Research, Ideology, and the Brown Decision: Counter-narratives to the Historical and Contemporary Representation of Black Schooling
by Jerome E. Morris — 2008
Background/Context: Most narratives of Brown v. Board of Education primarily focus on integrated schooling as the ultimate objective in Black people’s quest for quality schooling. Rather than uniformly assuming integration as Black people’s ideological model, the push by Black people for quality schooling instead should be viewed within the contours of Black political thought, which encompasses multiple ideologies (of which integration represents only one).
Purpose/Objective/Research Question/Focus of Study: As Black people searched for quality schooling for their children, many knew that, though legally segregated, some of their segregated Black schools were effectively educating Black children. Unfortunately, the representation of predominantly Black schools in the historical literature is narrow and, as has been noted, primarily focuses on the fiscal inequalities between segregated Black and White schools. Yet, some scholars who have conducted historical research on Black schools during segregation have gone beyond such truncated representations of segregated Black schools. This article investigates an important, but often ignored, intellectual trend in the historical and contemporary scholarship on Black schooling. This trend offers a counternarrative to the representation of predominantly Black schools and the experiences of Black people before and after the passage of Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas.
Research Design: The research design for this article is an analytic review and essay that highlights key works on African American schooling during legalized segregation, and suggests directions for research on contemporary African American schooling.
Descriptions of main findings: A major theme from this analytic review and article has been the emergence of a cadre of scholars over the past three decades—most of whom are African American—who have provided a counternarrative to the master-narrative representation of Black schools before the passage of Brown. In this article, I illustrate how this group of scholars has challenged the pervasive notion that all the segregated Black schools, and the educators who worked in them, were inferior in all respects. This counternarrative is becoming evident in recent historical literature of segregated Black schooling, as well as present in a limited capacity in contemporary sociological research on African American schooling. Collectively, this body of scholarship raised poignant questions concerning (1) the efficacy of desegregation as the primary means to implement Brown, (2) how desegregation policies ignored the sociocultural and historical contexts of Black schooling, and (3) the need to address Brown’s second promise of quality schooling for low-income Black children.
Conclusions/Recommendations: The article concludes with implications for contemporary educational policy and reform, and for the scholarly investigation of African American people and institutions.
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