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Monday, October 26, 2009

Booker's Children: The Strange Segregationist Origins of Diversity?

The title of this post was inspired by a conversation I had with Anders Walker (SLU), who appeared in our enrichment series at FSU this past Thursday; in truth, I hope something like it will be the title of his next book project. Anders gave a legal history talk discussing the range of responses to Brown v. Board, emphasizing how some Southern politicians used the cultural politics of Brown to focus efforts on combating delinquency through an expansion of the welfare state. That paper was all well and interesting, but we got to talking about some of his ideas and research related to "moderate" segregationists like Lewis Powell and former Florida governor, Leroy Collins, and this is where things got cooking (at least in my mind; I herewith acknowledge that I don't know a lick of legal or cultural history associated with this era, so if the following seems wrong, blame me, not Anders, for the faulty re-telling).

According to Anders, a number of Southern white figures (like Collins/Powell) favored Jim Crow arrangements (and thus were concerned about Brown and its aftermath) because they valued the distinctive cultural pluralistic arrangements and achievements of the separate races.  In this respect, they were sympathetic to Booker T. Washington's earlier exhortations to give blacks economic and political rights but averse to full-scale assimilation and integration because of the concern that such developments would destroy the efflorescence of self-sufficient and integrity-bearing black communities and institutions. In a similar vein, Anders then shared some details about research related to black teachers and school principals in Mississippi who were concerned that integration would jeopardize their career prospects.  Interestingly, other black leaders had reservations about the civil rights movement's emphasis on integration--in part because of economic concerns (ie, how integration would imperil their job prospects) and in part because of cultural concerns similar to those espoused by Booker Washington and his followers. One example of this that Anders shared was Florida A & M football coach, Jake Gaither, who apparently opposed the integration of college football out of concern that he would lose his football team (and/or the best black athletes) if it were simply absorbed into the UF or FSU sports umbrella.

This dynamic of course creates a kind of (minoritarian) "interest convergence" between some white and black Southerners who shared concerns with the "we can't wait any longer" goals for desegregation. To my mind, there's a fascinating story to be told (by Anders) that connects this cultural reaction to the "perils" of Brown to the arguments Powell, who himself expressed appreciation for cultural/racial pluralism at the time of Brown, makes later on in his Bakke opinion regarding the desirability of respecting the benefits of cultural diversity in the university community. In this respect, it looks like there's not just the standard two ways of looking at Brown and the responses it triggered (massive resistance vs. civil rights integration) but also the possibility of a third narrative, one that is more complicated (though still ethically troublesome) and stresses a multicultural approach to education and educational politics.

For what it's worth, Sam Freedman in the NYT today has a piece about Coach Gaither and how he eventually turned around on integration and football. Here's the description that bolsters, at least in part, this possible narrative:

A man deeply knowledgeable and eloquent about black history, Coach Gaither nonetheless had maintained a public distance from the civil rights movement. Conversely, segregation benefited his university and team by shutting off all of Florida’s white schools to the best black students and athletes in the state. Yet by 1967, Coach Gaither had begun privately lobbying members of Florida’s Board of Regents, which oversaw state schools of both races, to allow him to play a white team. A year later, when Mr. Curci took over as head coach in Tampa, Mr. Gaither found a willing collaborator.

  As I mentioned before, I'm the "opposite" of a legal historian, and thus there are probably lots of nuances that are left out of this narrative, in particular some more that would connect Powell's view around Brown to the views he espoused in Bakke.  That said, I thought I'd mention the brief outlines of the whole thing to encourage Anders to pursue this quite provocative line of research and invite others to point him to other sources that might bolster or challenge this account. (If it turns out I'm wrong about various things herein, I'll revise the post as needed.)

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Tracked on Oct 27, 2009 6:17:11 PM


You might find these cites interesting or useful:

W.E.B. DuBois, “Does the Negro Need Separate Schools?,” Journal of Negro Education 4 no. 3 (1935): 335.

Derrick Bell, Silent Covenants: Brown v. Board of Education and the Unfulfilled Hopes for Racial Reform (Oxford Univ. Press, 2004).

Davison M. Douglas, Reading, Writing & Race: The Desegregation of the Charlotte Schools (Univ. of North Carolina Press, 1995).

Hannah Arendt, “Reflections on Little Rock,” Dissent 6 (1959): 45-56.

William A. Sampson and Ben Williams. “School Desegregation: The Non-Traditional Sociological Perspective,” Journal of Negro Education 47 no. 1 (1978), at p. 75 (“Equal schooling is the issue for us. We agree that every student should have equal access to quality education. We do not agree that the elimination of all-Black or predominantly Black schools (desegregation) is necessary to accomplish this.”).

John H. Stanfield, “Urban Public School Desegregation: The Reproduction of Normative White Domination,” Journal of Negro Education 51 no 2 (1982): 90-100.

Brief for CORE as Amicus Curiae, in Davison M. Douglas, The Development of School Busing as a Desegregation Remedy (New York: Garland Publishing, 1994).

Malcolm X, “Answers to Questions at the Militant Labor Forum,”in By Any Means Necessary: Speeches, Interviews and a Letter, edited by George Breitman (1970), p. 17 (“I just can’t see where if white people can go to a white classroom and there are no Negroes present and it doesn’t affect the academic diet they’re receiving, then I don’t see where an all-black classroom can be affected by the absence of white children. . . . So, what the integrationists, in my opinion, are saying, when they say that whites and blacks must go to school together, is that the whites are so much superior that just their presence in a black classroom balances it out.")

Posted by: Stuart Buck | Nov 1, 2009 9:40:11 PM

Dan's right, the book mentions moderate interest in preserving what North Carolina governor Luther Hodges called "racial cultures," but fails to explore the implications of this view in any depth (it concentrates on aspects of resistance that appeared to have nothing to do with violence or schools, including changes in marriage law, adoption law, police jurisdiction, and so on). Missing is any mention of what I call southern pluralism - a phenomenon that coincided with, if not predated Horace M. Kallen's seminal 1915 essay "Democracy Versus the Melting Pot." Missing also is any mention of battles within the black community over the desirability of pluralism - i.e. Zora Neale Hurston's struggles with Richard Wright over Their Eyes Were Watching God (a nice, literary precursor to critiques of Clarence Thomas today) -- and, of course, the ultimate outcome of southern pluralist thinking as expressed by Lewis Powell in Bakke. I'm intrigued by the residential segregation angle, perhaps there is something to be found in debates surrounding Buchanan v. Warley in 1917. I'm also interested in possible links between northern pluralism (Kallen, Bourne, et al) and southerners. Any leads would be welcome.

Posted by: Anders Walker | Oct 29, 2009 1:46:19 PM

You're right, Dan. Sorry 'bout that. Guess I just couldn't make heads-or-tails of your original post! Cheers.

Posted by: anon in bellevue | Oct 28, 2009 9:32:47 AM

I just took a look at the OUP website on Anders' just-published book, and the focus looks quite different. I don't want to speak (further...) for Anders, but I think the proposed new book would train on the connection to Powell and diversity, and the relationship b/w blacks and whites concerned with what integration would entail. That said, I'll let him explain his shift in emphasis when he sees fit to do so...

David, you're right to mention CT in this regard, and I neglected to mention that Anders had thought to include discussion of that as well. My apologies.

Posted by: Dan Markel | Oct 27, 2009 5:02:00 PM

A note about originality: Hasn't Anders *already* pursued this line of inquiry? In fact, hasn't he already done it in book form? Check out his "Ghost of Jim Crow"; you might find quite a bit already written . . . by him!

Posted by: anon in bellevue | Oct 27, 2009 10:57:04 AM

Coincidentally, TNR has a piece on Booker T. Washington (there is a new biography out):


More to the central point, Dan describes well the paradox for all integration, whether or not tied to the response to Brown. Baseball historians long have noted and discussed how Jackie Robinson's success with the Dodgers led, inexorably and within a decade, to the fall of the Negro Leagues.

Posted by: Howard Wasserman | Oct 26, 2009 9:44:36 PM

Oh, and Clarence Thomas has long expressed his view that the object of desegregation should have been equalizing the quality of the education African Americans receive, regardless of whether this involved sharing classrooms with whites, which Thomas seems to think was at best of secondary importance, perhaps not important at all, or perhaps counterproductive.

Posted by: David Bernstein | Oct 26, 2009 9:13:24 PM

Interesting, but not entirely original. I was just editing ch. 5 of in progress "Rehabilitating Lochner," which contains this sentence: "Some relatively liberal southern Progressives believed, or claimed to believe, that residential segregation was ultimately in the interest of African Americans, both because they thought the alternative was deadly race riots, and because they believed that segregation would nourish African-American institutions." (Citing Ken Kersch, Constructing Civil Liberties 326).

Posted by: David Bernstein | Oct 26, 2009 9:11:40 PM

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