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A Light Shines in Harlem
A Light Shines in Harlem

A Light Shines in Harlem

New York's First Charter School and the Movement It Led


224 Pages, 6 x 9

Formats: PDF, EPUB, Mobipocket, Trade Paper

Trade Paper, $19.99 (US $19.99) (CA $26.99)

Publication Date: September 2016

ISBN 9781613737491

Rights: US & CA

Chicago Review Press (Sep 2016)
Lawrence Hill Books


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A Light Shines in Harlem tells the fascinating history of New York ’s first charter school, the Sisulu-Walker Charter School of Harlem, and the early days of the state’s charter school movement. Told through the experiences of those on the inside—including a hero of the civil rights movement; a Wall Street star; inner-city activists; and real-world educators, parents, and students—this book shows how they all came together to create a groundbreaking school that, in its best years, far outperformed public schools in the neighborhoods in which most of its children lived. It also looks at education reform through a broader public policy lens, discussing recent research and issues facing the charter movement today, describing what makes a public charter school—or any school—succeed or fail, and showing how these lessons can be applied to other public and private schools to make all of them better. The end result is not only an exciting narrative of how one school fought to succeed, but also an illuminating glimpse into the future of education in the United States.


“Each school has its own story, but few are chronicled as honestly, openly, and passionately as in this engaging volume. You will learn to love this school built with the same passion that inspired those who walked with Dr. Martin Luther King.” —Professor Paul E. Peterson, director of the Program on Education Policy and Governance at Harvard University and author of Saving Schools: From Horace Mann to Virtual Learning

“A compelling, dynamic tale of how to create great schools. If you’re a parent or teacher who cares about educating our children, this is a book you cannot afford to miss.” —David A. Vise, Pulitzer Prize winner and author of The Bureau and the Mole and The Google Story

A beautifully written and meticulously researched story about New York’s first charter school and the heroic folks who were responsible for creating this groundbreaking educational institution. It is a riveting story with a host of exceptional characters who turned a dream into a reality.” —Sy Fliegel, author of Miracle in East Harlem: The Fight for Choice in Public Education


“A must-read for anyone who cares about improving our educational system. Mary Bounds has researched and written an important story detailing the tenacious process required to establish charter schools in New York. It is a well-told narrative about launching a successful program that can enrich the education of every child in America.” —George E. Pataki, former governor of New York

A Light Shines in Harlem tells the truly remarkable story behind New York City’s charter schools and the people who paved the way for lights to shine for more children. Read it and you’ll understand why charter schools were created and how they are the most important lever for social and economic equity this nation has ever seen.” —Jeanne Allen, Founder, Senior Fellow, and president emeritus of The Center for Education Reform

“A new, must-read book that tells the poignant, impactful story of Sisulu-Walker Charter School of Harlem, the first-ever charter school to open in New York.” —The Center for Education Reform Newswire

A Light Shines in Harlem tracks the tenacity and heroism of a few of the reform movement's earliest and lesser known pioneers.” —The Huffington Post

“At its heart, A Light Shines is the story of an unlikely partnership between a Wall Street hotshot and a Harlem minister, the little-school-that-could they created together on 115th Street, and the path that they’ve charted for educational equity in New York—and across the nation.” —City Journal

Author Biography

Mary C. Bounds is an award-winning journalist who has written for the Dallas Morning News, the Houston Chronicle, the New York Times, the Shreveport Times, and other publications. She lives in Chappaqua, New York. Dr. Wyatt Tee Walker is a renowned civil rights leader and pastor. He was chief of staff for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Virginia state director of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), executive director of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and helped organize the 1963 March on Washington. For 37 years he served as senior pastor at Harlem’s Canaan Baptist Church of Christ. He lives in Chester, Virginia.