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Interesting Find in the Collection: Beyond Segregation: The Problem of Power

The National Education Association, as advocates for educators and public education, took on a unique role in the wake of the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education ruling. In 1962, two former NEA departments were combined into the Commission on Professional Rights and Responsibilities. The Commission was tasked with investigating the state of education in the U.S.A., focusing especially on individual districts, allowing them to identify local factors that may be hindering the work of students and/or teachers. The Commission's reports provide a fascinating historical snapshot of education at the local level. The investigations covered the mundane, such as overcrowded classrooms and poor quality facilities, to the controversial, like teachers dismissals following accusations of communist sympathy. Following Brown, school districts in the 17 states where segregation had been required desegregated with varying degrees of acceptance, resistance, and difficulties. Throughout the 1960s and into the 1970s, the Commission investigated school districts that were experiencing difficulties integrating.

Thumbnail of the cover of Beyond Desegregation: The Problem of Power

In February of 1970, a report titled Beyond Desegregation: The Problem of Power was issued following an investigation into East Texas schools. There were some positives. For example, East Texas schools were desegregating at a faster pace than most other Southern schools. In reporting the problems, however, it draws attention to an often overlooked problem that accompanied integration. As separate school districts merged, redundant teaching positions would often get eliminated. Were the system fair, distribution of the remaining jobs would have been fair, as well. Unfortunately, the reports show that this was not the case. As the report says, "[i]t would have been news if the NEA Special Committee had found, during its study, even one single school district where there was any significant amount of faculty desegregation, where the desegregation process had been accomplished equitably and without the release or demotion of black teachers, or where a black principal had been appointed to the principalship of any school with as much as 10 percent white student enrollment."

The report is 57 pages in all, and provides a background of East Texas' uniqueness, insight into how locals resisted integration, addresses the question of power imbalance within the community, and finishes with suggestions on how to overcome this imbalance. Eventually, the report came to Gelman Library Special Collections as part of the NEA Collection. A .pdf of the first 7 pages of report is available below, explaining the methodology the investigators followed. Anyone interested in reading the rest of the report, or in knowing more about the NEA's role in integration, can contact the NEA Archivist at smallen@gwu.edu.

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