Geoffrey Canada

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Geoffrey Canada
Geoffrey Canada.jpeg
Canada in 2016
Born (1952-01-13) January 13, 1952 (age 70)
EducationBowdoin College (BA)
Harvard University (MEd)

Geoffrey Canada (born January 13, 1952) is an American educator, social activist and author. Since 1990, Canada has been president of the Harlem Children's Zone in Harlem, New York, an organization that states its goal is to increase high school and college graduation rates among students in Harlem.[1] This initiative serves a 97-block area of Harlem replete with at-risk children.[2] Canada serves as the chairman of Children's Defense Fund's board of directors.[3] He was a member of the board of directors of The After-School Corporation, a nonprofit organization that aims to expand educational opportunities for all students. Canada's recommendation for educational reform is to start early using wide-ranging strategies and never give up.

Early life and education[edit]

Canada was born in the South Bronx, the third of four sons born to Mary Elizabeth Canada (née Williams), a substance abuse counselor, and McAlister Canada.[4][5][6] The marriage of his parents ended in 1956; he was raised by his mother. His father played little part in the life of his children and did not contribute to their financial support.[7] Canada was raised among "abandoned houses, crime, violence and an all-encompassing sense of chaos and disorder".

When Canada was in his mid-teens, his mother sent him to live with her parents in Wyandanch, New York.[7] He attended Wyandanch Memorial High School. During his senior year, he won a scholarship from the Fraternal Order of Masons.[7]

He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology and sociology from Bowdoin College, from which he graduated in 1974, and a master's degree in education from the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

Canada's brother Derrick Canada was a Harlem Globetrotters player.

Harlem Children's Zone[edit]

Harlem Children's Zone and Promise Academy

In 1990, Canada began working with the Rheedlen Centers for Children and Families as its president. Unsatisfied with the scope of Rheedlen, Canada transformed the organization into the Harlem Children's Zone (HCZ), a center which followed the academic careers of youths in a 24-block area of Harlem. The area of focus has grown to 97 blocks in the ensuing years. Canada served as president and CEO of the Harlem Children's Zone until July 2014, when the position went to Chief Operating Officer Anne Williams-Isom.[8]

The Harlem Children's Zone was profiled in the New York Times Magazine during 2004 in a story by Paul Tough. The author described the organization as "one of the biggest social experiments of our time".[9] In 2008, Tough published a book entitled, Whatever It Takes: Geoffrey Canada's Quest to Change Harlem and America.[10] Additionally, U.S. News & World Report named Canada one of America's Best Leaders in its October 2005 issue.

Canada has made a number of high-profile television appearances, including a profile interview on 60 Minutes,[11] two televised interviews with Charlie Rose,[12] a guest appearance on The Oprah Winfrey Show, a guest appearance on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, and three appearances on the Colbert Report.[13][14] In 2010, Canada appeared in an American Express commercial that premiered during the Academy Awards. The commercial provided an extended look at his work and success at the Harlem Children's Zone.[15]

In 2009, U.S. President Barack Obama announced plans to replicate the HCZ model in 20 other cities across the nation.[16]

Canada is featured prominently in Waiting for Superman (2010), Academy Award-winner Davis Guggenheim's documentary on the state of American public education. The film received the Audience Award for best documentary at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival.[17]

Canada was offered the position of New York City Schools Chancellor by Mayor Michael Bloomberg, but he declined the job.[18]

In 2013, Canada toured college campuses with Stanley Druckenmiller urging reform in taxation, health care, and Social Security to ensure intergenerational equity.[19]

In July 2013, The New Yorker Festival released a video entitled Geoffrey Canada on Giving Voice to the Have-nots, of a panel that was moderated by George Packer. Along with Canada, the panelists included Abhijit Banerjee, Katherine Boo, and Jose Antonio Vargas.[20]


Canada's first book, Fist Stick Knife Gun: A Personal History of Violence in America, was first released in 1995. In the book, Canada recounts his exposure to violence during his childhood and offers a series of recommendations on how to alleviate violence in inner cities. In the mid 2000s (decade), Beacon Press began considering publishing an alternate graphic novel version. Illustrator Jamar Nicholas and editor Allison Trzop created Fist Stick Knife Gun: A Personal History of Violence (A True Story in Black and White), which was released in stores on September 14, 2010.[21]

Publishers Weekly praised Fist, Stick, Knife, Gun, commenting that "[a] more powerful depiction of the tragic life of urban children and a more compelling plea to end 'America's war against itself' cannot be imagined."[22]

In 1998, Canada published his second book, Reaching Up For Manhood: Transforming the Lives of Boys in America.[23]

Awards and honors[edit]


Geoffrey Canada was chosen by Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York in 2006 to serve as co-chair of the Commission on Economic Opportunity tasked to formulate a scheme that would considerably trim down poverty.  In 2011, he was selected to join the New York State Governor's Council of Economic and Fiscal Advisers. He is also an adviser to and board member of many non-profit entities.[34]


  1. ^ Gergen, David (January 20, 1998). "Moving Toward Manhood". PBS. Archived from the original on August 23, 2013. Retrieved April 24, 2007.
  2. ^ Kafer, Nancy (March 16, 2017). "Geoffrey Canada's takeaway on education reform: If kids have no future, then business has no future". Retrieved August 15, 2018.
  3. ^ "Board of Directors". Children's Defense Fund. Archived from the original on March 10, 2014. Retrieved February 20, 2014.
  4. ^ Stated on Finding Your Roots, PBS, April 1, 2012
  5. ^ Helping Celebrities Find Their Roots : NPR
  6. ^ Canada, Geoffrey 1954– – FREE Canada, Geoffrey 1954– information | Find Canada, Geoffrey 1954– research
  7. ^ a b c "Geoffrey Canada, social activist". Current Biography. New York: H. W. Wilson Company. February 2005. ISSN 0011-3344. Retrieved January 17, 2011.
  8. ^ Hernández, Javier C. (February 10, 2014). "Chief of Harlem Children's Program Will Step Aside". The New York Times. Retrieved July 10, 2014.
  9. ^ Tough, Paul (June 20, 2004). "The Harlem Project". The New York Times Magazine. Retrieved April 24, 2007.
  10. ^ Paul Tough (August 12, 2008). Whatever It Takes: Geoffrey Canada's Quest to Change Harlem and America. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. ISBN 978-0-618-56989-2.
  11. ^ Daniel Schorn, reported by Ed Bradley (May 14, 2006). "The Harlem Children's Zone: How One Man's Vision To Revitalize Harlem Starts With Children". CBS 60 Minutes television program. Retrieved January 26, 2009.
  12. ^ "Charlie Rose Guests - Geoffrey Canada". Charlie Rose Inc. Archived from the original on March 19, 2012. Retrieved June 5, 2009.
  13. ^ Colbert Nation: Geoffrey Canada (T.V.). December 8, 2008. Retrieved June 7, 2009.
  14. ^ Colbert Nation: Geoffrey Canada - Reversing Racism (T.V.). July 20, 2009. Retrieved August 12, 2009.
  15. ^ "Bowdoin Amid the Oscars: Hey Wasn't That Geoff Canada '74". Bowdoin College Campus News. March 2010. Retrieved March 21, 2010.
  16. ^ "Barack Obama and Joe Biden's Plan to Combat Poverty". Obama-Biden website. Fall 2008. Archived from the original on July 7, 2009. Retrieved June 5, 2009.
  17. ^ ""Winter's Bone" "Restrepo" Lead Sundance Award Winners". IndieWire. January 30, 2010. Retrieved January 30, 2010.
  18. ^ Javier Hernandez (December 9, 2010). "Educator Is Said to Have Rejected Chancellor Job". The New York Times.
  19. ^ Friedman, Thomas L (October 15, 2013). "Sorry, Kids. We Ate It All". The New York Times. Retrieved October 16, 2013.
  20. ^ "Geoffrey Canada on Giving Voice to the Have-Nots".
  21. ^ "Fist Stick Knife Gun: From Memoir to Graphic Book". Beacon Broadside. September 15, 2010.
  22. ^ "Fist Stick Knife Gun: From Memoir to Graphic Book". Beacon Broadside. September 15, 2010. Retrieved March 18, 2011.
  23. ^ Geoffrey Canada (December 10, 1998). Reaching Up For Manhood: Transforming the Lives of Boys in America. Beacon Press. ISBN 0-8070-2317-5.
  24. ^ "The Heinz Awards, Geoffrey Canada profile". Retrieved October 20, 2010.
  25. ^ "Honoris Causa citation, Bowdoin College" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on August 2, 2010. Retrieved October 20, 2010.
  26. ^ "National Winners | public service awards | Jefferson". Archived from the original on November 24, 2010. Retrieved August 5, 2013.
  27. ^ "Columbia Announces 2010 Honorary Degree Recipients". Archived from the original on June 22, 2010. Retrieved October 20, 2010.
  28. ^ Richards, Chris (June 28, 2010). "Washington Post article on BET Awards". Archived from the original on September 2, 2012. Retrieved October 20, 2010.
  29. ^ "Princeton awards six honorary degrees".
  30. ^ "Honoris Causa citation, University of Pennsylvania". Retrieved May 14, 2012.
  31. ^ Folt, Carol L. "Geoffrey Canada (Doctor of Humane Letters)". Dartmouth College. Retrieved May 23, 2016.
  32. ^ "Geoffrey Canada, Honorary Degree Citation". Brandeis University. Retrieved May 23, 2016.
  33. ^ "Visionary educator Geoffrey Canada to deliver 2017 Commencement address, joining honorands Sen. Susan Collins, Wanda Corn, and Patrick Dempsey". April 13, 2017. Retrieved April 15, 2017.
  34. ^ "(missing)". Harlem Children's Zone. Archived from the original on November 26, 2018. Retrieved August 15, 2018.

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