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Sat, 03.31.1923

Marcus Foster, School Principal born

Marcus Foster

*Marcus Foster was born on this date in 1923.  He was a Black educator. 

Marcus Albert Foster was born in Athens, Georgia, later graduating from South Philadelphia High School.  His mother, Alice, fostered Marcus's mastery of Standard English by highlighting its importance as the dominant syntax.  Subsequently, as a young man, he was both scholastic and rebellious.  This broad characteristic aided Foster throughout his life, affording him a disposition to connect with and inspire students of myriad backgrounds while drawing together disparate groups advocating for alternative, at times oppositional, visions of social reform.  

He graduated from Cheyney State College in 1947 and earned a Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) from the University of Pennsylvania.  From 1957 to 1970, Foster taught in the Philadelphia public schools. He served as principal of Dunbar Elementary School, O.V. Catto School for Boys, and Simon Gratz High School in Philadelphia (1966-1969) as Associate Superintendent of Schools in Philadelphia (1969-1970).  He became the first Black Superintendent of a large city school district when he was appointed Superintendent of the Oakland Unified School District in Oakland, California, in 1970.

Marcus Foster was assassinated on November 6, 1973, by members of the Symbionese Liberation Army. The SLA claimed they killed Foster because of his alleged support of a plan to create a student identification card system in Oakland that proponents claimed would help keep non-student drug dealers off campus. Foster was shot eight times with hollow-point bullets packed with cyanide.  His deputy, Robert Blackburn, was also shot but survived. Joe Remiro and Russ Little were sentenced to life in prison for their role in the attack. Little was released on appeal after serving five years in prison.  

Remiro remains incarcerated in San Quentin State Prison, serving his life sentence. SLA leader Donald DeFreeze was suspected of being the other person present who shot Blackburn.  Foster is buried in Mountain View Cemetery in Oakland. His widow, Albertine Ramseur Foster, died in 2011 and was buried alongside him. His daughter, Marsha Foster Boyd, is President Emerita of Ecumenical Theological Seminary in Detroit, Michigan.  

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