School Desegregation in Roanoke, Virginia: The Black Student Perspective
Poff, Marietta Elizabeth
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The purpose of this study was to explore and document the perspectives of the Black students who were the first to desegregate Roanoke, Virginia, schools during the 1960-1961 school year. In September of 1960, nine Black students were chosen to desegregate formerly all-White schools in Roanoke. The stories of these students have not been comprehensively researched or formally recorded. Their perspectives on the desegregation process provide valuable insight to add to the body of knowledge about the desegregation period. A review of the history of Black education on the national, state, and local levels, as well as a brief history of the City of Roanoke are provided as historical context for the desegregation of schools in Roanoke. A review of the literature documenting first person accounts from other Black students who went through the desegregation experience revealed only a small number of formally recorded accounts. Examining the perspectives of Black students who were among the first to desegregate schools can provide a critical perspective on both desegregation and the larger societal issue of integration. The effects of the desegregation experience on students have received little attention. Recording and analyzing their stories provides an important piece of the desegregation record that is currently lacking. The researcher conducted a qualitative case study incorporating interviews of the students, a review of newspaper articles and documents from the time period, and any artifacts and documents that the participants had retained from the time period. Five common themes emerged from the interviews with participants. They were: (a) rejection by White and Black peers, (b) family support, (c) preparation for life in a desegregated society, (d) a sense of loss related to not attending all-Black schools, and (e) the reflective meaning each participant made of their experience. These themes were similar to the experiences of other Black students who desegregated schools. These themes were also similar to themes found in the literature dealing with the value of all-Black schools. Continued documentation of the perspectives of Black students who desegregated schools is one of the recommendations of the study.
- Doctoral Dissertations