Persistence and Resistance: African American High School Teachers and Students During the Long Civil Rights Movement in Charlottesville, Virginia, 1926-1974
Hyres, Alexander, Education - Curry School of Education, University of Virginia
Alridge, Derrick, Curry School of Education, University of Virginia
This dissertation examines the role of African American high school teachers and students in the struggle for equitable education from 1926-1974 in Charlottesville, Virginia. I argue that teachers and students sought culturally relevant and equitable education through their activism within and beyond the classroom. To be clear, not all African American teachers and students engaged in activism and protest. However, rather than dismiss a whole swath of people due to the inaction of some individuals, this project aims to recover the voices and experiences of these teachers and students. Part of examining the action and inaction of African American teachers and students during this time period requires placing their actions within a larger context. Accordingly, while the project centers its focus on teachers and students, it also provides salient political, social, and economic commentary on the issues of the era.
Until recently, the roles played by teachers and students in the Civil Rights Movement have remained largely unexplored. With the exceptions of R. Scott Baker and Tondra Loder-Jackson, historians have tended to place teachers on the sidelines of the long Civil Rights Movement. Consequently, their voices have not been heard. This has led to a deafening silence on the role that teachers played during the Civil Rights Movement. Within the past two decades, historians such as Gael Graham, Charles Payne, Jon Hale, Thomas Bynum, and others have examined the activism of high school students. However, scholars have yet to explore the contours of high school students’ participation in the movement. This study spotlights both groups and their activism in Charlottesville, Virginia.
This study poses several questions:
1. How, and in what ways, were African American high school teachers and students involved in the long Civil Rights Movement?
2. What did African American high school teachers aim to teach their African American students?
3. How, and in what ways, did African American students influence their teachers in segregated and desegregated high schools?
4. What challenges did African American teachers and students encounter in their fight for educational equity?
The answers to these questions cut across three institutions where African American high schooling occurred: Jefferson High School, from 1926 to 1951; Jackson P. Burley High School, from 1951 to 1966; and Lane High School, from 1959 to 1974. This study is not a comprehensive account of high school education in Charlottesville. Although the study does not offer a comprehensive examination, it does offer an account with salient snapshots. In sum, the snapshots meet in the middle—offering a bottom-up as well as a top-down account of high school education during the long Civil Rights Movement.
This project makes three contributions to the existing historiography. First, it centers on how African American high school teachers and students were involved in the long Civil Rights Movement. Second, it reassesses how high school education changed over time from the African American perspective, deploying a longer chronological scope and focusing less on school desegregation. Third, it recasts the narrative of African American education in Virginia by explicating how African Americans have persisted in working toward educational equity in the context of constant resistance from the state’s white population. Overall, it reveals that rather than viewing educational equity as a final destination, advocates and policymakers must navigate and anticipate how whites within Charlottesville, Virginia, and the United States will respond to their progress.
PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
African American high school teachers and students, Long Civil Rights Movement, Charlottesville, Virginia, Activism
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