Date of Award

1-1-2010

Document Type

Campus Access Dissertation

Department

Educational Leadership and Policies

Sub-Department

Educational Administration

First Advisor

Doyle Stevick

Abstract

This study traces the story of how one rural county in South Carolina transitioned from a segregated school system to a unitary one. Using archival and oral history sources, the study focuses on the troubled times experienced by citizens of Chesterfield County between 1965 and 1971. This case study examines one community to shed light of the desegregation process as it occurred in rural counties throughout the South. This study contributes to the documentation of the history of education in South Carolina and adds to a small, but growing body of case studies of desegregation experiences. Interviews with students, parents, teachers, and administrators and reviews of newspaper articles, letters, meeting minutes, and other documents were used to produce a narrative of Chesterfield County’s consolidation and desegregation process.

A decade after the historic Brown v. Board of Education (1954) decision to end the practice of “separate, but equal,” the schools in Chesterfield County, South Carolina, like most schools in the South remained segregated by race. Chesterfield County was divided into six school districts. Like most other school districts in the South, pressure from the federal government forced five of the districts to adopt “freedom of choice” desegregation plans in 1965. That same year, however, one district (Chesterfield County School District No. 6) decided to combine all students – Black and White, in grades 1 through 12 – into the same schools. The schools in Ruby, SC, were the first district in the state to completely desegregate without being under court order.

Three years later, in 1968, the six districts of the county were consolidated into a single school district and plans were made to move forward with school desegregation. However, White parents in some towns protested the plan and forced the county school board to close the schools and reconsider. The Board reversed their desegregation plans and returned to freedom of choice for most students. Black parents were outraged and staged a protest march, organized a school boycott, and filed for an injunction against the district. In 1969 the district was brought before federal district court (District of South Carolina, Florence Division) and ordered to desegregate. Finally, in the school year 1970-1971, the county achieved unitary status by consolidating a number of schools, closing others and opening some new schools.

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