Reforming Jim Crow: Southern Politics and State in the Age before Brown

By Kimberley Johnson | Go to book overview

Chapter 7
Building the Jim Crow University System

For the life of me, I can’t see why, if the Negroes in Texas refuse to accept a $100,000 law school in a three and a half million dollar university that the Negroes in South Carolina would accept a $10,000 law school in a $1.50 university.

Thurgood Marshall, quoted in Burke and Hine,
“The School of Law at South Carolina State
College”

Jim Crow reformers were deeply interested in strengthening southern institutions of higher education. In many ways education was central to their vision of stabilizing and elaborating the Jim Crow order, and these institutions played an important role in this. Not only did southern universities and colleges provide intellectual space and financial resources for individual reformers; these institutions were also important sources of legitimacy and authority that reformers would collectively draw on and use to advance their agenda. Using southern universities Jim Crow reformers created a new southern ideology of race relations and interracialism, which preached that reform inspired by social science coupled with mutual tolerance could create a harmoniously segregated order. Black colleges and universities would provide the middle-class leadership necessary to help govern a new vertical segregation, which would be more just for southern blacks but still secure for southern whites. During the New Deal university-based reformers led a

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