Charles Cheng Papers

Accession Number: 
13 linear feet (13 SB)
1959-1979, bulk 1970-1978

Charles Cheng was an activist for education and the civil rights movement whose life was cut short when he died on May 25, 1979 when American Airlines flight 191 crashed after takeoff from O’Hare Airport. He was 42 years old.

He was born on February 23, 1937 raised on the east side of Detroit. After graduating from Eastern Michigan University, Cheng became a teacher in Pontiac, Michigan. He left teaching to become an organizer for the Michigan Federation of Teachers and soon became the assistant to the president of the Washington Teachers Union Local 6 in Washington DC.

Charles attended Antioch Graduate School of Education earning his masters degree in Education, then he attended Harvard Graduate School for Education to receive his Ed.D in 1975. While in Boston, Mr. Cheng was a research associate at the Center for Urban Studies at Harvard as well as Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University Joint Center for Urban Studies. Mr. Cheng ended up at the University of California, Los Angeles as an assistant professor in the Department of Education where he became a leading authority on community participation in collective bargaining in public education.

Cheng wrote and spoke constantly about the idea that the community should be involved with the collective bargaining in public education. Cheng was very active as well with desegregation, starting in the 1960s when he attempted to desegregate the Pontiac, MI public schools, he was on a task force in Boston, consulted in Pasadena and was a citizen member for the Los Angeles Unified School District Desegregation Plan. Cheng’s interests also included racial justice, the teaching of the history of Asian-American and Native-Americans.

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