The Lost Education of Horace Tate

Uncovering the Hidden Heroes Who Fought for Justice in Schools

In the epic tradition of Eyes on the Prize and with the cultural significance of John Lewis’s March trilogy, an ambitious and harrowing account of the devoted black educators who battled southern school segregation and inequality

“Negroes cannot and will not be free or integrated if all that they have is relinquished, emasculated, given up, or abandoned.” —Dr. Horace E. Tate

For two years an aging Dr. Horace Tate—a former teacher, principal, and state senator—told Emory University professor Vanessa Siddle Walker about his clandestine travels on unpaved roads under the cover of night, meeting with other educators and with Dr. King, Georgia politicians, and even U.S. presidents. Sometimes he and Walker spoke by phone, sometimes in his office, sometimes in his home; always Tate shared fascinating stories of the times leading up to and following Brown v. Board of Education. Dramatically, on his deathbed, he asked Walker to return to his office in Atlanta, in a building that was once the headquarters of another kind of southern strategy, one driven by integrity and equality.

Just days after Dr. Tate’s passing in 2002, Walker honored his wish. Up a dusty, rickety staircase, locked in a concealed attic, she found the collection: a massive archive documenting the underground actors and covert strategies behind the most significant era of the fight for educational justice. Thus began Walker’s sixteen-year project to uncover the network of educators behind countless battles—in courtrooms, schools, and communities—for the education of black children. Until now, the courageous story of how black Americans in the South won so much and subsequently fell so far has been incomplete. The Lost Education of Horace Tate is a monumental work that offers fresh insight into the southern struggle for human rights, revealing little-known accounts of leaders such as W.E.B. Du Bois and James Weldon Johnson, as well as hidden provocateurs like Horace Tate.


“A more conscientious torchbearer of the history of black educators in America you will not find. Vanessa Siddle Walker is a brilliant thinker, a teacher’s teacher, and a sage storyteller. Her words illuminate the passion, the tragedy, and the inventiveness behind the struggle for equality in the South.”
—Lisa Delpit, bestselling author of Other People’s Children
“In an era when policymakers are quick to shutter urban public schools and fire their black teachers in the name of competition, Walker’s incisive scholarship on the brilliance and dedication of the black educators discarded during the school desegregation era requires us to confront the full cost to our nation of racialized policies that erase committed professionals because of the color of their skin.”
—Amy Stuart Wells, professor of sociology and education, Teachers College, Columbia University
“African American teachers intentionally operated outside the public eye to achieve justice during Jim Crow; so much so, that their bravery has been forgotten. The writing is suspenseful. The story is tragic. Yet it provides practical lessons about the critical work of educators in times of civil unrest.”
—Jarvis R. Givens, assistant professor, Harvard Graduate School of Education
“Walker compels us to see that the main struggle for educational equality unfolds off stage. This subterranean process, reproduced over generations, transmitted advocacy that made, remade, and ultimately overturned Jim Crow from the bottom up. This is a passionate, original, and brilliant study of how black educators navigated racially segregated schooling.”
—James D. Anderson, dean of the College of Education, University of Illinois
“A beautiful story, a powerful life, and an essential read.”
—Gloria Ladson-Billings, professor of urban education, University of Wisconsin-Madison and author of The DreamKeepers
“Meticulous in its historical detail and compelling in its narrative. . . . It is both a tragic tale, and a cautionary one for those who continue the struggle today. Well worth reading!”
—Beverly Daniel Tatum, author of Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?

News and Reviews

THREE New Press Books in Publishers Weekly Best of 2018 List

The New Press is excited to announce that Publishers Weekly

Publishers Weekly (starred review)

This well–told and inspiring tale, with its rarely discussed angle on the school segregation fight, will draw in readers interested in meaningful work and activism, or just a well–told tale.

Publishers Weekly

A “Top 10 History” pick

Atlanta Journal Constitution

A feature on the author