Segregation to Desegregation: The Journey of African American Students to Academic Excellence or Academic Despair
Lyles, Marian C.
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This study was designed to investigate the perceptions of a group of former African American students of their former teachers prior to and after the desegregation of schools in Columbus, Georgia. The theoretical framework for this study incorporated ideas from interpersonal communication and sociocultural theory. The major research question was, In what ways did African American students who attended segregated schools in Columbus, Georgia and later transferred to desegregated schools, perceive how these experiences affected their subsequent academic and life accomplishments? Data were collected from interview responses from ten participants, and a number of primary and secondary sources, such as school annual history reports, school yearbooks, superintendents' reports, and articles from a Black newspaper (Columbus Times) and a White newspaper (Columbus Enquirer). The participants for this study consisted of four female and three male African American former students of varying ages, educational levels, and socio-economic status who attended segregated schools in Columbus, Georgia between 1954-1970, and in 1971 and beyond attended a desegregated school. In addition, a former administrator, counselor, and teacher were interviewed. The data collected were subjected to descriptive and interpretative analysis. This study produced eight major findings; four were associated with segregated schooling and four related to desegregated schooling. The segregated schooling findings included: (1) the former students overwhelmingly perceived their Black teachers in segregated schools positively due to their caring, disciplinary, and family oriented traits; (2) the majority of the former students thought their Black teachers in segregated schools perceived them as intellectually capable; (3) the former students believed their Black teachers in segregated schools motivated them to succeed academically; and (4) the impact on the former students' life experiences in segregated schools was related to them feeling motivated. The four findings related to desegregated schooling included: (5) the former students perceived their White teachers in desegregated schools as uncaring and unwelcoming; (6) the former students thought their White teachers in desegregated schools considered them as having low intelligence; (7) the former students felt lost in the desegregated schools; and (8) the experiences with White teachers in desegregated schools negatively affected aspects of the former students' personal and professional life experiences.
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