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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

"Just as Brutal…But without All the Fanfare": African American Students, Racism, and Defiance during the Desegregation of Southwestern Louisiana Institute, 1954-1964
by Foote, Ruth Anita, M.A., University of Louisiana at Lafayette, 2018, 79; 10826803
Abstract (Summary)

In 1954, Southwestern Louisiana Institute (now the University of Louisiana at Lafayette) became the first undergraduate school in the Deep South to desegregate. Its acclaim as the first, however, was promoted only because it lost as a defendant in Clara Dell Constantine et al. v. Southwestern Louisiana Institute et al. What occurred then, and the indignities experienced by African American students during that first decade has never been fully documented. The black experience was figuratively and literally blacked out.

African American students found themselves receiving lower grades in class than their white counterparts. Social events banned them, and school services denied access. To cope with racism, they drew strength by supporting one another, developing a grapevine, establishing their own social network, and most of all, keeping focused on their education. But not everyone was against them. Some whites risked their reputation, and became their brother’s keeper.

The four Pillars of Progress, commemorating the fiftieth anniversaries of SLI’s desegregation and Brown in 2004, stand today as a campus testament to that era. But what remains at odds is whether the desegregation of SLI was “without incident.” That still remains a matter of interpretation and depends on whom is being asked and who answers.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Carriker, Robert
Commitee: Farmer-Kaiser, Mary, Martin, Michael S.
School: University of Louisiana at Lafayette
Department: History
School Location: United States -- Louisiana
Source: MAI 58/05M(E), Masters Abstracts International
Subjects: African American Studies, Black history, American history, Education history, Higher education
Keywords: Civil rights movement, Constantine v. SLI, Desegregation, Higher education, Racism, University of Louisiana at Lafayette
Publication Number: 10826803
ISBN: 978-1-392-04163-5
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