Academic journal article The Journal of Southern History

The Politics of Race and Schooling: Public Education in Georgia, 1900-1961

Academic journal article The Journal of Southern History

The Politics of Race and Schooling: Public Education in Georgia, 1900-1961

Article excerpt

The Politics of Race and Schooling: Public Education in Georgia, 1900-1961. By Thomas V. O'Brien. (Lanham, Md., and other cities: Lexington Books, c. 1999. Pp. xviii, 229. $45.00, ISBN 0-7391-0060-2.)

Among the characteristics of modernity in twentieth-century America was the recognition that public funding was necessary to attain the social policy goals associated with education. Yet as studies by William Link, Elna Green, and James Anderson have detailed, the South was wedded to localism and hierarchical beliefs, and southerners had deep reservations regarding publicly funded schooling. Reformers' battles focused on questions of who should be educated, how they should be educated, and what they should be taught. Thomas V. O'Brien's study, The Politics of Race and Schooling: Public Education in Georgia, 1900-1961, demonstrates how volatile this debate became and adds to historians' understanding of why the struggle for control of public education epitomized the fight between localism and modernity.

O'Brien's narrative describes the growth of universal education in Georgia from the turn of the century through 1961. The push for public education came from African American reformers whose demands for black schooling forced white Georgians to support public education. Except for a brief chapter on the origins of Georgia's public education system, the author focuses on the conflicts between African American leaders and white politicians over the framework of public education in the decades after World War II. O'Brien skillfully incorporates numerous newspaper accounts and legislative debates that underscore his point about the centrality of racism. …

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