Higher Education for African Americans before the Civil Rights Era, 1900-1964

By Altenbaugh, Richard J. | The Historian, Summer 2014 | Go to article overview

Higher Education for African Americans before the Civil Rights Era, 1900-1964


Altenbaugh, Richard J., The Historian


Higher Education for African Americans before the Civil Rights Era, 1900-1964. Edited by Marybeth Gasman and Roger L. Geiger. (New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers, 2012. Pp. 200. $34.95.)

Both the histories of higher education and of African American education have flourished in recent years, producing rich bodies of scholarship; this volume of essays nicely melds them together. Coeditors Marybeth Gasman and Roger L. Geiger maintain a twofold purpose: first, to focus on the efforts of historically black colleges and universities (HBCU) to establish complete autonomy and raise academic profiles; and second, to shed light on discrimination and intimidation of African American students attending Northern universities.

The editors carefully chose the periodization, commencing with W. E. B. DuBois's pioneering study in 1900, The College-Bred Negro, and culminating with the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This represented a unique and critical time in American history that witnessed the maturation of Southern de jure segregation, persistence of Northern de facto segregation, record lynchings, the Harlem Renaissance, and key Supreme Court decisions that profoundly shaped African American experiences in higher education--Missouri ex rel Gaines v. Canada [1938], Sweatt v. Painter [1950], and McLaurin v. Oklahoma [1950]--as well as the conflicts surrounding the admission of African American students to the universities of Alabama in 1956 and of Mississippi in 1962. The essays bring these events into sharper focus by adding texture and exploring specific, and often ignored, institutions and experiences in a variety of locations.

Gasman and Geiger are well known for their valuable contributions to the history of higher education, and the essayists consist of a fine blend of promising junior and established scholars. …

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