Academic journal article The Journal of Negro Education

The Perceived Barriers to Integration in the Mississippi Delta

Academic journal article The Journal of Negro Education

The Perceived Barriers to Integration in the Mississippi Delta

Article excerpt

This article identifies the barriers to educational integration in one Mississippi Delta town. Throughout the Mississippi Delta region, there are predominantly White private academies located in close proximity to predominantly Black public schools. Although de facto segregation among students exists throughout the country, the segregation in the Mississippi Delta is different. Specifically, many White students attend private academies that do not offer greater educational opportunity than the predominantly Black public schools. More than 40 individuals in Delta County were interviewed in order to identify the specific barriers to educational integration.

INTRODUCTION

As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Brown v. Board of Education (1954) decision, data suggest that some public school districts are as racially segregated as they were at the time of the Brown decision (Frankenberg, Lee, & Orfield, 2003). One difference between the segregation that exists between now and then relates to de jure segregation versus de facto segregation. In other words, the racial segregation that existed before the Brown decision was segregation according to law, or de jure segregation, while the segregation that exists today is segregation not sanctioned by law, or de facto segregation (Garner, 2001). Although de facto segregation in schools exists throughout the country, the de facto segregation that exists in the Mississippi Delta region is somewhat unique.

Specifically, similar to other areas, the public schools in the Mississippi Delta are predominantly Black and the private schools are predominantly White. Unlike other school districts, however, the White students are attending a private school that does not offer greater educational opportunity than the Black public school. Also, unlike other school districts, the public school and private school are only a few miles apart. This study examines why the students of one Mississippi Delta town, Delta County (pseudonym), remain segregated by race. In order to examine this issue, the following question was addressed: What are the current barriers to educational integration in Delta County? The findings of this study will shed light on the segregated schools throughout the Mississippi Delta region as well as in other areas of the country that have a similar history of de facto segregation (e.g., Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina).

Throughout the article desegregation is defined as the abrogation of policies that separate and place races into different institutions and facilities (Garner, 2001). Integration, on the other hand, is defined as the goal of sharing major institutions in a way that recognizes and teaches respect for our different cultures as well as our shared goals (Orfield & Eaton, 1996).

BACKGROUND

The 2000 U.S. Census revealed that Delta County is 41% White, 57% Black, and 2% other. The county's population is 12,580 (Institute of Economic Advancement, 2004). The median household income in Delta County is $20,510, compared to the U.S. average of $41,994 (U.S. Census Bureau, 2000).

The following four educational options are available in Delta County: (a) Delta Public School, (b) Delta Private Academy, (c) Delta sectarian School, and (d) home-schooling. This article presents descriptions of the Delta Public School, Delta Private Academy, and Delta sectarian School; the home-school option was not considered. Demographic information and other available data on each school are provided in Table 1. It is important to note that test scores were not compared because they were not provided by Delta Private Academy or by Delta sectarian School. These test scores are not maintained by the Delta State Department of Education because the schools are private.

The researcher taught at Delta Public School from 1994-1997 and returned to observe both Delta Private Academy and Delta Public School in 2001 and 2002. While the public school is not an exemplar school, the observation data revealed that the Delta Public School provided a more rigorous academic environment. …

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