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Schooling Jim Crow

Schooling Jim Crow: The Fight for Atlanta's Booker T. Washington High School and the Roots of Black Protest Politics

Copyright Date: 2014
Pages: 320
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  • Book Info
    Schooling Jim Crow
    Book Description:

    In 1919 the NAACP organized a voting bloc powerful enough to compel the city of Atlanta to budget $1.5 million for the construction of schools for black students. This victory would have been remarkable in any era, but in the context of the Jim Crow South it was revolutionary.Schooling Jim Crowtells the story of this little-known campaign, which happened less than thirteen years after the Atlanta race riot of 1906 and just weeks before a wave of anti-black violence swept the nation in the summer after the end of World War I. Despite the constant threat of violence, Atlanta's black voters were able to force the city to build five black grammar schools and Booker T. Washington High School, the city's first publicly funded black high school.Schooling Jim Crowreveals how they did it and why it matters.

    In this pathbreaking book, Jay Driskell explores the changes in black political consciousness that made the NAACP's grassroots campaign possible at a time when most black southerners could not vote, let alone demand schools. He reveals how black Atlantans transformed a reactionary politics of respectability into a militant force for change. Contributing to this militancy were understandings of class and gender transformed by decades of racially segregated urban development, the 1906 Atlanta race riot, Georgia's disfranchisement campaign of 1908, and the upheavals of World War I. On this cultural foundation, black Atlantans built a new urban black politics that would become the model for the NAACP's political strategy well into the twentieth century.

    eISBN: 978-0-8139-3615-4
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xiv)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-23)

    On Saturday mornings just after World War I, subscribers to the city’s leading black newspaper, theAtlanta Independent, read Captain Jackson McHenry’s weekly column, comprising equal parts gossip, political news, and opinion. Here, they would regularly encounter bits of homespun wisdom such as the one above. On the surface, the meaning of this parable seems quite obvious. An organized black community will not be whipped, and stands a better chance at defending its individual members than a disorganized one. This was more than an inspiring fable about organized resistance to oppression, however. McHenry offered his readers a lesson in solidarity....

  5. 1 “Manhood Rights”: Progress and the Politics of Respectability, 1899–1906
    (pp. 24-60)

    The most telling indicator of the political position that the state’s black leadership found itself in was the cartoon on the front page of theAtlanta Journalon the day following the defeat of the Hardwick bill in 1899 (see figure 1). This bill, authored by state representative Thomas W. Hardwick, was modeled after similar disfranchisement bills passed earlier in Mississippi and asked the electorate to change the state constitution to include a grandfather clause and literacy test in order to disfranchise Georgia’s African American voters.¹ TheJournalcartoon depicted a former slave, ballot in hand, standing before an arch...

  6. 2 “To Humiliate the Progressive Negro”: The Atlanta Race Riot of 1906
    (pp. 61-105)

    When the polls opened at 7 a.m., it was still cool outside, though the mercury would hit a steamy 92 degrees by midafternoon.¹ Despite the heated rhetoric voiced by supporters of both Hoke Smith and Clark Howell, the day passed without incident. Throughout the day, partisans from every campaign sweated and swarmed around the polling stations with placards, signs, slogans, and, where necessary, hard cash in order to cajole the Democrats who showed up to vote that day. Since the state Republican Party had not run a statewide slate for over two decades, the outcome of this Democratic primary on...

  7. 3 “Respectable Militants”: The Neighborhood Union and the Transformation of the Politics of Respectability, 1908–1913
    (pp. 106-147)

    Through the vehicle of the biracial Atlanta Civic League, the politics of respectability reasserted itself in the aftermath of the riot. While this allowed black elites to reestablish a relationship with the city’s leading white men, critics of the new dispensation were forced to choose between silence and exile. Fearing for his life, Jesse Max Barber chose exile. Du Bois remained politically quiescent until he departed Atlanta to join the staff of the NAACP in New York in 1910.¹ Rev. William Jefferson White returned to his work in the church, and Bishop Henry McNeal Turner fell from grace following a...

  8. 4 “Close Ranks”: World War I as a Crucible for Black Solidarity, 1913–1919
    (pp. 148-195)

    In 1917, the Neighborhood Union would recall its bittersweet victory as it fought off another attack on black public education. That year, facing unprecedented growth in the size of Atlanta’s school-age population, the city abruptly announced that it would abolish the seventh grade in the city’s thirteen black grammar schools in order to pay for the construction of a new junior high school for white students.¹ Since the Neighborhood Union had launched its first campaign to improve the city’s black public schools, the number of students enrolled had steadily grown, placing impossible demands on an already underfunded school system. At...

  9. 5 “A Satisfied Part of Our Composite Citizenship”: The Fight for Booker T. Washington High School, 1918–1924
    (pp. 196-234)

    The end of World War I meant a renewal of the fight for equal schools in Atlanta. Given the inability of Atlanta’s black progressive leaders to persuade the city to address the overcrowded and unhealthy conditions in black schools, they took advantage of the city’s postwar fiscal crisis to shift their strategy from defense to offense. Since 1900, the city had relied increasingly on bond issues to fund the expansion and maintenance of the public school system—a decision that allowed elected city officials to break ground on projects for their constituents while distributing the tax burden to future generations.¹...

  10. Epilogue: “Self-Determination at the Ballot Box”
    (pp. 235-242)

    Despite the magnitude of the victory in the March 1921 bond vote, the gains for the city’s black schools proved meager. Ultimately, Atlanta’s black schools only received a fraction of the money that black voters were promised in exchange for their support of the 1921 bond issue. A budget crisis caused by the extra costs of eliminating double sessions in white schools left the members of the Board of Education with a deficit of nearly $800,000, forcing them to reapportion the school bonds in order to build a girls’ high school that they had guaranteed to white parents.¹ Even before...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 243-280)
  12. Bibliography
    (pp. 281-290)
  13. Index
    (pp. 291-300)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 301-306)