chapter 3. Family, School, Community: Vehicles to Realized Potential

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pp. 95-128

Using many of my own family, school, and community experiences as a bridge to understanding the participants in this study, I considered the manner of individual from a low SES background who becomes the first in his or her family to attend college, to earn a college degree, and to choose social or educational...

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Part 4. One Heart, One Love

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pp. 129-134

Of my father’s three sisters who lived to adulthood, none married well. When the eldest of the children, Lucille, left secondary school, she went to teach in a little town near Wilson, North Carolina, where she met and married a good-looking, no-good man, effectively ending her teaching career...

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Chapter 4. Access, Success, Egress: The Collegiate Experience

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pp. 135-165

Many of the first-generation college students in this study could not depend on their high schools to help them with the process of getting to college. Instead, they depended on their own resources or on their communities since their parents often knew less about the subject than they did...

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Part 5. My Job Description

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pp. 167-170

As a seventh-grade language arts teacher in the integrated public schools of a working-class city in Illinois, I began observing every day the fruits of the district’s tracking system. Most black students could be found in the lowest level classes, including special education, while most whites were in the higher level ones...

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Chapter 5. Paying Back: A Sampler

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pp. 171-202

Since one of the questions that guided my research concerned the impact of the participants’ previous experiences on their roles as social or educational activists, I expected to find information on the participants’ lives before college graduation that might relate directly to their activist lives after college...

Part 6. Eyes Ahead of Us and Eyes Behind

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p. 203

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Chapter 6. In Pursuit of Happiness

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pp. 205-251

Let us briefly consider the costs and benefits to society of the education received by the seventeen men and women in this study. The interviews illustrate that society contributed far less to the participants’ academic successes than to the education of students whom schools have traditionally valued...

References

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pp. 253-264

Index

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pp. 265-274