Career paths of African-Americans who were promoted to upper echelon positions in the school district of Philadelphia: 1964-1974

Curtis Dunston Howard, University of Pennsylvania


The purpose of this study is to examine the upwardly mobile career paths of African-American educators who were promoted to upper echelon positions in the School District of Philadelphia: 1964-1974. Existing research on upwardly mobile careers for African-American public school employees is limited. Researchers generally agree, however, that factors such as mentors, sponsors, role models, and networking play an important part in the development of upwardly mobile career paths. They also agree that African-Americans have little access to these important factors. Nevertheless, when comparing the Philadelphia School System to those of New York City and Detroit (student bodies which numbered greater than 200,000), at the end of the 1964-1974 decade the student/administrator ratio was lowest for Philadelphia. To understand why Philadelphia differed from other comparable American cities, I employed a qualitative methodology to explore the upward mobility of African-Americans in the Philadelphia School System. Over the course of three years I interviewed thirty-two (32) individuals. Seven of the interviewees were among the fourteen (14) promotees. Twenty-five (25) interviewees observed the development of the fourteen (14) career paths of focus. Seven of the fourteen promotees were not available for interview when this study was conducted but relevant sources of career path information included vitaes, letters, newsletters, and other secondary sources. This study identifies individuals and organizations which interacted to help establish upwardly mobile career paths for African-American educators in Philadelphia: 1964-1974. It reveals that upward mobility for African-American educators in Philadelphia required the coalition of individual, school, community, municipal, and state resources. This research further identifies the racial processes within the Philadelphia School System and efforts to replace negative processes with positive ones. It suggests under what circumstances various factors can either support or undermine the establishment of upward mobile career paths for African-American educators.

Subject Area

School administration

Recommended Citation

Howard, Curtis Dunston, "Career paths of African-Americans who were promoted to upper echelon positions in the school district of Philadelphia: 1964-1974" (1989). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI8922520.