The Quest for Citizenship: African American and Native American Education in Kansas, 1880-1935

May 13th, 2011 | By | Category: 22-4: Honoring Student Success, Media Reviews

By Kim Cary Warren
University of North Carolina Press (2010)

Review by Michael W. Simpson

The basic premise of the book is that the attempts by White “reformers” to define citizenship roles for African Americans and American Indians through schooling failed because students used that very schooling to develop skills and knowledge that allowed them to define and determine citizenship on their own terms.

In the case of African Americans, White reformers insisted on schooling that prepared them for lower level jobs on the margin of society—and which would keep them permanently segregated. These same reformers hoped to fulfill the myth of the vanishing Indian by integrating American Indians into White society and increasing intermarriage.

In The Quest for Citizenship, the author exposes how reformers reinforced the racial hierarchies accepted at the time while espousing freedom and equality. The author also shows how African Americans and American Indians followed different paths in determining for themselves the nature of their American identities. For Natives, this meant a bi-culturalism that maintained their ways while also walking in the current world of the dominant society.

The book is recommended for its consideration of both African American and American Indians and for providing evidence and possibilities for those still involved in schooling imposed by well-meaning but misguided people and systems.

Michael W. Simpson, J.D., M.Ed., is a doctoral candidate in American Indian Studies at the University of Arizona. He conducts training in exposing judgment made in textual and visual curriculum and the national narrative. He can be reached at

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