The oral histories of three retired African American superintendents from Georgia
Askew, Garrick Arion
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This study included the oral histories of three retired African American superintendents who were natives of Georgia. The participants had professional careers that collectively spanned 54 years, beginning as teachers and moving into administrative positions including the superintendency. This study used archival documents, newspaper reports, and research and literature on segregation, desegregation, and career mobility to provide context for the participants’ oral histories. Three research questions guided the interviews for this study: 1. How did each of the participants first enter education? 2. How were the participants able to ascend to the superintendency in light of challenges that they faced as African American school administrators? 3. What was the experience of being an African American educator and school administrator in Georgia school districts? The data revealed common factors in the career experiences of the participants. Common factors included childhood mentoring in segregated K-12 schools, segregated schools as extended families, self image and life skills training, and academic preparation at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). Other common factors influencing the participants were professional mentoring at HBCUs, experiences with career mobility processes, school desegregation as the impetus for advancement, financial challenges of the superintendency, and knowing when to retire. These factors significantly impacted the participants and their development as educators and helped to mold their personal and professional identities as African American superintendents. Further, the participants’ discussions about their unique experiences as African American educators who became superintendents in Georiga was especially important because the participants were among the small number of surviving, native Georgian, African American superintendents who worked in the state since the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education court case. The oral history research method used in this study allowed the researcher to document and to analyze this important and previsously unavailable information.