By David W. Beckwith
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Extra resources for A New Day in the Delta: Inventing School Desegregation As You Go
Bobby when he was growing up. ” We were grateful to those blacks who helped make our lives more pleasant, and while they were viewed as part of our family, our view of them was usually limited to their actual presence in our lives. In essence, we usually didn’t dwell on the multifaceted roles of their lives. We viewed them as being different from ourselves, with different values and different aspirations. Outsiders were critical of this “caste” system, but natives of the Deep South took it for granted.
While my experience at the faculty meeting at Lincoln had been positive, the PTA meeting that evening in the gym deflated my euphoria. In chairs facing the bleachers sat Mr. Levison, Mr. Rollins, and two members of the Washington County Board of Education. Seated in the bleachers were about twenty women. The speakers took turns explaining the desegregation steps that the schools had been ordered to take, the academic goals they hoped to achieve, and the Title I program involving federal aid. Following their explanations, the meeting was opened for questions.
You’ll do just fine,” he said enthusiastically. “I know you’re gonna have a great year. ” Hanging up, I felt anything but confident about that “great year”! Through business contacts in Leland, my parents had learned more particulars about my hiring. Not only was Leland under federal court order to desegregate, but the courts were using it to initiate what would be the desegregation of all public schools in Mississippi. Mr. Bigham’s willingness to cooperate by hiring white teachers for black schools would delay desegregation of the student bodies for a short while, and it would also ensure that Washington County public schools would still get federal funds.