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Hope and Despair in the American City

Hope and Despair in the American City

Why There Are No Bad Schools in Raleigh

Gerald Grant

ISBN 9780674060265

Publication date: 03/04/2011

In 1972, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down a 5–4 verdict in Milliken v. Bradley, thereby blocking the state of Michigan from merging the Detroit public school system with those of the surrounding suburbs. This decision effectively walled off underprivileged students in many American cities, condemning them to a system of racial and class segregation and destroying their chances of obtaining a decent education.
In Hope and Despair in the American City, Gerald Grant compares two cities—his hometown of Syracuse, New York, and Raleigh, North Carolina—in order to examine the consequences of the nation’s ongoing educational inequities. The school system in Syracuse is a slough of despair, the one in Raleigh a beacon of hope. Grant argues that the chief reason for Raleigh’s educational success is the integration by social class that occurred when the city voluntarily merged with the surrounding suburbs in 1976 to create the Wake County Public School System. By contrast, the primary cause of Syracuse’s decline has been the growing class and racial segregation of its metropolitan schools, which has left the city mired in poverty.
Hope and Despair in the American City is a compelling study of urban social policy that combines field research and historical narrative in lucid and engaging prose. The result is an ambitious portrait—sometimes disturbing, often inspiring—of two cities that exemplify our nation’s greatest educational challenges, as well as a passionate exploration of the potential for school reform that exists for our urban schools today.


  • In Hope and Despair in the American City, Gerald Grant has written a profound book about American cities and their schools. He combines far-ranging scholarship with lively field research, autobiography, historical narrative, and an expert grasp of demographic data and the winding mazes of legal opinion. The result is a big and ambitious portrait, through the story of two cities, of our nation's greatest educational problems and possibilities for school reform in the metropolitan U.S. today.

    —Joseph Featherstone, Michigan State University


  • Gerald Grant is Hannah Hammond Professor of Education and Sociology, Emeritus, at Syracuse University.

Book Details

  • 240 pages
  • 5-1/2 x 8-1/4 inches
  • Harvard University Press

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