Southern and Independent: Public Mandates, Private Schools, and Black Students, 1951-1970 Público

Purdy, Michelle Allen (2011)

Permanent URL: https://etd.library.emory.edu/concern/etds/7h149q633?locale=es
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Abstract


Abstract

Scholars of United States desegregation often portray private schools as avenues
of escape for southern whites from public school desegregation. Few researchers have
examined how Brown v. Board of Education and the 1964 Civil Rights Act influenced
private school desegregation, in particular independent (and elite) schools, such as The
Westminster Schools (plural in name only) in Atlanta, Georgia. Informed by multiple
archival sources and oral history interviews, this research illuminates the political and
social factors that influenced Westminster's founding and growth in the 1950s and 1960s,
prompted Westminster's announcement of an open admission policy in 1965, and
influenced the experiences of the first black students through 1970.

This dissertation reveals that as political and social changes occurred on local and
national levels, Westminster's president and trustees deliberated about the school's
position on race. Black and white Atlantans also challenged the school's exclusionary
policies. Such deliberations and pressures coupled with a national independent school
climate informed by civil rights legislation affected Westminster's identity as both a
southern and independent school.

A contradictory and complex racial climate undergirded Westminster's
desegregation. Prior to and through the initial years of desegregation, Westminster
students participated in racialized traditions such as an annual slave auction fundraiser
and programs with "Old South" themes. Yet, as evidenced by a variety of newspaper
articles, students raised questions about racial issues of the era, including that of
Westminster's desegregation, and showcased their varied conceptualizations about race,
prejudice, and politics.

Following desegregation, racism permeated the experiences of black students both
in overt and subtle ways. To navigate this terrain, the first black students relied on their
previous experiences in black communities and schools and their abilities.
Yet, Westminster continued to send all of its students mixed signals about race and
racism. Moreover, the school did not change structurally as the administration and faculty
remained all-white throughout the first three years of desegregation.

Table of Contents


INTRODUCTION 1
What are Independent Schools? 3
Why Study Westminster? 6
Southern and Independent: A Different Study of Independent Schools and Black Students 10
Methodology 15
Primary Sources 16
Oral Histories 16
Limitations and Assumptions 18
Organization of Dissertation 19
CHAPTER 1: INTERSECTING CONTEXTS AND HISTORIES--FRAMING THE DESEGREGATION OF WESTMINSTER 23
Centrality of Private Schools in Southern Black Education 24
Laying the Groundwork 24
Distinct Yet Similar 26
Independent Schools and Public Image 37
Developing National Independent School Organizations 42
Monitoring Legislation 46
Public Relations 48
CHAPTER 2: AN ELITE SOUTHERN INDEPENDENT SCHOOL EMERGES, 1951-1957 53
Westminster's Origins 53
Marketing Westminster 62
Sustaining Westminster during Brown 66
A Developing National Agenda 75
CHAPTER 3: POSITIONING AND POSTURING IN THE MIDST OF CHANGE AND CHALLENGE, 1958-1961 81
A Leading School Takes Shape during a Public School Dilemma 82
The Race Question 92
Continued Contemplation 101
CHAPTER 4: ATTEMPTS TO PUSH THE DOORS OPEN, 1962-1963 109
Black Atlantans Seek Admission at Westminster and Other Private Schools 110
Change and Challenge: Westminster's Developing Racial Climate 122
Advancing a New National Agenda 125
CHAPTER 5: DOORS PUSHED OPEN WHILE MAINTAINING PUBLIC IMAGE, 1964-1966 132
Opening the Doors 133
NAIS' Agenda on Race Takes Shape 150
A Welcoming Environment? 159
Transitioning to Desegregation 168
CHAPTER 6: COURAGEOUS NAVIGATION OF A SOCIAL EXPERIMENT, 1967-1970 173
The First to Desegregate 176
Desegregation Continues 196
Enduring the Subtleties of Racism while Finding Niches 215
CONCLUSION 230
Challenging Segregationist Academies 230
Considerations of Westminster's Story 235
New Directions, Same Struggles 238
BIBLIOGRAPHY 244
APPENDIX A: PRIMARY SOURCES 255
APPENDIX B: INTERVIEWEES 256
APPENDIX C: NOTES ON METHDOLOGY 258
Primary Sources 258
Oral History Interviews 259
APPENDIX D: BIOGRAPHICAL INFORMATION ON BLACK ALUMNI INTERVIEWEES 262
APPENDIX E: BLACK STUDENTS ATTENDING WESTMINSTER, 1967-1973 264

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