Seeking education for liberation
Knight, Monica Dellenberger
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Long before emancipation, black Americans recognized the paramount role that education would play in ameliorating their subjugation. From the beginning of U.S. history, black communities including the city of Athens, Georgia, banded together in the face of murder, torture, and relentless social oppression to create and maintain schools that were communal hubs and a highly valued source of education as a means of social reformation. This dissertation examines the development of the black schools of Athens from emancipation through school desegregation and depicts the roles that its private and public schools played in the social and economic progress of black Athenians. It uses historical ethnography to study the efforts of students, administrators, and educators such as Samuel F. Harris who have contributed to the landscape of Athens’s black schools. The interviews of alumni of Athens’s black schools, ranging from 1938 (Athens High and Industrial) to 1974 (Athens’s integrated schools) indicate a significant decline in the role of schools as centers of the community, which lessens schools’ impact on students’ overall educational achievement. Finally, these contributors suggest how black communities built effective community schools despite the overwhelming adversity of reconstruction and the Jim Crowe era. Their testimony shows how citizens and educators can work together to recreate the powerful and positive attributes of those black schools while avoiding the pitfalls that developed in many segregated schools.