And the Adventure Ends: What I Found

This summer has been a bountiful harvest of discovery! Searching for the answers to my research was like navigating a maze and putting together the pieces of a puzzle together all at the same time. Needless to say this adventure has provided me with some fantastic experiences along the way.

To begin with, I found that during the investigation into the equalization and desegregation situations; more and more questions begin to spring up. At first I thought this was a terrible inconvenience. But then I realized that no research project is a totally inflexible investigation. I realized that these questions were a way to dig deeper, deeper, and even deeper until I reached the candid truth of the matter. Fortunately this was an invigorating experience for me!

Some of the questions sprang up after I conducted my interviews. As you know, some of my interviews were an unexpected surprise. However, at the same time these interviews provided intimate details about the desegregation experience; they were not clearly connected with my research of equalization. This disconnect created large holes in my research investigation. These holes, in turn, provoked questions such as: If the Brown vs. Board of Education decision came down in 1954, why were South Carolina’s Schools still desegregated as of 1963? If there was a successful desegregation case (Millicent Brown et al vs. Charleston School District 20) in 1963 why did most of my interviewees desegregate for the first time in the 1970s?

As I said, these questions were a HUGE pain at first, but finding the answers helped my research become a more rounded investigation. I found out that a year after the May 1954 ruling was given in Brown vs. Board of Education the U.S. Supreme Court issued a supplemental ruling to the case known as Brown II.[1] This ruling allowed, “…local political and educational leaders primary responsibility for solving the problems posed by the elimination of state-sanctioned segregation.”[2] This gave these leaders, who were prominent white men that opposed desegregation, the opportunity to recognize the validity of the Brown vs. Board ruling while at the same time use “…state and local control of educational policy to evade desegregation.”[3] This explained why as of 1963, nine years after the Brown ruling, South Carolina was still segregated.

I also found out that even after the ruling in the 1963 case Millicent Brown et al vs. Charleston School District 20 many rural areas, such as Horry County, were largely unaffected by the decision. It was not until the late 1960s and early 1970s, when the U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare (HEW) began to crack down on “…school districts that were not making progress in school desegregation”, that many of these rural areas became desegregated.[4] Some, such as Georgetown County (where one of my interviewees was from), were court ordered.[5] Others, like Horry County and nearby Marion County, choose a voluntary plan of desegregation that were overseen by HEW.[6]  This evidence explains why many of the interviewees were not desegregated until the early 1970s.

As for my initial research questions I found that the equalization funds “did not require that school- construction funds be used to improve black schools.”[7] Also, at the time of equalization it was known that county education officials were “in no rush to equalize facilities.”[8] These officials were “…frankly inclined to begrudge, impair, or resist an effort to improve the lot of Negro schools or students.”[9]  This evidence contributes to the political, social, and economic factors that contributed to my aunt’s bad experience as well as why she had to integrate to gain a better educational experience.

The process of conducting my research project helped me to answer the last question: Why isn’t this testimony more frequently recognized in the historical narrative? Besides learning that, in research, one should always expect surprises (pleasant and unpleasant) and that it always behoove one to have an alternative plan and/or source; I have also learned that it is almost IMPOSSIBLE to be completely unbiased when conducting historical research.[10] I found that when reading secondary sources, two different authors will have two totally different tones/opinions about the same subject. I have thus inferred that because a historical researcher was not present at the event in question, he or she is left to draw a conclusion based on the evidence, and more subtly, based on his or her  background. See one’s background has significant power to color one’s attitude on a subject.

I know because more than once I have found that, faced with the evidence (interviews, news articles, documents, etc.), I, too have drawn conclusions based upon my background and the concepts I have in regards to desegregation. Now, I’m not saying I’m the end –all, be-all expert on this subject. I’m just suggesting that this concept may be a contributing factor to why my aunt’s testimony is not commonly included in the historical narrative. Many people in South Carolina may view the equalization effort as a progressive campaign to help black students. Thus, they may not want to look closely at the details of the situation. As a result, this may hinder those who experienced equalization and its effects from contributing their point of view to the historical narrative.

I don’t know. That’s just my silly idea.

Peace out Summer Research! It’s been real!

 

 


[1] South Carolina Advisory Committee to the United States Commission On Civil Rights, Desegregation of Public School Districts in South Carolina: 19 Public School Districts Have Unitary Status, 15 Districts Remain Under Court Order (December 2008), 1.

[2] R. Scott Baker, Paradoxes of Desegregation: African American Struggles for Educational Equity in Charleston, South Carolina, 1926-1972 (Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 2006), 127.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid, 165.

[5] South Carolina, 19.

[6] South Carolina, Appendix, 23 and The United States Commission On Civil Rights, Federal Rights under School Desegregation Law (June 1966),18.

[7] Baker, 98.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Ibid.

[10] THIS IS COMPLETELY MY OPINION, DO NOT HOLD ME TOO IT!!!!