A Community Worth Fighting For: African American Educational Activism in Charlotte, North Carolina, 1961-1974

Show full item record

Title: A Community Worth Fighting For: African American Educational Activism in Charlotte, North Carolina, 1961-1974
Author: Bundy, Lauren Tess
Advisors: Dr. Blair Kelley, Committee Chair
Dr. Katherine Mellen Charron, Committee Member
Dr. Craig T. Friend, Committee Member
Abstract: This thesis will explore the traditions of African American educational activism in Charlotte, North Carolina between 1961 and 1974. During this time period, African Americans representing nearly every sector of the community relied on a flexible model of activism in their fight for schools which respected their educational traditions. Throughout this time period African Americans, with the help of some white Charlotteans, voiced their discontent with the status quo of public education which marginalized African American children and maintained the economic, political, and social control of a handful of white city fathers. Moreover, African Americans rejected school desegregation plans created by the all-white Charlotte-Mecklenburg School Board, which inflicted heavy blows on the black community and their educational and community institutions. Throughout the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s, white school officials regularly created integration and reform plans which closed historically black schools, fired black educators, and placed an undue burden on black students and their families. Schools represented a rare space of reprieve, empowerment, and opportunity in the bleak landscape of the Jim Crow South. Despite the enormous financial discrepancies between white and black schools, black communities came together to provide their students with an educational experience which met their intellectual and social needs. Desegregation plans that threatened these treasured community resources were met with fierce opposition from African Americans not just in Charlotte, but across much of the nation. In the early 1960s Rev. Reginald Hawkins and the Westside Parents Council organized a neighborhood school boycott in opposition to the discriminatory policies of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg School Board. After the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, activists including Rev. Elo Henderson and Rev. Robert Shirley attempted to use the newfound support of the federal government to pressure city and school officials to finally desegregate the schools. By the late 1960s, the rhetoric and ideology of Black Power stoked the fires of protest and social reform in Charlotte. Huge numbers of Charlotteans, white and black, young and old, rallied around Rev. George Leake and his quest to save the city's historically black schools. When integration finally came to the schools in 1971, African American students took center stage as advocates for racial equity in educational reform. A quest for the dignity and rights of citizenship, not adherence to a strict protest ideology, motivated each of these individuals and groups. Black Charlotteans passionately waged a prolonged and often grueling battle for a model of school integration which honored the treasured traditions of their community. In this moment of enormous social turmoil, the public school system became the medium through which black and white Charlotteans jockeyed for greater cultural, political, and economic influence.
Date: 2008-05-12
Degree: MA
Discipline: History
URI: http://www.lib.ncsu.edu/resolver/1840.16/2955

Files in this item

Files Size Format View
etd.pdf 10.89Mb PDF View/Open

This item appears in the following Collection(s)

Show full item record