More than race: Differentiating Black students’ everyday experiences in Texas school desegregation, 1968-1978 Thesis uri icon

abstract

  • In newly desegregated schools in Waco, Texas, how did Black students’ social identities, namely race, gender, and socioeconomic status, differentiate their everyday experiences? This local social history examines this central question, using intersectionality as the theoretical lens and oral history interviews alongside historical methods to analyze how gender, class, and racial identity coalesced to differentiate Black students’ everyday experiences. In particular, I analyze how African American students experienced the school desegregation implementation process after nearly two decades of their school districts circumventing federal orders to desegregate. Following Black students in this context led me to examine two adjoining school districts, Waco and LaVega, which included many of the same African American students in the 1970s. I argue that Black students’ race, gender, and class status differentiated their everyday experiences throughout the implementation of school desegregation, which ultimately upheld systemic white supremacy and anti-Blackness. These findings challenge existing assumptions about the nature of Black student experiences as largely monolithic. After a brief introduction, this dissertation’s second chapter details the historiography of southern, Texas, and Waco-area school desegregation. A delineation of my research design, methodology, and theoretical framework follow in chapter three, and chapter four analyzes Black student resistance while two school districts, where Black Waco students were concentrated, affronted African American residents by manipulating school desegregation policies. There, I examine a Black student-led walkout and boycott, tracing one district’s surrender of its Black students and the funding with which they came. Chapter five explores the myths and stereotypes that supported the caste system bolstering Black inferiority, showing how these misconstructions translated into practice by school personnel. I examine the ways Black students were impacted by the durability and utility of gendered and classed stereotypes, revealing how white people in newly desegregated schools pigeonholed them into erroneous misconstructions. In chapter six, I identify two ways Black students responded to these stereotypes, stressing their attempts to reclaim agency. By uniting and adapting their level of school engagement, as largely determined by their class status, Black Waco students reasserted their personhood. Chapter seven primarily considers gender, assessing how Black cheerleaders and homecoming queens redefined femininity in formerly all-white desegregated schools. I delineate four strategies these Black girls pursued to attain these coveted positions. To conclude, my final and eighth chapter offers implications, future directions, and closing comments.

author list (cited authors)

  • James-Gallaway, A. D.

editor list (cited editors)

  • Anderson, J. D.

publication date

  • May 2020