Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Forcing progress: The struggle to integrate southern Episcopal schools
by Morris, Wade H., Jr., M.A.L.S., Georgetown University, 2009, 145; 1462699
Abstract (Summary)

In 1955, the Episcopal Church challenged its congregants to stand up to an unjust social norm. In that year, the Episcopal Church called for the racial desegregation of Episcopal institutions: parishes, seminaries, and schools. Did Episcopalians live up to this challenge? Did the Episcopal Church translate its stated ideals into the harsher world of reality? Nowhere are these questions more clearly answered than with the integration of Episcopal schools. The story of Episcopal school integration provides a microcosm for the Episcopal Church’s effectiveness in persuading its laity (school trustees, parents, and alumni) to live up to Episcopalian ideals of social justice.

This thesis examines the integration of seven Episcopal schools in the American South. The schools were chosen because each had a different relationship with the Episcopal Church. The available resources pertaining to integration varied from school to school. Board minutes, letters from parents, letters between administrators and trustees, newspaper articles, annual school reports, memoirs of school heads, and interviews all help answer an essential question: to what extent did the Episcopal Church (bishops, deans, rectors, and clergy serving as school administrators) push for integration?

The research produced a consistent theme across each of the seven schools: the closer the ties that the school had to the Church, the more quickly the school integrated. The greater the influence that parents and alumni had over the schools, the more likely the school was to fight integration. Paradoxically, in order to affect change, schools needed to first and foremost be independent from parents and alumni, but the schools relied on parents and alumni for funding. The question of integration, therefore, forced a choice upon school administrators and trustees between financial strength and theological consistency.

The Episcopal Church served and continues to serve an important role. It checks the power of parents. It provides schools with a mission greater than the self-interests of parents and the nostalgic self-preservation of alumni. Ultimately, the experience of Episcopal schools during integration reaffirms the importance of independent schools remaining independent, not from the Church, but from their own clientele.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: McDowell, William F.
School: Georgetown University
Department: Liberal Studies
School Location: United States -- District of Columbia
Source: MAI 47/05M, Masters Abstracts International
Subjects: Religious history, American history, Religious education
Keywords: Desegregation, Episcopal, Integration, Race, School, White flight
Publication Number: 1462699
ISBN: 9781109090826
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