Psychology and Selfhood in the Segregated South

By Anne C. Rose | Go to book overview

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THE PROMISE OF THE CHILD
AND THE LIMITS OF PROGRESS

Jackson Davis was a true believer in the educational reforms that carried up-to-date psychological ideas southward in a dramatic way. In 1947, shortly before his death, Davis repeated the principles that shaped his thirty-two-year career as a southern agent for the General Education Board (GEB), an arm of the Rockefeller Foundation. Visiting an Alabama school, he described the “philosophy motivating the projects”: first, “the school is the best single agency for developing social and economic changes,” and second, “permanent changes will come through the proper direction of children.”1 Children were all but absent in early southern discussions of personality, which focused in their rudimentary way on derangement, and so Davis’s optimism about the child’s plasticity might seem a northern view. Testimony after Davis’s death, however, emphasized his southernness. “He knew Southern education and educators intimately,” wrote a former coworker, and President Benjamin Mays of Morehouse College titled his memorial “He, Too, Was Southern.”2

Born in Virginia in 1882, Davis first traversed the region in a buggy as a county school superintendent. He needed extra gas rations for his car during World War II because he was so often on the road. Everywhere he seemed comfortable with fellow southerners. Not only did he sit down with girls at a “canning party” in 1911, but he recorded in his diary how they steamed the tomatoes. Although he was white, he ate with blacks, remembering with pleasure a lunch at a “colored teachers’ meeting” of

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Psychology and Selfhood in the Segregated South
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Illustrations ix
  • Acknowledgments xi
  • Introduction- The Pursuit of Selfhood in the Segregated South 1
  • 1 17
  • 2 51
  • 3 87
  • 4 117
  • 5 152
  • Epilogue- The Sciences of the Self as an Instrument of Southern Self-Knowledge 185
  • Notes 189
  • Index 287
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