Date of Award

6-30-2016

Document Type

Open Access Dissertation

Department

History

First Advisor

Marjorie J. Spurill

Abstract

Between 1962 and 1964, the U.S. Justice Department, African American military members stationed on southern military bases, and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) filed six federal civil suits to end off-base segregation of military children in public schools. These cases took place in Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, and Virginia. Plaintiffs sought to bring civilian cities near federal military bases into compliance with the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1954 Brown decision. The presence of federal military bases, which had been integrated since a 1948 Executive Order issued by President Harry S. Truman, provided leverage against ongoing southern resistance to national policy and played a crucial role in ending de jure segregation in five southern school districts almost a decade after Brown and before other districts in each state fully desegregated. Although these cases were historic in outcome, they are underappreciated in scholarship.

This dissertation assesses the local and national significance of each case. Analysis of these cases addresses questions about how the Kennedy administration used southern military bases to advance social change; how African American military members and their NAACP attorneys extended the Brown fight by launching a new type of legal challenge to school segregation; how segregationists in southern military communities continued to resist Brown while simultaneously recognizing the importance of military presence in their cities; and what influence these cases had on the legal and social trajectory of public school desegregation in the South.

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