School "Outer-Gration" and "Tokenism": Segregated Black Educators Critique the Promise of Education Reform in the Civil Rights Act of 1964 1

By Walker, Vanessa Siddle | The Journal of Negro Education, Spring 2015 | Go to article overview

School "Outer-Gration" and "Tokenism": Segregated Black Educators Critique the Promise of Education Reform in the Civil Rights Act of 1964 1


Walker, Vanessa Siddle, The Journal of Negro Education


Principal D. F. Glover lost his job as a principal in South Georgia during the tense years from 1968 to 1970 when public demonstrations for equality waned and multiple signals indicated school integration would fail to accomplish its original goals. Glover's dismissal resulted after repeated school protests. Eventually, he used his elected leadership in the 13,000-member Georgia Teachers and Education Association (GTEA) to challenge the continued educational mistreatment of Black school communities in an era when integration was expected to yield equality. "Let it be written," he postulated, "that in 1968-69 Black students, teachers, and parents stated in no uncertain terms that we have taken too much too long. We have had enough. We can't stand idly by and see ourselves for generations to come entangled in webs."2

Glover's words may have been influenced by his direct experiences with demotion, but they bespoke the judgment of myriad Black educational leaders across the state and nation. In speeches and prayers, Black educators stated explicitly the challenges Black schools confronted as local Whites resisted desegregated in a variety of institutionalized ways. The prayers that began their professional meetings acknowledged the "hatred, mistrust, antipathy" rampant in the South and beseeched the Almighty to bring people together. They acknowledged they were accountable to "posterity" for decisions being made that would affect "the destiny of Black boys and girls, teachers, parents, and laymen." In the public and private discussions that followed the prayers, a familiar lament dominated: The Black educators confronted a battle bigger than them-one in which a larger civil rights struggle overshadowed their protests about the inequalities in the implementation of integration.3

With few exceptions (Cecelski, 1994; Irvine & Irvine, 1983; Jones, 1981), the perspectives of these educators and potential value to desegregation have remained largely lost in the historiography of the period. Following a widely accepted historical portrait that reduced Black educators to self-serving individuals who had no response to desegregation beyond a fear for their jobs, few scholars writing about desegregation have sought a more expansive view of their role in school desegregation or interrogated the muffled cry for justice they repeatedly launched (Baker, 1996; Charron, 2009; Cobb, 2005; Fultz, 1995a, 1995b, 1995c; Kluger, 2004). Even fewer scholars have considered the implications for the education of Black children of their unheeded protest. This failure is ironic.

Revisionist scholarship documents these educators increased literacy rates, decreased dropout rates, and increased college attendance. (Juergensen, in press). Despite limited resources, they created caring school climates that inspired generations of Black children to achieve academically and to assume their places as full participants in the American dream (Foster, 1988; Jones, 1980; Morris & Morris, 2000; Noblit & Dempsey, 1996; Walker, 1996). Moreover, through their educational organizations, Black educators protested the inequitable treatment of Black education in every generation from reconstruction to desegregation (Fairclough, 2007, Perkins, 1989; Picott, 1975; Porter, 1977; Potts, 1978; Walker, 2000, 2001, 2009a). The loss of the perspective of these advocates as context for the current desegregation and resegregation era is, arguably, as egregious an error as was the firing of more than 31,000 educators during desegregation.

This article resurrects the perspectives of Black educators using the GTEA as a case study to explore the issues these educators sought to have engaged by the nation and other public educational advocates during the desegregation period from 1968 to 1970. It uses an historical ethnographic lens applied to the files in the private collection of the organization's last executive director, Dr. Horace Edward Tate, to seek to understand the events of desegregation as they held meaning to Black educators. …

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