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Rachel Devlin: Rutgers Institute for High School Teachers

Friday, October 11, 2019, 09:00am - 02:30pm

African American Young Women, Brown vs. Board of Education, and the Long Civil Rights Movement

October 11, 2019, 9am-2:30pm

Rachel Devlin, Associate Professor, Department of History, Rutgers University

Brown vs. Board of Education has been called “The Case of the Century” and “the finest hour of American law.”  This workshop will examine how and why African American young women and girls led the fight to bring Brown to fruition and then, in vastly disproportionate numbers, volunteered to desegregate historically white schools in the early nineteen sixties.  In the process we will examine the everyday lives of black girls at midcentury with an eye toward understanding the particular skills and commitment they brought to school desegregation in particular and the larger civil rights movement in general.   We will follow girls through the arduous process of filing desegregation law suites and into formerly all-white schools where they were met with daily violence, harassment and social ostracism.   We will consider their oral histories, keeping in mind how individual women chose to tell their stories of what was, by all accounts, a war inside American public schools.  We will also consider how girls and young women fought back against sexual harassment and violence, the outsized role women played in the Montgomery bus boycott and other landmark civil rights protests, and how their activism informed the civil rights movement as a whole from the 1940s through the 1960s.

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