School Colors Ep. 2: Power to the People

In the late 1960s, the Central Brooklyn neighborhood of Ocean Hill-Brownsville was at the center of a bold experiment in community control of public schools. But as Black and Puerto Rican parents in Ocean Hill-Brownsville tried to exercise power over their schools, they collided headfirst with the teachers’ union — leading to the longest teachers’ strike in American history, 51 years ago this fall.

What started as a local pilot project turned into one of the most divisive racial confrontations ever witnessed in New York City. Ocean Hill-Brownsville made the national news for months, shattered political coalitions and created new ones, and fundamentally shaped the city we live in today.

But as the strike shut down schools citywide, Ocean Hill-Brownsville mobilized to keep their schools open — and prove to the world that Black people could educate their own children and run their own institutions successfully. In the process, they inspired a particular brand of defiant, independent, and intensely proud Black activism that would define political life in Central Brooklyn for generations.

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