The Washington Post
A Class of Their Own: Black Teachers in the Segregated Southby Adam Fairclough
In this major undertaking, civil rights historian Adam Fairclough chronicles the odyssey of black teachers in the South from emancipation in 1865 to integration one hundred years later. A Class of Their Own is indispensable for understanding how blacks and whites interacted after the abolition of slavery, and how black communities coped with the challenges of freedom… See more details below
In this major undertaking, civil rights historian Adam Fairclough chronicles the odyssey of black teachers in the South from emancipation in 1865 to integration one hundred years later. A Class of Their Own is indispensable for understanding how blacks and whites interacted after the abolition of slavery, and how black communities coped with the challenges of freedom and oppression.
The Washington Post
You know those stories some of our folks like to tell about the days they had to walk for miles to school on dirt roads in scorching heat and biblical rain? They're true. Read A Class of Their Own, an inspiring account of Black teachers' relentless struggle to provide a quality education for our people. Civil rights historian Adam Fairclough charts the impressive strides teachers made in the segregated South during a 100-year period, beginning just after the end of the Civil War in 1865. In one-room schoolhouses, without running water or plumbing, and at red-brick all-Black land grant universities and other halls of higher learning, gifted Black teachers encouraged students to become achievers. Although these devoted educators seemed unflappable to their students, Fairclough reveals the enormous challenges they faced from White school boards, whose members often discouraged their involvement in the Civil Rights Movement.
Patrick Henry Bass
Although few histories devote much attention to black teachers in the South between 1865 and 1965, these men and women were in many ways the backbone of the black middle class. The educational infrastructure that they painstakingly erected did a great deal to discredit Jim Crow, and the accomplishments of these unheralded educators were just as dramatic and important as those of better known heroes of the civil rights movement. Adam Fairclough, a British historian who has written widely about that movement, tells this story very well. A Class of Their Own is a judicious exploration of a largely unstudied subject; it belongs on any well-stocked shelf of scholarly works on the Jim Crow South...Fairclough makes clear that the nostalgia of many African Americans since the 1960s for the Good Old Days of all-black schools is rose-colored. Only through desegregation could black children hope to attend decently funded public schools in the South. And yet A Class of Their Own demonstrates that the arduous struggles of black teachers 'made it difficult, nay impossible, for whites to turn racial segregation into a full-fledged caste system.'
James T. Patterson
A Class of Their Own is scholarly history at its very best: A richly textured and nuanced book, it tells an important American story that should not be forgotten.
David J. Garrow
In A Class of Their Own, Adam Fairclougha professor at the University of Leiden and one of the most diligent and careful historians of civil rightsexplores the often overlooked complexities of black Southerners, emphasizing teachers and education leaders.
David L. Chappell
[A] magisterial work of research.
Although standard accounts treat Brown as an unambiguous triumph for African American, many Southern blacks did not see it that way. "We felt betrayed," said the principal of a black high school in South Carolina. W. E. B. Du Bois, the major black figure among the founders of the NAACP, and the novelist Zora Neale Hurston denounced the decision. Hurston regarded the ruling as "insulting rather than honoring" her race, because it assumed that black children could not learn without the uplifting presence of white classmates...Adam Fairclough's book is a salutary reminder of what de jure segregation was really like, and a clear demonstration that the educational opportunities open to African American children have expanded dramatically since Brown.
Students and scholars who have an interest in southern history or African American history have much to learn from Fairclough’s study. Famous villains like James K. Vardaman and Ben Tillman appear on these pages along with the names of hardworking, dedicated teachers whose names are not well-known. Fairclough never sugarcoats black teachers. Some were snobs, and others spied on NAACP meetings for white superintendents in order to enhance their own salaries or to gain more secure positions. Fairclough also demonstrates the equality gap between black and white public schools and carefully explains the mean-spirited racial politics that characterized the South before the civil rights movement. This is one of the finest books this reviewer has read in many years.
Theodore Carter DeLaney
- Harvard University Press
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What People are saying about this
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William H. Chafe, author of Private Lives/Public Consequences: Personality and Politics in Modern America
Julian Bond, Chairman, NAACP Board of Directors
Meet the Author
Adam Fairclough is the Raymond and Beverly Sackler Professor of American History and Culture at Leiden University.
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