Charles M. Payne is the Frank P. Hixon Distinguished Service Professor in the School of Social Service Administration at the University of Chicago, where he is also an affiliate of the Urban Education Institute. His interests include urban education and school reform, social inequality, social change and modern African American history. He is the author of Getting What We Ask For: The Ambiguity of Success and Failure In Urban Education (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).
He recently published So Much Reform, So Little Change (Harvard Education Publishing Group) which is concerned with what we have learned about the persistence of failure in urban districts, and an anthology, Teach Freedom: The African American Tradition of Education For Liberation (Teachers College Press), which is concerned with Freedom School-like education. He is the recipient of a Senior Scholar grant from the Spencer Foundation and is a Resident Fellow at the foundation for 2006-7. With the support of the Carnegie Scholar's Program, he is doing a study of how school reform dialogue in other countries compares to the American situation. His work on urban schools is also supported by an Alphonse Fletcher, Sr. Fellowship for 2007-8. Fletcher fellowships support 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 of 1954.
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 Research Advisory Committee for the Chicago Annenberg Project, the editorial boards of Catalyst, the Sociology of Education and Educational Researcher. He currently serves on the Board of MDRC, the editorial board of High School Journal, and the advisory board for Teacher College Press' series on social justice. He is the co-founder of the Duke Curriculum Project, which involves 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; i.e., freedom schools, social justice schools, rites of passage programs and so on.
Payne was founding director of the Urban Education Project in Orange, New Jersey, a nonprofit community center that broadens educational experiences for urban youngsters. He has taught at Southern University, Williams College, Northwestern University and Duke University. He has won several teaching awards and 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.