Date of Award

Fall 2019

Document Type

Open Access Dissertation

Department

History

First Advisor

Bobby J. Donaldson

Abstract

Leaders in the Making examines the shifting political and social consciousness of African American college students in South Carolina and their reaction to and impact on the Black freedom struggle in the state between 1925 and 1975. Placing young people at the center of the story, this dissertation explains the process by which race leaders were cultivated, an effort that largely occurred in segregated public and private high schools and Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU). Black South Carolinians ingeniously transformed these symbols of racial inferiority into incubators of the post-World War Two generation of youth activists that dismantled Jim Crow in the Palmetto State. Both within the classroom and as participants in extracurricular student-centered organizations such as youth and college chapters of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), Black college students were taught lessons of respectability, competitiveness, racial equality, and were instilled with a commitment to uphold the responsibilities of first-class citizenship. From the Depression era onward, young Black South Carolinians sought to make their ideals compatible with reality as participants in grassroots campaigns for educational equality, voting rights, and economic advancement. During the period of legal and extralegal white resistance that followed the Brown v. Board of Education decision, a new generation of militant student rebels sustained and strengthened the freedom movement. Black youth and college students in South Carolina developed new tactics and recycled old ones, forged statewide and regional alliances, and applied tremendous pressure on segregationist politicians and their allies forcing them to negotiate for racial peace. Lastly, this dissertation challenges existing interpretations of South Carolina's desegregation process as "integration with dignity" by examining how the rise of"Black Power" on black college campuses altered the terrain of interracial and intra-racial debates over the ideological and tactical direction of the Black freedom struggle during the late 1960s and early 1970s. The resulting upheavals inspired a wave of government sanctioned violence and repression that hindered progress and ultimately left an enduring legacy of racial discrimination and economic inequality in the state.

Available for download on Thursday, December 16, 2021

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