A mission to a mad county: Black determination, white resistance and educational crisis in Prince Edward County, Virginia

2007 2007

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Abstract (summary)

This dissertation explores the high water mark of southern resistance to the U.S. Supreme Court's 1954 decision in Brown v. Board of Education: the five-year abolition of public education in Prince Edward County, Virginia. Through interrogating the "culture of civility" that guided this bureaucratic, legalistic strategy of defiance, it argues that both massive resistance and the unique trajectory of events in Prince Edward County are not the anomalies in Virginia history that state boosters suggest, but rather logically consistent outgrowths of a coherent political tradition known as "the Virginia Way." When blacks chose to step outside of the traditional channels of "managed race relations," white Virginians struck back in a manner consistent with their determination to maintain white supremacy without condoning a rise in vigilantism that might have threatened elites' control over the mechanisms of political power.

It highlights the important role played by the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) in bolstering community institutions, lobbying for federal intervention in the crisis, serving the educational and social needs of the out-of-school children, and building the capacity of local community members to take on leadership roles in the struggle. It characterizes the Friends' work as providing the institutional framework for indigenous protest. By following the trajectory of AFSC involvement in the county, it weaves together the diverse narratives of massive resistance, community organizing and school desegregation into one multi-faceted struggle to control the terms of the future.

Ultimately, however, the study explores the long-range consequences of abandoning, starving, or compromising public education. In tracing the Prince Edward story up to the present, it reveals the flimsiness of the safeguards guaranteed to keep private education accessible, the difficulty of reconstructing a gutted public system, and the multi-generational psychological, social, and economic impact of educational deprivation. It demonstrates the centrality of equal educational opportunities to every phase of the local freedom struggle, challenging the assumption that the school desegregation phase of the civil rights movement passed into history after 1960 without sparking sustained community campaigns for change or significantly contributing to the development of local cultures of protest.

Indexing (details)

Black history;
American history;
Education history
0328: Black history
0337: American history
0520: Education history
Identifier / keyword
Social sciences; Education; American Friends Service Committee; Civil rights; Educational crisis; Prince Edward County; Resistance; Virginia
A mission to a mad county: Black determination, white resistance and educational crisis in Prince Edward County, Virginia
Ogline, Jill L.
Number of pages
Publication year
Degree date
School code
DAI-A 68/07, Dissertation Abstracts International
Place of publication
Ann Arbor
Country of publication
United States
Page, Max
University of Massachusetts Amherst
University location
United States -- Massachusetts
Source type
Dissertations & Theses
Document type
Dissertation/thesis number
ProQuest document ID
Database copyright ProQuest LLC; ProQuest does not claim copyright in the individual underlying works.
Document URL
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