The Lost Education of Horace Tate

Uncovering the Hidden Heroes Who Fought for Justice in Schools

The harrowing account of the black Southern educators who “bravely pressed on for justice in schools” (The New York Review of Books) even as the bright lodestar of desegregation faded

“Meticulous in its historical detail and compelling in its narrative . . . both a tragic tale, and a cautionary one for those who continue the struggle today.”
—Beverly Daniel Tatum, author of Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?

This “well-told and inspiring”story (Publishers Weekly, starred review) is the monumental product of Lillian Smith Book Award–winning author Vanessa Siddle Walker’s two-decade investigation into the clandestine travels and meetings—with other educators, Dr. King, Georgia politicians, and even U.S. presidents—of one Dr. Horace Tate, a former Georgia school teacher, principal, and state senator. In a sweeping work
“that reads like a companion piece to Hidden Figures” (Atlanta Journal-Constitution), post-Brown generations will encounter invaluable lessons for today from the educators behind countless historical battles—in courtrooms, schools, and communities—for the quality education of black children.

For two years, an aging Tate told Walker fascinating stories about a lifetime advocating for racial justice in schools. On his deathbed, he asked her to return to his office in Atlanta, where upon his passing she discovered an attic filled with a massive archive documenting the underground actors and covert strategies behind the most significant era of the fight for educational justice. Until now, the courageous tale 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 powerful reminder of the link between educators and the struggle for equality and justice in American history” (Wall Street Journal).


“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

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

Bitch Media

A “BitchReads: 11 Feminist Books You Should Read in July” pick


Goodreads Reviews