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Dandridge stated: I think that was part of the wise counsel of Dr. Pressly because he said on a number of occasions. He felt that a directive from NAIS would do more harm than good. I think they were following his lead. Although by Pressly was speaking out against segregationist academies, his announcement of an admissions policy that would consider all applicants regardless of race was both striking and political. Yet the decision to consider all applicants reflected the politics of maintaining Atlanta's positive race relations image during the civil rights movement and was emblematic of changes among independent schools nationally.
By accepting a few black students in , Westminster followed Atlanta's pattern of token and gradual desegregation in all facets of public life. For example, nine black students desegregated four Atlanta public high schools in the fall of Therefore, elite private schools such as Westminster, especially those located in large metropolitan cities like Atlanta, are uniquely positioned for us to examine their import to civic and business leaders, to the politics of race and desegregation occurring in those cities, and to the range of educational opportunities available in that metropolitan area.
For African Americans following the Civil War, especially in the South, education was sought in both public and private spaces, and the first black students to attend Westminster inherited this dual legacy. African Americans were educated in both parochial schools, in particular Catholic schools, and black private institutions.
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Sources that address the history of African Americans in parochial schools include V. Franklin and Edward P.
Interdisciplinary Studies – Page 20 – McFarland
Diana T. As these students navigated the worlds of home and school, some of them endured overt racial harassment, and all experienced subtle racism. Interrogating the forces that shaped the climate into which these black students entered, allows for a closer examination of the roles of race and class in shaping historically white institutions. The relatively untold story of historically white private school desegregation politics, framed by local, national, and federal contexts, demonstrates that multiple causes, motivations, and decisions undergirded voluntary K—12 desegregation.
Atlanta is the epicenter of the New South and a major Sunbelt city. As home to Martin Luther King, Jr. Examining Westminster provides an important perspective on this interplay and the choices whites and blacks made as they wrestled internally and battled publicly over the meaning and enactment of desegregation, civil rights, and equality. An investigation of an elite private school's desegregation politics also demonstrates that private institutions were not immune to social change and government intervention. Hoppe and Bruce W. For further discussion on segregationist academies, see Anthony M.
Clayborne Carson, David J. Patterson, Brown v. The multiplicity of desegregation narratives do little, however, to explain the politics between and among school types in cities contextualized by national educational agendas and local politics. Additionally, these studies, and others, explored the variety of independent schools and the lessons that can be learned from them, and included concise explanations of how and why black students came to attend elite private schools.
Wanda A. Johnson New York: Greenwood, Press, Zweigenheft and G. These studies examined black education in the twentieth century and the desegregation of Atlanta public schools within a state that legislatively enacted massive resistance immediately following Brown and a city that became increasingly black in the s and s.
Latimer , and Judge Frank A. Hooper ordered the desegregation of Atlanta public schools despite massive resistance through state laws. The Georgia legislature repealed its laws only after the desegregation of the University of Georgia in January My study adds to this literature an analysis of how these politics shaped private school responses to desegregation. Kruse argued for the consideration of segregationists who believed that they were not denying anyone's rights, but defending their own. They wanted to support schools for their children and to help maintain Atlanta's positive image.
At the same time, Westminster and other K—12 private schools located in Buckhead or West Paces Ferry debated desegregation; elite, higher education institutions, including Emory University in Druid Hills, were desegregating. The historiography on Atlanta illuminates a city characterized by image concerns; by economic prosperity and extreme poverty; by white and black leaders, who for their own reasons—converging and sometimes diverging—ascribed to pragmatism, gradualism, and moderation; and by white and black activists working separately and together.
This body of work centers Atlanta's history within the larger historical debates about conservatism, metropolitan and urban politics, the politics and strategies of the civil rights movement, and black educational opportunity. As an elite school that garnered both local and national attention, informed by a developing and changing national private school agenda, Westminster provides an important lens for analyzing the relationships between race, class, and school desegregation, with a focus on how private school politics became more public as whites and blacks responded during the Civil Rights era.
The story of Westminster presents a richly textured case study with local, regional, and national implications that helps illuminate the actions and deliberations of white school leaders and their shifting positions on race, and the educational space into which some white moderate city leaders, while advocating for desegregation, sent their children.
Between and , Westminster became a fixture in Atlanta's elite white community, and Pressly became a leader in the national independent school world. Westminster's growth was predicated on the availability of students and a perceived need by school leaders for a school like Westminster in Atlanta. With the decline of the Napsonian School, a private school established in , James Ross McCain, president of Agnes Scott College and board member of the Napsonian, wrote in to family friend Pressly about the desire for a strong independent school in Atlanta.
Rather than nominate someone else, Pressly nominated himself. To begin establishing the school's potential relationship to the larger public, Pressly immediately made his presence known in Atlanta by seeking the advice of Atlanta's leading white business leaders. Such men were often at the center of the biracial coalition between the white business community and black leaders that negotiated desegregation politics while trying to sustain Atlanta's economic prosperity and positive image.
The Westminster board was chaired by Vernon S. Broyles, Jr. Composed of three schools—a junior school kindergarten through seventh grade , a girls school eighth through twelfth grades , and a boys school eighth through twelfth grades , the new school was named The Westminster Schools. Westminster's initial promotional materials indicated that school leaders wanted the school to be thought of as locally and nationally important. Therefore, hundreds of our young people are sent away to school year after year. William L. In its initial years, Westminster secured its niche in Atlanta's white community by increasing enrollment, developing a large physical plant, and garnering local financial support.
Pressly, December 16, , record group 4. By the Brown decision, the school's second major fundraiser commenced when Ivan Allen, Jr. As Calhoun v. Latimer was litigated in , one year after the desegregation of Little Rock's Central High School, Pressly reported denying eighteen hundred applications.
Westminster enrolled 1, students and employed faculty and staff members. Prior to Westminster's establishment, at least one independent school leader, Mira B. Following Wilson's call, independent schools made slight strides in the s, just as Westminster was establishing itself. By , Pressly became chairman of the NCIS Executive Committee just as independent school leaders grappled with more national social and educational issues.
He also held membership on the Georgia Accrediting Commission. Arthur S. Miller's legal analysis, Racial Discrimination and Private Education , discussed whether private schools were exempt from the conversation about the implementation and reach of public school desegregation. Clearly, change was in the air for elite independent schools. Race was at the forefront of local and national politics in the late s and early s, and whites and blacks were pushing school leaders to address racial segregation.
Westminster leaders responded in ways that acknowledged the changes but preserved segregation. In November , while Calhoun v. Latimer was in the courts and HOPE was beginning to combat the state's massive resistance, Westminster board members also appointed a committee to discuss the state law that called for the closure of white public schools if desegregation occurred. March , Roland M. The committee made no landmark decisions except not to enlarge the size of Westminster's student body. The year was a significant year for Westminster, Atlanta, and Georgia.
The state legislature overturned its segregation laws and black students desegregated the University of Georgia and Atlanta Public Schools. Regrettably, some of the school's parents weren't ready for such a change. GACHR's efforts focused on the desegregation of public services such as transportation and healthcare , commercial facilities e.
In May, Eliza Paschall, a white female and executive director of the GACHR, wrote to Pressly about blacks being forced to sit in the Westminster balcony during the baccalaureate service at the end of the school year. It was asked that the Council help dispel this erroneous notion, where it was found to exist. Pressly's request to end rumors regarding the admission of black students signaled an avoidance of desegregation, despite black Atlantans having challenged Westminster's policy that year.
In his annual report to the board, Pressly discussed four controversial issues in independent school education, including the question of desegregation: At your direction, the school has tested every candidate who has applied for admission. During the last school year, four negroes were tested. The first two were high school girls. Neither had an I. The students were undeniably ineligible for admission to Westminster.
The last negro who applied was a boy. When he arrived for the test, his mother had with him his older brother, who had not applied. By the need for a major civil rights bill weighed heavily on Congress and the John F. Kennedy administration. Protests at lunch counters in Greensboro, North Carolina, in were followed in by attempts to desegregate interstate buses by the Freedom Riders, who were arrested in Jackson, Mississippi. Birmingham Police Commissioner Eugene Bull Connor unleashed police dogs and high-powered hoses on the peaceful protesters.
The images coming out of the Deep South horrified Americans from all walks of life. In August , King and other civil rights leaders organized what had been to that point the largest-ever demonstration in the capital: the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. A reluctant Kennedy administration began coordinating with congressional allies to pass a significant reform bill.
McCulloch and Celler forged a coalition of moderate Republicans and northern Democrats while deflecting southern amendments determined to cripple the bill. I think we all realize that what we are doing [today] is a part of an act of God.
Pre-1960 history of the fight for equal access
In scope and effect, the act was among the most far-reaching pieces of legislation in U. It contained sections prohibiting discrimination in public accommodations Title II ; in state and municipal facilities, including schools Titles III and IV ; and—incorporating the Powell Amendment—in any program receiving federal aid Title V. Having passed the House, the act faced its biggest hurdle in the Senate.
President Johnson and Senate Majority Leader Mike Mansfield of Montana tapped Hubert Humphrey of Minnesota to build Senate support for the measure and fend off the efforts of a determined southern minority to stall it. President Johnson signed the bill into law on July 2, The legislation suspended the use of literacy tests and voter disqualification devices for five years, authorized the use of federal examiners to supervise voter registration in states that used tests or in which less than half the voting-eligible residents registered or voted, directed the U.
Attorney General to institute proceedings against use of poll taxes, and provided criminal penalties for violations of the act. Passage of the Civil Rights Act of dealt the deathblow to southern congressional opposition. On March 7, , marchers led by future Representative John R. As with the brutality in Birmingham, public reaction was swift and, if possible, even more powerful.
The sight of them rolling over us like human tanks was something that had never been seen before.
After President Johnson addressed a Joint Session of Congress to speak about the events in Selma, legislative action was swift. The bill that quickly moved through both chambers suspended the use of literacy tests for a five-year period and stationed federal poll watchers and voting registrars in states with persistent patterns of voting discrimination.
It also required the Justice Department to approve any change to election law in those states. Conyers, along with Representatives Diggs, Hawkins, and Powell, had visited Selma in February as part of a Member congressional delegation that investigated voting discrimination. An amended conference report passed both chambers by wide margins, and President Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act of into law on August 6, The measure dramatically increased voter registration in the short term.
By , 60 percent of all southern blacks were registered. Predictably, the bill had the biggest effect in the Deep South. In Mississippi, for instance, where less than 7 percent of African Americans qualified to vote in , 59 percent were on voter rolls by In southern states, particularly in cities such as Atlanta, Houston, and Memphis, the creation of districts with a majority of African-American constituents propelled greater numbers of African Americans into Congress by the early s.
In northern cities, too, the growing influence of black voters reshaped Congress. African Americans constituted a growing percentage of the population of major U. Louis , and Shirley Chisholm Brooklyn were elected to Congress from redrawn majority-black districts in which white incumbents chose not to run.
Women Activists in the Fight for Georgia School Desegregation, 1958-1961
The final major piece of civil rights legislation of the decade was designed to extend the legal protections outlawing racial discrimination beyond the Civil Rights Act of and the Voting Rights Act of In President Johnson called for additional legislation to protect the safety of civil rights workers, end discrimination in jury selection, and eliminate restrictions on the sale or rental of housing. Over the next two years, opposition to this legislation emerged from both parties, leading to a protracted battle that culminated in the passage of the Civil Rights Act of Benefitting from Democratic majorities in both houses of Congress, the Johnson administration instituted immigration reforms and created federally funded programs to stimulate urban development, bolster consumer protection, strengthen environmental regulations, fund education programs, and expand the social safety net by providing health coverage through Medicare and Medicaid.
Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of on April 11, The act prohibited discrimination in the sale or rental of approximately 80 percent of the housing in the U. Newly elected Senator Edward Brooke of Massachusetts fourth from left attended the signing. At the start of the 90th Congress — , President Johnson once again called for a new civil rights bill. This time, the Democratic strategy was to propose several bills based on the component parts of the failed bill from the 89th Congress.
In so doing, Democrats hoped to pass as many of the individual bills as possible. During the tumultuous summer of , access to housing was at the forefront of a national discussion on urban policy, particularly after violence erupted in cities such as Detroit and Newark, New Jersey. House Democrats were unable to attract support for a fair housing bill in the summer of But the House did pass a narrow civil rights bill on August 15, , which established federal penalties for anyone forcibly interfering with the civil and political rights of individuals.
The bill specified that civil rights workers would be afforded similar protections when serving as advocates for those trying to exercise their rights. Many justified their resistance to the proposed legislation by highlighting the riots that broke out in July In the Senate, Republicans joined segregationist Democrats in what seemed to be formidable opposition to the bill. When the upper chamber finally began to debate the legislation in February , Senator Brooke joined with Senator Walter Mondale of Minnesota to draft an amendment designed to prohibit discrimination in the sale or rental of 91 percent of all housing in the nation.
On the Senate Floor, Brooke described the way segregated neighborhoods, typically far from employment opportunities, did extensive damage to the African-American community. When he declared that he was open to supporting the fair housing amendment with some revisions, negotiations began between the parties.
The final bill included several concessions to Dirksen, such as reducing the housing covered by the fair housing provision. Also, an amendment was added to the bill to attract the support of Senators who had been reluctant to vote for the civil rights bill, which made it a federal crime to cross state lines to participate in a riot. An additional amendment prohibited Native American tribal governments from restricting the exercise of specific constitutional rights on their lands. For decades, opponents on the Rules Committee blocked civil rights initiatives, and Colmer sought to keep the Senate bill off the floor by sending it to a conference committee, where it could be debated and revised, or simply stalled, by Members.
On April 4—the day before the Rules Committee was scheduled to vote on whether to send the bill to the House Floor or to send it to conference—Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The Rules Committee postponed its vote.
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A violent weekend in cities across the nation resulted in 46 people killed, thousands injured, and millions of dollars in property damage before the National Guard helped quelled the disturbances. Unexpectedly, a majority of the committee defied the chairman and voted to send the bill to the floor. Representative Joseph D. Less than a week later, the House approved the Senate bill by a vote of to , and President Johnson signed it into law on April 11, The enforcement mechanisms of the fair housing provision, however, ended up being somewhat limited in that it required private individuals or advocacy groups to file suit against housing discrimination.
Next Section. See also David J.
A useful overview of Congress and civil rights is Timothy N. Zelizer Boston: Houghton-Mifflin Company, : — Another useful secondary work, which touches on aspects of the voting rights reform legislative effort, is Steven F. Some, like the Felloswship of Southern Churchmen, founded in , Highlander Folk School, started in , or the Southern Conference Educational Fund, formed in as an outgrowth of the SCHW, were viewed as radical because they adopted a clear integrationist stance from the start. Others, like the Southern Regional Council, did not openly condemn segregation before , and remained focused on education and communication rather than advocating immediate change.
It is not easy to assess the role played by women in these groups, as they became obviously less visible, once working with men, than they had been at the time of all-female groups. What is sure is that many of them occupied executive positions in all the liberal and radical groups of their time. Nelle Morton served as executive secretary for the Fellowship of Southern Churchmen from to , while Lillian Smith and her friend Paula Snelling were also active members of the organization Besides, it is worth noting that when recalling their experiences, most of these women mention many others who worked behind the scenes without being credited for it Parallelly, the tradition of all-female groups was perpetuated by the Leagues of Women Voters across the region.
Indeed, after the U. Anne Braden, for instance, was harassed by the local authorities of Louisville, Kentucky, after she and her husband helped a black couple to buy a house in an all-white area 34 ; Virginia Durr was accused of communism and subpoenaed by the Senate Internal Security Subcommittee in the years of McCarthyism. Indeed, the debate over segregation radicalized after the Brown decision. It can be argued that their previous experience of activism led them to question southern culture much more deeply than white men, by forcing them, in particular, to challenge, and ultimately to reject, the specific gender norms that white supremacy had imposed on them.
So that, when the black leaders and students launched the final assault on segregation in the South, they were ready to follow. Dorothy Tilly gradually adjusted to the evolution of the race issue, to fully embrace the cause of integration by the late 40s. Yet, she remained attached to a non-confrontational approach, based on persuasion and education. In , she created the Fellowship of the Concerned, an interracial group of church women, who started exerting moral pressure on southern courts so that they stopped discriminating against Blacks.
From on, the FOC concentrated its efforts on persuading Whites to accept school desegregation. For all its moderation, her position was unacceptable to white supremacists, who harassed her for her views, as they persecuted all southern dissenters at the time They actually became involved in the controversy over desegregation. Yet, whereas, in the previous decades, for all their good will, white women had only exceptionally managed to overcome their paternalistic bias, some now organized truly equalitarian projects and meetings with black women on a local level, usually stirring the hostility of their communities The women often acted against the will of their local churches in doing so.
The growth of integrationist activism thus favored the development of biracial networks, no longer based on paternalism but on true cooperation. This movement supported racial integration on campuses, inspiring large numbers of young women whose lives were transformed by their college experiences. According to the historian Sara Evans, who interviewed many of them, virtually all southern white women who became involved in the Freedom Movement of the s came to it through the church The black and white women they met on campus YWCAs, especially, served as role models to them The choices they made at that point in their lives implied a rejection of the codes of behavior that had been imposed on them in their youths.
The most subversive aspect of their action was their immersion into a movement dominated by black men, with whom intimate relationships became an actual possibility. In other words, when they engaged in the new form of activism adopted by the nonviolent movement, these white women shattered the image of the southern lady that had conditioned generations.
In doing so, they eventually completed the process of radicalization that had been going on since the 30s They were dissenters, even outcasts at times. Yet, they definitely played their part, along with other dissenters, in the dismantling of the segregationist system. Thus, their contribution should not be considered in isolation from that of other activists, but as a complement to it.