Geoffrey Canada

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Geoffrey Canada
Geoffrey Canada.jpeg
BornJanuary 13, 1952 (1952-01-13) (age 67)
Alma materBowdoin College
Harvard University
OccupationPresident of the Harlem Children's Zone
social activist

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. Thereafter, 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 and during his senior year, 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 was graduated in 1974, and a master's degree in education from the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

Canada is the middle of 3 brothers, one of whom is Derrick Canada, a former Harlem Globetrotters Player.

Harlem Children's Zone[edit]

Harlem Children's Zone and Promise Academy

Starting as president in 1990, Canada began working with the Rheedlen Centers for Children and Families, which would evolve into the Harlem Children's Zone. Unsatisfied with the scope of Rheedlen, during the 1990s Canada transformed the organization into a center that actively would follow the academic careers of youths in a 24-block-area of Harlem. Following the success of the original model, the area of focus now has grown to 97 blocks. In addition to serving as president, Canada was also 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 and World Report named Canada one of America's Best Leaders in its October 2005 issue.

Along with having been featured in a number of print publications, 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]

Desiring to emulate the Harlem Children's Zone, in 2009, American 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]

It was reported that Canada was offered the position of New York City Schools Chancellor by Mayor Michael Bloomberg, but that he turned it down.[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. Retrieved 2007-04-24.
  2. ^ Kafer, Nancy (16 March 2017). "Geoffrey Canada's takeaway on education reform: If kids have no future, then business has no future." Retrieved 15 August 2018 at
  3. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2014-03-10. Retrieved 2014-02-20.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  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 2011-01-17.
  8. ^ Hernández, Javier C. (2014-02-10). "Chief of Harlem Children's Program Will Step Aside". The New York Times. Retrieved 2014-07-10.
  9. ^ Tough, Paul (June 20, 2004). "The Harlem Project". New York Times Magazine. Retrieved 2007-04-24.
  10. ^ Paul Tough (2008-08-12). Whatever It Takes: Geoffrey Canada's Quest to Change Harlem and America. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. ISBN 0-618-56989-8.
  11. ^ Daniel Schorn, reported by Ed Bradley (2006-05-14). "The Harlem Children's Zone: How One Man's Vision To Revitalize Harlem Starts With Children". CBS 60 Minutes television program. Retrieved 2009-01-26.
  12. ^ "Charlie Rose Guests - Geoffrey Canada". Charlie Rose Inc. Archived from the original on 2012-03-19. Retrieved 2009-06-05.
  13. ^ Colbert Nation: Geoffrey Canada (T.V.). 2008-12-08. Retrieved 2009-06-07.
  14. ^ Colbert Nation: Geoffrey Canada - Reversing Racism (T.V.). 2009-07-20. Retrieved 2009-08-12.
  15. ^ "Bowdoin Amid the Oscars: Hey Wasn't That Geoff Canada '74". Bowdoin College Campus News. March 2010. Retrieved 2010-03-21.
  16. ^ "Barack Obama and Joe Biden's Plan to Combat Poverty". Obama-Biden website. Fall 2008. Retrieved 2009-06-05.
  17. ^ ""Winter's Bone," "Restrepo" Lead Sundance Award Winners". IndieWire. 2010-01-30. Retrieved 2010-01-30.
  18. ^ Javier Hernandez (2010-12-09). "Educator Is Said to Have Rejected Chancellor Job". New York Times.
  19. ^ Friedman, Thomas L (2013-10-15). "Sorry, Kids. We Ate It All". Retrieved 2013-10-16.
  20. ^
  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. Sep 15, 2010. Retrieved March 18, 2011.
  23. ^ Geoffrey Canada (1998-12-10). 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 2010-10-20.
  25. ^ "Honoris Causa citation, Bowdoin College" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2010-08-02. Retrieved 2010-10-20.
  26. ^ National Winners | public service awards | Jefferson
  27. ^ "Columbia Announces 2010 Honorary Degree Recipients". Archived from the original on 2010-06-22. Retrieved 2010-10-20.
  28. ^ Richards, Chris (2010-06-28). "Washington Post article on BET Awards". Archived from the original on 2012-09-02. Retrieved 2010-10-20.
  29. ^ "Princeton awards six honorary degrees".
  30. ^ "Honoris Causa citation, University of Pennsylvania". Retrieved 2012-05-14.
  31. ^ Folt, Carol L. "Geoffrey Canada (Doctor of Humane Letters)". Dartmouth College. Retrieved 23 May 2016.
  32. ^ "Geoffrey Canada, Honorary Degree Citation". Brandeis University. Retrieved 23 May 2016.
  33. ^ "Visionary educator Geoffrey Canada to deliver 2017 Commencement address, joining honorands Sen. Susan Collins, Wanda Corn, and Patrick Dempsey". 2017-04-13. Retrieved 2017-04-15.
  34. ^ Retrieved 15 August 2018 at

External links[edit]

Further reading[edit]

Introducing the Geoffrey Canada Scholars Brown"

Geoffrey Canada's good works

If kids have no future, then business has no future