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Hello Professor

Hello Professor: A Black Principal and Professional Leadership in the Segregated South

Vanessa Siddle Walker
with Ulysses Byas
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  • Book Info
    Hello Professor
    Book Description:

    Like many black school principals, Ulysses Byas, who served the Gainesville, Georgia, school system in the 1950s and 1960s, was reverently addressed by community members as "Professor." He kept copious notes and records throughout his career, documenting efforts to improve the education of blacks. Through conversations with Byas and access to his extensive archives on his principalship, Vanessa Siddle Walker finds that black principals were well positioned in the community to serve as conduits of ideas, knowledge, and tools to support black resistance to officially sanctioned regressive educational systems in the Jim Crow South.Walker explains that principals participated in local, regional, and national associations, comprising a black educational network through which power structures were formed and ideas were spread to schools across the South. The professor enabled local school empowerment and applied the collective wisdom of the network to pursue common school projects such as pressuring school superintendents for funding, structuring professional development for teachers, and generating local action that was informed by research in academic practice. The professor was uniquely positioned to learn about and deploy resources made available through these networks. Walker's record of the transfer of ideology from black organizations into a local setting illuminates the remembered activities of black schools throughout the South and recalls for a new generation the role of the professor in uplifting black communities.

    eISBN: 978-1-4696-0556-2
    Subjects: Sociology, Education

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface: Me Speaks, Finally
    (pp. ix-xvi)
  4. Introduction: Once upon a Time in a Forgotten World
    (pp. 1-16)

    In recent decades, scholarly articles, books, newspaper stories, films, and local community narratives describing the segregated schooling of black children in the South have proliferated, inviting new dimensions into the traditional story that reduced all black schools to unilateral inferiority because of inadequate facilities. These accounts document the inequalities created as a result of the discriminatory policies of local school boards and superintendents but extend the portrait to explore the educational climate that emerged in segregated schools despite oppressive external circumstances.² Their collective rendering of the educational experiences of black children within southern segregated schools is strikingly consistent. Black schools...

  5. 1 Playing Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
    (pp. 17-46)

    On July 1, 1957, the possibilities that lay ahead for Ulysses Byas were as new and fresh as the recently completely Buford Dam he passed on his drive fifty-three miles north of Atlanta. His destination was Gainesville, where he and his family would join the thirty thousand residents in a city that dubbed itself the “Queen City of the Mountains.” The setting was idyllic. Nestled in the shadows of the 750,000-acre mountainous terrain of the Chattachoochee National Forest, Gainesville offered to the north and west the crispness of the cooler mountain air and, slightly south, the arid heat of Lake...

  6. 2 From High School Dropout to Classroom Teacher
    (pp. 47-80)

    The autobiography of another Georgia principal, John R. Harris, who titles his storyDefying the Odds: The Inspirational Story of a Poor Farm Boy Who Overcame Incredible Odds to Become a Successful Educator, is a memoir of the nuances of family, community, and culture that birthed educational accomplishment in his life during the years preceding desegregation.¹ Like Harris, Byas experienced poverty and poor schooling as a child and adolescent. As both stories demonstrate, a saga that ends in the accomplishment of becoming a professor does not begin that way.

    To deconstruct the behaviors of Byas during his Dr. Jekyll and...

  7. 3 In Spite of This Old Devil Segregation
    (pp. 81-117)

    Two interrelated forms of professional development help explain Byas’s vision as a professor. These professional development opportunities placed him in a network where his educational expertise could be extended beyond his collegiate and graduate training and where the ideas could be imported into forms that would be useful in his segregated school setting. As significant as were his personal and cultural experiences in shaping his character, so were these two forms of professional development in shaping his vision for leadership. On the national level, the most significant of these opportunities was related to the processes of school accreditation.

    Byas’s first...

  8. [Illustrations]
    (pp. 118-123)
  9. 4 In Georgia, Where I Am Free to Express Myself
    (pp. 124-158)

    For the professional educators leaving national black meetings and returning to the segregated schools throughout the South, the task they confronted and embraced was one of connecting the national ideology to the needs in their own state. While historian Kevin Gaines, in his significant portrayal of black leadership inUplifting the Race, accurately describes some of the disconnection between the black intellectual leaders of the period and local communities, his assessment fails to explore the role of the organizational structures within states and the black professor as the person who allowed intellectual leaders of the race to be physically and...

  10. 5 Whatever Is in the Best Interest of Kids
    (pp. 159-192)

    Byas’s school, Fair Street—now rebuilt as E. E. Butler High School—was the site of the regional GTeA meeting in 1962. The new school was named for the recently deceased prominent black physician and school board member Emmett E. Butler Jr. and was several miles from the original Fair Street campus. Students were enamored with their new building, calling it “one of the most beautiful schools in Georgia for Negro high school students.” The new structure held twelve general classrooms and more than seventeen auxiliary rooms, including a gymnasium, a language lab, and a band room.¹ Using different versions...

  11. 6 Not without Partnering with the Community
    (pp. 193-230)

    The black community was changing tremendously in the mid- to late 1960s as the segregation that had defined downtown Gainesville and black life in general was gradually being dismantled. The changes that were occurring resulted in more open social and professional interactions between blacks and whites. To be sure, Gainesville’s established black business icons remained. The Roxy Theater was still a popular spot for family entertainment, as was the American Legion for those who enjoyed evening entertainment by frequent performers such as James Brown and the Famous Flames. Black-owned restaurants commanded a thriving clientele. Black taxis continued to pick up...

  12. Conclusion: The Price for Running Twice as Fast
    (pp. 231-240)

    After eleven years, the ongoing confrontation between the black professor and the white superintendent reached an impasse. The times had changed since Byas first assumed the principalship in Gainesville. As the 1960s drew to a close, the desegregation whites feared and the integration blacks hoped for were converging as school leaders developed plans for a system of schooling that would educate blacks and whites in the same facilities. Amid these conversations, the superintendent approached the professor, confidentially, to let him know that when the black and white schools were integrated in another two years in compliance with the U.S. Department...

  13. After All Data Are In: Some Notes on Methodology
    (pp. 241-244)

    As didTheir Highest Potential, this book has relied on historical ethnographic methods. This methodology seeks to delineate a historical period, event, and/or person with attention to time and place but also to infuse meaning into the events through a subaltern lens that elucidates the meaning the period or event held for the person or people involved.¹ The combination of time and perspective is a central tenet of the methodology. The result is intended to be an account that captures the lived world of the participants while also tempering the account to provide context, explore contradictions, and determine the extent...

  14. Notes
    (pp. 245-270)
  15. Bibliography
    (pp. 271-280)
  16. Index
    (pp. 281-293)