The Perceived Impact of The Prince Edward County School Closing on One Family's Educational Achievements and Occupational Choices in Adulthood:  A Study in Recollective Memory

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Virginia Tech

From 1959 -1964, the Prince Edward County, VA School Board closed down its public schools to circumvent the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court ruling declaring separate public schools for Black and White students "inherently unequal" and the 1955 Brown II ruling to desegregate public schools with "all deliberate speed." For five years, more than 1700 African American children received no public education in the county, as White children attended a newly-constructed and private Prince Edward Academy. While some students left Prince Edward to reside with relatives, others were placed with families by the American Friends Service Committee. However, the majority of Black children remained in the county without formalized public instruction.

This study investigated the perceived impact of The Closing on adult self-directed learning, lifelong learning, occupational choices and success within a family with sixteen of its twenty-one children forced from school. Via audio-/video-taped interviews, three participants reflected upon their "lived experiences" during and since The Closing. Transcribed data were coded and analyzed based upon the major and underlying research questions guiding the study.

Nine major conclusions were drawn from its findings: (a) The Closing perceivably impacted immediate educational goals of participants differently, (b) The Closing perceivably impacted specific and general long-range educational goals, (c) Participants have pursued educational goals via supportive spouses/family members and adult self-directed/lifelong learning measures, (d) Following the re-opening of schools, all respondents graduated high school, and two later enrolled in academic learning centers, (e) Self-directed learning has played an essential role in the lives of all participants, (f) All participants considered themselves life-long learners, (g) The Closing perceivably impacted the career plans of one participant, (h) Respondents acquired manufacturing and/or labor positions and were successfully employed throughout their adult lives, (i) Literacy assistance from family members, self-directed learning, on-the-job training and formalized coursework were perceived as having had a positive bearing on occupational success.

The implications of this study suggested resiliency, family dynamics, family values, and narratological significance. Study participants, driven to live productive and successful lives, appeared to have emulated Adult Learning Theory tenets of self-directed, lifelong quests for formally-delivered and informally-acquired knowledge.

Recommendations emerging from this study included investigations of School Closing survivors' motivations for adult learning, the role of faith in Closing survivors' lives, The Closing's perceived impact on the Next Generation, ancestral discourse, male birth order relationships, 1951 strikers' guilt, education vs. vocation and growth under adversity.

Achievements, Adult learning, Civil Rights, Life-long learning, Narratology, Recollective Memory, Self-directed learning