Academic journal article JCT (Online)

Reimagining Civil Rights and School Desegregation in the South after 50 Years of the Civil Rights Movement through Historical Narrative of Holly Spring in Mississippi

Academic journal article JCT (Online)

Reimagining Civil Rights and School Desegregation in the South after 50 Years of the Civil Rights Movement through Historical Narrative of Holly Spring in Mississippi

Article excerpt

Transcending Boundaries of Time and Place

HOLLY SPRINGS, MISSISSIPPI is a small town thirty miles southeast of Memphis. It is the county seat of Marshall County in the Northwest corner of Mississippi, about 34 miles southeast of Memphis, Tennessee. The town lies just outside the Mississippi Delta and was a major staging area for the Union invasion of the South, and Sherman's march to the sea. It is also the home of Rust College, founded in 1866, one of the oldest black private colleges in the South. There are two public high schools in the county, Holly High School being the major one. Marshall Academy, a white private school was established in 1962. It is the first private school to gain a license after the state of Mississippi closed all its schools. The school serves all grades. Finally, there is one K-8 private black school in town.

Holly Springs has had to deal with all the problems of larger urban settings, such as crime, drugs, and "failing" schools. It has experienced more violence, segregation, and economic growth in the 1990s and 2000s than it had in the 100 previous years, including a 70% increase in population (U.S. Census, 2012). In the 1980s, the city became a stopping point along US Highway Seventy-eight for drug traffickers carrying cocaine, crack, and marijuana between Memphis and Birmingham. In 1989, Eddie Lee Smith, Jr. became the city's first black mayor. Smith leftHolly Springs in the 1970s. On the one hand he was a civil rights leader, while on the other, a politician worried about the economic development of a trouble small town. Smith, like Holly Springs, tried to deal with the changing economy and politics of a historically divided black and white community that changed forever in the 1960s. Many of the people who voted for Smith do not realize his or their city's civil rights in the past.

Nothing from the above description of Holly Springs would suggest this town as a prime site for curriculum theorizing about public school desegregation. Unlike Natchez, Yazoo city, Jackson, and other Mississippi cities firmly linked in public memory to the turbulent battle over desegregation in the South, the town of Holly Springs is likely not recognized as a significant place in the history of civil rights and school desegregation. Yet it is precisely the seemingly ordinariness of Holly Springs, Mississippi that makes it an exemplary site upon which curriculum theorizing about interconnections among place, history, and race can be developed.

This article extends previous curriculum theorizing on the significance of place (e.g., Caemore, 2008; Kincheloe & Pinar, 1991; Whitlock, 2007) by exploring the influence of imagined communities of race for black and white residents of Holly Springs, Mississippi on their respective roles in school desegregation. My inquiry also connects with studies of critical geography because it focuses on interconnections among race, space, place, and power. An important reason for utilizing a critical geography framework for curriculum theorizing is that it encourages new ways of thinking about relationships between space and educational experience (Helfenbein, 2006). It is hoped that this exploration of black and white racial identities and actions related to school desegregation in Holly Springs will highlight new possibilities for thinking about formal and informal curricular processes in the south.

Castenell and Pinar state (1993)that 'all Americans are racialized beings; knowledge of who we have been, who we are, and who we will become is a story or text we will construct" (p. 8). Given the saliency of race in individual and group identity, this work examines the formation and maintenance of black and white racial identities in Holly Springs and the influence of those identities on processes of school desegregation using the concept of imagined communities. Benedict Anderson's (1991) concept of imagined community speaks to issues of identity (pp. 6- 7) that develop in relation to nation, which he referred to as a ". …

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