Charles M. Payne is the Henry Rutgers Distinguished Professor of African American Studies at Rutgers University Newark and the Director of the Joseph Cornwall Center for Metropolitan Research. His research and teaching interests include urban education and school reform, social inequality, social change and modern African American history, particularly the Black Freedom Struggle. His books include So Much Reform, So Little Change, (Harvard Education Publishing Group, 2008) which examines the persistence of failure in urban schools, and a co-edited anthology, Teach Freedom: The African American Tradition of Education For Liberation (Teachers College Press, 2008), which is concerned with education as a tool for liberation  from Reconstruction through Children’s Defense Fund Freedom Schools.  He is also the author of Getting What We Ask For:  The Ambiguity of Success and Failure In Urban Education (Greenwood Publishing, 1984) and I've Got the Light of Freedom: The Organizing Tradition in the Mississippi Civil Rights Movement (1995).  The latter has won awards from the Southern Regional Council, Choice Magazine, the Simon Wisenthal Center and the Gustavus Myers Center for the Study of Human Rights in North America.  He is co-author of Debating the Civil Rights Movement (1999) and co-editor of Time Longer Than Rope: A Century of African American Activism, 1850 -1950 (2003).

One of his current book projects is a continuation of So Much Reform. Entitled Schooling the Ghetto: Fifty Years of “Reforming” Urban Schools, it is an attempt to synthesize what we should have learned about improving the schooling and life outcomes of children from disenfranchised communities. It i also a commentary on the difficulties social scientists have serving the equity interests of the poor.   He is also finishing a collection of essays, Nobody’s Fault But Mine:  Reframing the Conversation About Black Youth, arguing that, given that Black children are likely to grow up immersed in narratives of Black deficiency, Black communities have to do a much better job of arming children with counter-narratives.   With the support of the Carnegie Foundation, he is also exploring how schooling for minorities in France, the United Kingdom and Hungary compares to the United States.

Payne has been the recipient of a Senior Scholar grant from the Spencer Foundation and was a Resident Fellow at the foundation for 2006-7. He has won an Alphonse Fletcher Fellowship, granted in recognition of work that contributes to improving race relations in American society and furthers the broad social goals of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board of Education decision.  He spent the 2014-15 school year as a fellow at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton.  He holds honorary degrees from Syracuse University and Lesley University.

Payne has been a member of the Board of the Chicago Algebra Project, of the Steering Committee for the Consortium on Chicago School Research, the Board of Directors of MDRC, the Research Advisory Committee for the Chicago Annenberg Project, the editorial boards of Catalyst, the Sociology of Education and Educational Researcher, and the advisory board for Teacher College Press’ series on social justice.  He is a co-founder of the Duke Curriculum Project, which involved university faculty in the professional development of public school teachers and also co-founder of the John Hope Franklin Scholars, which tries to better prepare high school youngsters for college.  He is among the founders of the Education for Liberation Network, which encourages the development of educational initiatives that encourage young people to think critically about social issues and understand their own capacity for addressing them. Payne was also founding director of the Urban Education Project in Orange, New Jersey, a nonprofit community center that tried to interest urban youngsters in technical careers. From 2009 to 2011, he served as the acting executive director of the Woodlawn Children’s Promise Community, an effort, modeled on the Harlem Children’s Zone, to dramatically improve youth outcomes in the Woodlawn neighborhood of Chicago.  He served briefly as Interim Chief Education Officer for Chicago Public Schools.

Payne has taught at Southern University, Williams College, Haverford College, Northwestern University, Duke University, and the University of Chicago.  He has won several teaching awards; at Northwestern, he held the Charles Deering McCormick Chair for Teaching Excellence and at Duke, the Sally Dalton Robinson Chair for Excellence in Teaching and Research.                          

Payne holds a bachelor's degree in Afro-American studies from Syracuse University and a doctorate in sociology from Northwestern. 



Recent Publications,Speeches

(with Cristina Ortiz), "Doing the Impossible: Meaningful Reform in Urban Schools,”   The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, expected September, 2017.

Claim No Easy Victories: Some Notes toward a Fearless Sociology of Education.  In Jal Mehta and Scott Davies, eds.  Education in a New Society: Renewing the Sociology of Education.  University of Chicago Press, in press, expected spring, 2018.   

(With Robert Eschmann), “Rethinking Race,” Education & Society ,  T. Domina, B. Gibbs, L.  Nunn, and A. Penner, eds. University of California Press, in press, expected, 2017.

 (With Charity Anderson, Ashley Cureton and Ryan Heath)  “On the Meaning of Grit…and Hope…and Fate Control…and Alienation…and Locus of Control…and…Self-Efficacy…and…Effort Optimism…and…”, Urban Review, 48(2);  (2016): 198-219.

(Speech) “The Limits of Schooling, The Power of Poverty,  American Educational Research Association Centennial Lecture, Detroit Institute of the Arts, March 23, 2017.