The Power of Children: Childhood, Memory, and the Remaking of New Orleans Public Education
Caroline Pinkston

About the research


NAEd/Spencer Dissertation Fellowship

Award Year



University of Texas

Primary Discipline

In 1960, six-year-old Ruby Bridges embarked on a struggle to integrate William Frantz Elementary in the 9th Ward of New Orleans. Her harrowing daily walk to school, escorted by federal marshals, captured the hearts of the nation and transformed Bridges into a hero of the civil rights movement. Today, a statue of Bridges honors her memory in the courtyard of the Frantz building, but Frantz Elementary itself no longer exists. Closed in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the historic building now houses Akili Academy, part of the Crescent City Schools charter network.Ruby Bridges embodies a popular narrative of civil rights history, in which individual courage and persistence triumph over the forces of racism in American life. The Frantz building, meanwhile, encapsulates the history of public schools in New Orleans from the end of the civil rights era to the post-Katrina charter school movement that has dramatically restructured the city’s school system. Drawing on childhood studies, cultural memory, and educational history, this project engages with the intertwined histories and competing visions of school reform and social justice emerging from this space. The project traces Bridges’ construction as an icon of the civil rights movement, unearths an institutional history of Frantz Elementary, and investigates how Akili navigates the history of its home today. Ultimately, this trajectory sheds light on how charter school reformers mobilize and erase local history and public memory in the service of their work.
About Caroline Pinkston
Caroline Pinkston is a PhD candidate in American Studies at the University of Texas at Austin. Her work brings education into conversation with childhood studies and cultural memory. Her current project focuses on the mobilization of civil rights memory in the charter school movement. She holds a B.A. in American Studies and English from Northwestern University (2008), an M.S. in English Education from Lehman College (2010), and an M.A. in American Studies from the University of Texas (2014). A former high school English teacher, she has taught and worked in public, private, and nonprofit settings in New York City and Austin.

Pin It on Pinterest