READ: Eve Ewing’s Work Examines Black Chicago’s ‘Ghosts’ and Heroes

By Sameer Rao Oct 22, 2018

Sociologist and author Eve Ewing enters the Marvel canon when "Ironheart," her comic series about Black teenage girl genius Riri Williams, hits bookshelves next month. But until then, the scholar is examining the educational inequity that hurts Black Chicagoans (like herself and Williams) in her recently released nonfiction book "Ghosts in the Schoolyard: Racism and School Closings on Chicago’s South Side." 

Ewing spoke about both projects and their connections to her hometown in an interview with The New York Times published yesterday (October 21). "Ghosts in the Schoolyard" specifically examines the events surrounding the city’s closure of numerous Chicago public schools in 2013, as well as the decades of racist housing and educational policy that preceded the action.

While her two books could not be more different in tone or format, Ewing says that these works, as well as the other projects she commands, work towards the general goal of uplifting the Chicago she knows:


In the past year, she has also published an acclaimed book of poetry; collaborated on a play about the poet Gwendolyn Brooks; and co-hosted the Chicago Poetry Block Party, a community festival she helped create. She also sold a middle-grade novel, coming in 2020; signed up as a consulting producer on W. Kamau Bell’s CNN series, “United Shades of America”; and began hosting a new podcast, “Bughouse Square,” inspired by the archives of another Chicago gadfly, Studs Terkel. …Everything from “Ironheart” (out Nov. 28) to the block party, she likes to say, is really part of one big project: helping to dream, and build, a better version of what she calls her “beautiful, hideous, deeply flawed, lovely, violent, endearing, maligned, beloved hometown.”

She elaborates on this mission when talking about how public officials treated the schools on the predominantly Black South Side:


She was in her second year at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education when the Chicago school closure plan was announced. She recalled the shock of going online and seeing Pershing West Middle School, where she had taught, on the list, and then her anger as school officials justified the plan with a blizzard of metrics, summed up with the blunt label “failing schools.”


“I thought about how clean and beautiful and lovely the inside of our building was, and what it felt like to walk in every day, which was just the opposite of the stereotype being invoked,” she said.


Chicago’s public schools, she noted, are only about 10 percent White. “The city is so segregated, and most people don’t come to the South Side,” she said. “It was basically a way of using the shorthand of ‘these schools, these kids.’”

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