Academic journal article The Journal of Southern History

Make Haste Slowly: Moderates, Conservatives, and School Desegregation in Houston

Academic journal article The Journal of Southern History

Make Haste Slowly: Moderates, Conservatives, and School Desegregation in Houston

Article excerpt

Make Haste Slowly: Moderates, Conservatives, and School Desegregation in Houston. By William Henry Kellar. The Centennial Series of the Association of Former Students, Texas A&M University, no. 80. (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1999. Pp. xvi, 226. $38.95, ISBN 0-89096-818-7.)

Historians have written very little on the civil rights movement in Houston (or in Texas, for that matter)--despite the fact that the "Bayou City" had the largest African American population and the largest segregated public school system in the South during this era. Kellar's book therefore attempts to "expand the existing literature on the civil rights era to include a much-needed analysis of the peaceful desegregation of the Houston Independent School District" (p. 3).

The volume opens with a brief overview of race relations and segregation both in Houston and in Texas before World War II. Kellar notes that despite racism and segregation, African American housing in Houston was not confined to one geographic area of the city. Rates of home ownership as well as income and employment levels compared favorably to conditions for blacks in other southern cities. Independent newspapers and a middle class imbued with Houston's entrepreneurial spirit provided leadership to a powerful NAACP chapter that fought two successful desegregation suits in the Supreme Court during the decade of the 1940s.

Kellar's real contribution lies in chapters four through seven, which trace the internal struggle on Houston's school board, from Brown v. Board of Education in May 1954 to September 1960 when twelve African American first-graders entered previously all-white elementary schools. With the exception of 1955-1957, Houston's school board was dominated throughout this period by a conservative anticommunist coalition that staunchly resisted desegregation. …

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