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Ruth Love

Eminent educator Ruth Love was born on April 22, 1939 in Lawton, Oklahoma. As a child, Love's favorite game was playing school. One does not have to delve deeply into Love's family tree to uncover the roots of her passion for education. Her grandfather Andrew A. Williams, a former slave, founded Lawton's first school for African Americans. Williams' achievements instilled in Love a passion for reading, which she parlayed into a lifelong educational career. Love received her B.A. in Education in 1954 from San Jose University. She went on to receive her M.A. in Guidance and Counseling from San Francisco State University in 1961. In 1971, Love was awarded her Ph.D. in Human Behavior and Psychology from the United States International University, San Diego.

Love began her career in education as a teacher in the Oakland Public Schools. In conjunction with her duties, Love immersed herself in numerous educational projects taking her across the globe to Ghana and England as a Fulbright Exchange Educator. Love assisted in drafting important education legislation, specifically the National Reading Act. She accepted an appointment as Director of the National Right to Read Program. After four years with the program, she took a position as the Superintendent of Schools in the Oakland Unified School District. During her seven-year tenure as Superintendent, she made an indelible mark on the Oakland School system. Two of Love's programs "Scholars and Artists" and "Face the Students" brought such African Americans of achievement as Alex Haley, Maya Angelou, James Baldwin and Coretta Scott King to motivate and inform students. Love was then the first woman recruited to head up Chicago's Public School system.

Love is the founder and president of RBL Enterprises, LTD., an educational consulting company. She has also authored several articles and books including Hello World (1975) and continues to teach courses in Education Administration at San Francisco State University as well as speaking and lecturing to educational leaders around the world. Her audiences are global, but her professional interests remain local. She continues to strive for the reform and improvement of education in urban American schools.

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Interview Date


Last Name


Maker Category
Middle Name



Bakersfield High School

San Jose State University

Lincoln Elementary School

First Name


Birth City, State, Country




Favorite Season




Favorite Vacation Destination


Favorite Quote

You Can Do Anything You Put Your Mind To.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State


Interview Description
Birth Date


Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Bay Area/San Francisco



Favorite Food


Short Description

Education advisor and school superintendent Ruth Love (1939 - ) served as the director of the National Right to Read Program, creating reading and literacy programs for children and adults. She then went on to serve as superintendent in the Oakland and Chicago public schools systems.


Oakland Public Schools

RBL Enterprises

Chicago Public Schools

Favorite Color

Black, White

Timing Pairs

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Ruth Love's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Ruth Love lists her favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Ruth Love talks about her mother, Burnett Love

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Ruth Love describes her mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Ruth Love talks about her Native American heritage

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Ruth Love talks about her father, Alvin Love

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Ruth Love talks about how her parents met and then settled in California

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Ruth Love describes her memories of moving to Bakersfield, California as a child

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Ruth Love talks about her four siblings

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Ruth Love describes the sights, sounds, and smells of her childhood

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Ruth Love describes her childhood personality

Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Ruth Love describes her mother's impact on her educational path in high school

Tape: 1 Story: 13 - Ruth Love describes her family life as a child

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Ruth Love describes childhood road trips with her family

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Ruth Love talks about Miss Fray, an influential teacher at Lincoln Elementary School

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Ruth Love describes her love of reading

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Ruth Love recalls how her father fought racial discrimination in Bakersfield, California

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Ruth Love describes her mother's influence on her reading

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Ruth Love describes her mother's perspective on slavery

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Ruth Love talks about attending an integrated church in Bakersfield, California

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Ruth Love talks about her experience at Bakersfield High School in Bakersfield, California

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Ruth Love talks about the role the YMCA played in her life

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Ruth Love talks about the Church of God

Tape: 2 Story: 11 - Ruth Love talks about how she enrolled at San Jose State University in San Jose, California

Tape: 2 Story: 12 - Ruth Love describes her experience at San Jose State University in San Jose, California

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Ruth Love describe skipping two grades in elementary school

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Ruth Love talks about her awareness of The Civil Rights Movement and the work of A. Philip Randolph

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Ruth Love talks about how her upbringing prepared her for Chicago politics

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Ruth Love talks about Brown v. Board of Education and her admiration of Thurgood Marshall

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Ruth Love talks about her experience as a Fulbright Scholar in England

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Ruth Love talks about the Fulbright Teacher Exchange Program

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Ruth Love talks about her experience with racial discrimination abroad

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Ruth Love talks about her desire to go to Africa as a young teacher and her experience in Africa as an adult

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Ruth Love talks about her trip around the world

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Ruth Love describes her appointment as Bureau Chief for Program Development in Compensatory Education for the State of California in 1963

Tape: 3 Story: 11 - Ruth Love talks about working with Wilson Riles at the California State Department of Education

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Ruth Love talks about addressing educational inequity in the State of California

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Ruth Love talks about innovative teaching developments like small group instruction, community after-school programs, and inservice teacher training

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Ruth Love describes California's role as an educational innovator for the nation in the 1960s

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Ruth Love talks about how she became an advocate for teacher reform

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Ruth Love describes being recruited as the superintendent of Oakland, California's Unified School District

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Ruth Love talks about the impact of her experience in the U.S. Department of Education on her superintendency in Oakland, California

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Ruth Love describes how she engaged local schools in reform by inviting guest speakers like Alex Haley, Coretta Scott King, James Baldwin, and Rosalynn Carter

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Ruth Love talks about the impact of Marcus Foster's assassination on the city of Oakland, California

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Ruth Love talks about her move to Chicago Public Schools as superintendent

Tape: 4 Story: 10 - Ruth Love describes HistoryMaker Rev. Jesse Jackson, Sr.'s opposition to her appointment as general superintendent of Chicago Public Schools

Tape: 4 Story: 11 - Ruth Love talks about the state of the Chicago Public School system upon her arrival

Tape: 4 Story: 12 - Ruth Love talks about Chicago politicians during her superintendency like Mayors Jane Margaret Byrne and Harold Washington, and Edward Vrdolyak

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Ruth Love talks about navigating Chicago politics

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Ruth Love describes her experience of discrimination in Chicago

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Ruth Love talks about systematic problems in urban schools

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Ruth Love talks about ongoing disparity in schools

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Ruth Love talks about her company, RBL Enterprises, LTD.

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Ruth Love criticizes charter school vouchers

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Ruth Love discusses education reform in public schools, pt.1

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Ruth Love discusses education reform in public schools, pt.2

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Ruth Love describes her proudest accomplishment in education

Tape: 5 Story: 10 - Ruth Love reflects upon her legacy

Tape: 5 Story: 11 - Ruth Love talks about what she hopes to accomplish

Tape: 5 Story: 12 - Ruth Love describes her mother's support







Ruth Love describes her mother's family background
Ruth Love describes how she engaged local schools in reform by inviting guest speakers like Alex Haley, Coretta Scott King, James Baldwin, and Rosalynn Carter
Did she [Burnett Love] share with you, or did you know much about her family and the background or the history of the family?$$Well, it's interesting. I knew up to the point that the ancestors became white, and then she didn't want to share anymore about that. You know it was really something she was very embarrassed about. But I knew her father, you know, I knew a lot about him. And I knew her mother, less about her mother's family, because you can't go very far without running into slavery and all that that meant to her. But her father [Andrew A. Williams] was born in slavery. That's how--was born in 18, was it 50 something. Anyway, the story goes that he ran away. He was a boy and his mother was enslaved and he was helping his mom carry water, she had--she had a pail in each hand and one on the head. And so he decided to help her cause she was struggling. And it was discovered and he was chastised and told, tomorrow you'll have a job to do. And in his little child's mind, I guess he was supposed to be nine or ten years old, that's the story. He said if I have a job that means I'm a slave, so he ran away at that early age and had some really horrible experiences. But ultimately, found his way to Oklahoma, this was in Mississippi. Found his way to Oklahoma and worked at all kind of jobs, first for food and then for education and what have you, and helped to start Langston University [Langston, Oklahoma]. So it's a very, very rich background from his standpoint. He went back some years later and--to get his mom and she still thought she was enslaved, this was after the Emancipation Proclamation [1863]. So he brought her to live with him, but she couldn't quite adjust to up north, if you can think of Oklahoma as being up north. But I know a lot about--about that side of the family, but I don't know nearly as much about my maternal grandmother. I knew her brother. I don't know very much else about them.$$And when you said that there was this (unclear)$$Yes, well, she came to live with me. She passed away five years ago, but she lived with me for ten years, so I got--I was able to get into some of that. In fact, I recorded her, I taped her. I've been looking for the tapes, upstairs someplace. But she--she said that, and these are stories, so you don't know the complete validity of them, that her grandmother, her maternal grandmother, was the daughter of the slave owner, and I don't know whether there was ever a marriage to anybody else, but she had a number of children, including my grandmother. And mother said that she always disliked the fact that she was actually raped and impregnated. And so she--she didn't--she didn't want to talk very much about it, but she did tell her children about it in her later years. Now, my grandmother told my mother in her later years, and my mother told me in her later years. It was very interesting how it was passed down. She didn't go into a great deal of detail. She did have a photograph of this woman though, of which she gave to me. All of my childhood I had never seen that photograph. I mean, it is amazing that this was sort of kept. And it came out at a family reunion when I was trying to do some family research. And I had quite a lot on my dad's side, and I said, well, now let's get into these Williamses and this side, and she went back and looked up a trunk and found all these things that she shared with me. That her grandmother knew she was a slave, even though she could pass, she refused to pass. She absolutely refused. She refused to pass. And I guess she got an education by his sending her away to school someplace and for that period of time, I think, she did pass, but not--it wasn't something that she did on a daily basis, that was not her lifestyle, which was very interesting.$I found that we had to get them to feel good about their city [Oakland, California] and themselves. So we started to bring in people, this was all part of a grand plan, who would say, Oakland is important, you all are important. The first person I brought in was Alex Haley and this was two weeks after Roots had been televised. And I tell you he lit up that district like nothing else. And the students had to read about him and write something before they could see him. They could not just go to an assembly. I said, oh, no, no, no, you have to--you have to study about this man and what he's done. And we had district-wide competition and we wrote a book about him that we presented in poetry, narrative and what have you. It was just wonderful. He stayed two and a half days. He was our scholar-in-residence. And the students got to meet him, I took him to the airport, you know. It was really a good program and then we followed that with Coretta [Scott] King came. So we had every six weeks, we would have another person come, and it did, it lifted their spirits. They said all these people are coming to Oakland to see us. Dr. King's wife is coming, oh, really. They were just so thrilled, you know. We'd have--we'd have them speak at the auditorium then go to schools, speak at schools and then we had something, "Face the Students", where the students interviewed them and it was broadcast live over our closed-circuit television. So they had a chance to really--everybody got a chance to see them, you know, eventually. And who else, we had James Baldwin, we had Secretary of State who was a Latino man, we had Rosalynn Carter and she just wowed them and then invited me to bring our choir to the White House, which I did. Eighty percent of them were on welfare and we went to the White House to sing. Oh, it was just wonderful. So it got some people feeling good and then teachers said, you know, these kids read more about these people you bring here they ever read in these books we have. So they started feeling better about it. And I--I just--what I'm trying to say is you have to take some unusual steps when you have an unusual situation. That was a very unusual situation. Had I just gone on and said okay, we're just gonna reform. Reform, well you gotta get people to want to reform. So by this time now they're getting enthusiastic about it, let's change our curriculum, let's do this, and so that's when we got a big grant and we gave release time to people and they developed it, and it's theirs, it's not mine. I'm not imposing it on them. I said but you gotta have standards. By the third grade every child has to read. If not, there's an intervention right away. You don't let them to go to fourth grade, fifth grade, sixth grade. So we set some broad standards and then they could fill in. And it really worked very well they reached the national norm on the test after what, four years. They reached a national norm, but it was hard work. You give your whole life to it, you know, you give your whole life to it.