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The Children of the People

Writings by and about CUNY students on race and social justice


In 1849, Horace Webster, the first president of the Free Academy said of the radical social experiment that would eventually become the City University of New York (CUNY): “The experiment is to be tried, whether the children of the people, the children of the whole people, can be educated, and whether an institution of the highest grade, can be controlled by the popular will, not by the privileged few, but by the privileged many.” More than 170 years after the founding of the Free Academy, we revisit Horace Webster’s statement to question the outcome of the experiment from the perspective of the students.


The Children of the People emerged from Autoethnographies of CUNY, a public humanities project funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Seminar on Public Engagement and Collaborative Research at the Center for the Humanities at The Graduate Center; the seminar supports the institutionalization of public humanities practices and pedagogy at the City University New York and across New York City through community partnerships, public research projects, policy development, curriculum enhancement, and expansive creative, cultural, and collaborative works with a social justice thrust.

The Children of the People

  • Rose M. Kim is an associate professor of sociology at the Borough of Manhattan Community College, CUNY. She is coeditor of Struggle for Ethnic Identity: narratives by Asian American professionals (1999); and Women on the Role of Public Higher Education: personal reflections from CUNY’s Graduate Center (2015).


    Grace M. Cho is a professor of sociology and anthropology at the College of Staten Island, CUNY. She is author of the books Tastes Like War (2021) and Haunting the Korean Diaspora: shame, secrecy and the forgotten war (2008).


    Robin McGinty received her PhD in Geography from the Earth and Environmental Sciences program at The Graduate Center. Anchored in the political subjectivity of formerly incarcerated Black women, her dissertation “A Labor of Livingness: Oral Histories of Formerly Incarcerated Black Women” is situated at the intersections of Black feminist thought and carceral geographies that re/imagine the ‘living prison’ experiences of formerly incarcerated Black women. Robin McGinty is a 2022 American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS) Leading Edge Fellow.

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