Waco's First Black School Board Trustees: Navigating Institutional White Supremacy in 1970s Texas Academic Article uri icon


  • AbstractThrough the lens of the school board, this essay examines school governance dynamics as a southern, historically white public school district struggled to implement school desegregation. In 1976, the city of Waco simultaneously elected its school district's first trustees of Color, Dr. Emma Louise Harrison and Rev. Robert Lewis Gilbert. Harrison and Gilbert used distinctly different political strategies to navigate the racially hostile school board environment, but ultimately, as this article demonstrates, neither strategy enabled them to overcome white supremacy in Waco. This seemingly obvious point reveals a notable yet underemphasized drawback of school desegregation: that it failed to upend structural racial injustice. The case of Harrison and Gilbert illustrates that this limitation was reflected in the token number of Black trustees on the boards of desegregated schools and the concerted white resistance they met in working to spur meaningful racial change.

published proceedings


altmetric score

  • 23.25

author list (cited authors)

  • James-Gallaway, A. D.

citation count

  • 0

complete list of authors

  • James-Gallaway, Arcasia D

publication date

  • February 2023