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"The Onward March of Right Principles" - State Legislative Actions on Racial Discrimination in Schools in Nineteenth-Century America

Kousser, J. Morgan (2002) "The Onward March of Right Principles" - State Legislative Actions on Racial Discrimination in Schools in Nineteenth-Century America. Historical Methods, 35 (4). pp. 177-204. ISSN 0161-5440. doi:10.1080/01615440209601207.

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C. Vann Woodward transformed the history of race relations by focusing on the development of southern state segregation laws and practices. Anchoring his arguments in social science research,Woodward considered such laws to be both indicators and shapers of interpersonal attitudes and behavior. Neither historians nor political scientists have pursued Woodward’s larger project of explaining the course of race relations in America, confining themselves largely to descriptive case studies of individual states or short periods of time or delving into vaguely defined cultures of racial customs and rhetoric. After showing how social scientific models of attitudes might illuminate not only Woodward’s Jim Crow thesis but also other facets of the history of race relations, the author turns to the analysis of school racial-integration laws considered in 15 northern states and actually passed in 13 of them from 1855 through 1887. Developing gradually, the northern school integration laws amounted, in effect, to mirror images of the southern Jim Crow laws that Woodward highlighted. What social and political factors explain the dates at which each state, beginning with Massachusetts in 1855 and ending with Ohio in 1887, passed such laws, and how could those factors reflect the models of attitudes sketched earlier? As might be expected, surges in support for the Republican or allied parties speeded the passage of integration laws. More surprising, an index of the convenience of segregated schools bore no relation to the date of passage, and the presence of a relatively large percentage of foreign-born people in a state, particularly the Irish or Canadian, actually made the enactment of school integration for African Americans easier than in more homogeneously native-born white states. In the last section, both methodological and substantive implications are laid out. Systematically studying policies in a number of states over a substantial period of time might further invigorate the political science subfield of American Political Development and help revive the subject of government in American political history. Finally, the conflicts and progressive change sketched here make it difficult to believe in a solid whitesupremacist consensus in late-nineteenth-century America, the study of such conflicts promises to restore African Americans to a role as shapers of the country’s race relations, and the events of the First Post-Reconstruction period suggest parallels with the post-1965 era in American race relations, which might be termed the Second Post-Reconstruction.

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Additional Information:© 2002 Heldref Publications.
Subject Keywords:American political development, integration, race relations, schools, state legislatures
Issue or Number:4
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20130913-155701734
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Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:41332
Deposited By: SWORD User
Deposited On:16 Sep 2013 21:14
Last Modified:10 Nov 2021 04:28

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