"Not Without A History": African American Schoolhouses in Gibson County, Tennessee

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Barry, Amanda
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Middle Tennessee State University
An aging generation of African Americans and many African American communities across the South are seeking ways to preserve their legacy of educational heritage. Large portions of this heritage are the schoolhouses in which they were educated. While many rural, African American schoolhouses across the South have been lost to age and neglect, those that remain constitute the material culture of segregated education, and African American perseverance during Jim Crow. This thesis not only focuses on African American educational history and desegregation, but also the community-based preservation of African American schoolhouses in Gibson County, Tennessee. These schools include Mt. Zion Negro School (Bradford), Polk-Clark School (Milan), Trenton Rosenwald School (Trenton), and Sitka School (Sitka). Despite discriminatory circumstances, African American children still thrived in their classrooms. This thesis does not, however, argue that segregation was a better educational environment for African American children. Rather, it highlights the value found in segregated schooling. I argue that strong affiliation with these schools and the potential loss of this educational heritage are among the reasons driving these communities to preserve their schools.
Desegregation, Education, Gibson County, Preservation, Segregation, Tennessee