Shining through the clouds: An historical case study of Dunbar, a segregated school in Tucson, Arizona
This dissertation is an historic, ethnographical case study of Dunbar School, a segregated elementary and junior high school in Tucson, Arizona, established in 1913 in accordance with de jure segregation policies in the United States. It comprehensively examines the school’s organizational culture and leadership from 1940–1951 through the voices of former teachers and students supported by scholarly literature. Educational philosophies that impacted the segregated school, the sociopolitical climate that ushered it into being, and the impact of desegregation on Black education are also addressed.
The purpose of the study was to uncover Dunbar’s inner culture and tap into contributing factors that led to its success. The gap in the research on the school called for an integration of empirical data with scholarly research. Answers about perceptions and characteristics of the school’s membership and the leadership philosophy that guided Dunbar are sought principally by drawing from the theoretical lens of organizational culture. Three other theoretical frameworks are also used to understand the school’s inner workings: code, resiliency, and leadership theories. The underlying themes of this study are: the critical importance of demonstrable care in schools, the need to invest in students’ cultural capital, the value of congruency among faculty, and an emphasis on academic excellence.
Data were collected from primary and secondary sources. Open-ended and semi-structured questions characterized the interviewing methodology, and governed the data collection process. A review of newspaper articles, published and unpublished archival sources, and current school documentation unearthed the historical development.
With remarkable consistency, findings reveal that Dunbar was a close-knit segregated school characterized by caring, qualified teachers who held high expectations, strong moral values, and an unwavering sense of resilience. Dunbar’s administration thrived on a vibrant school culture, invested in Afrocentric cultural capital, and practiced proactive, resilient leadership. These factors helped produce success. This study also makes known that school desegregation, in some instances, has produced a feeling of alienation among Black students, a loss of Afrocentric cultural connections, and that many students today lack a caring, highly-motivating, educational experience that encourages excellence. This dissertation adds to the genre of highly successful segregated schools, now obsolete.
0325: African Americans
0520: Education history