Written by Hava Rachel Gordon, University of Denver

The Research Brief is a short take about interesting academic work.


When community activists protest issues related to local schools, they do so through movements that are largely segregated by race and class. This is what I found through my research on community activism and school reform in Denver over a span of five years.

Both Black and white community activists had an interest in keeping local schools from being closed. They also wanted better quality schools and more of a voice in what happens at those schools. But they seldom joined each other in their efforts because their battles for neighborhood schools were rooted in different experiences of gentrification.

Gentrification is when more-affluent residents move into low-income neighborhoods, changing the character and makeup of those neighborhoods and forcing low-income residents to move elsewhere due to rising rents. Gentrification often involves turning around, reforming, closing and replacing neighborhood schools.

Black community activists viewed gentrification as an elite-driven process of exclusion and displacement, while white community activists viewed gentrification as an inevitable and even beneficial process.