Born to Harry Kozol and Ruth (Massell) Kozol, Jonathan graduated from Noble and Greenough School in 1954, and Harvard University summa cum laude in 1958 with an A.B. in English literature. He was awarded a Rhodes Scholarship to Magdalen College, Oxford. He did not, however, complete his Rhodes, deciding instead to go to Paris to learn to write fiction and nonfiction from experienced authors such as william Styron, Richard Wright, and others who were living in Paris at the time. It was upon his return that he began to tutor children in Roxbury, MA, and soon became a Teacher in the Boston Public Schools. He was fired for teaching a Langston Hughes poem, as described in Death at an Early Age, and then became deeply involved in the civil rights movement. After being fired from Boston Public Schools, he was offered a position to teach at Newton Public Schools, the school district he attended as a child, and taught there for several years before becoming more deeply involved in social justice work and dedicating more time to writing.
Death at an Early Age, his first non-fiction book, is a description of his first year as a Teacher in the Boston Public Schools. It was published in 1967 and won the National Book Award in Science, Philosophy and Religion. It has sold more than two million copies in the United States and Europe.
Among the other books by Kozol are Rachel and Her Children: Homeless Families in America, which received the Robert F. Kennedy Book award for 1989 and the Conscience-in-Media Award of the American Society of Journalists and Authors, and Savage Inequalities: Children in America's Schools, which won the New England Book Award and was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award in 1992.
His 1995 book, Amazing Grace: The Lives of Children and the Conscience of a Nation, described his visits to the South Bronx of New York City, the poorest congressional district in the United States. It received the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award in 1996, an honor previously granted to the works of Langston Hughes and Martin Luther King, Jr..
He published Ordinary Resurrections: Children in the Years of Hope in 2000 and The Shame of the Nation: The Restoration of Apartheid Schooling in America was released September 13, 2005. Kozol documents the continuing and often worsening segregation in public schools in the United States, and the increasing influence of neoconservative ideology on the way children, particularly children of color and poor children of urban areas, are educated.
For contributions and additional information on the Education Action Fund, see The Education Action Fund On the Contacts Page of Kozol’s website (www.jonathankozol.com).