Struggling to learn An intimate history of school desegregation in South Carolina

June Manning Thomas

Book - 2021

"In 1964 June Manning Thomas became one of the first thirteen Black students to desegregate Orangeburg High School in South Carolina. This extraordinary experience shaped her life and spurred in her a passion to understand racism and its effect on education in the Black community. In Struggling to Learn, Thomas details the personal trauma she and her Black classmates experienced during desegregation, the great difficulties Black communities have faced gaining access to K-12 and higher education, and the social and political tools Black southerners used to combat segregation and claim belonging.Combining meticulous research and poignant personal narrative, this provocative true story reveals the long and painful struggle for equal educa...tion in the Jim Crow South. Thomas articulates why Black communities persisted in their pursuit of school desegregation despite the hostility and unfulfilled promises along the way. This is a story of constructive resilience-the fighting spirit of an oppressed people to ensure a better life for themselves and their children"--

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Columbia, South Carolina : University of South Carolina Press [2021]
Main Author
June Manning Thomas (author)
Physical Description
xix, 300 pages : illustrations, maps ; 24 cm
Includes bibliographical references and index.
  • List of Illustrations
  • Preface
  • Acknowledgments
  • Abbreviations
  • Introduction
  • Chapter 1. Black Education as a Response to Jim Crow
  • Chapter 2. Struggling for Equal Education
  • Chapter 3. A Neighboring County Arises
  • Chapter 4. Defending White Schools
  • Chapter 5. Living There and Then
  • Chapter 6. Struggling to Learn
  • Chapter 7. Struggling to Desegregate
  • Chapter 8. Struggling to Survive
  • Chapter 9. Keeping up a Struggle
  • Conclusion: Moving to the Future
  • Life as Epilogue
  • Notes
  • Bibliography
  • Index
Review by Library Journal Review

Thomas (emerita, urban planning, Univ. of Mich.; Planned Progress) offers a unique, deeply personal look at integration in South Carolina, one of the last states to accept desegregation. She outlines the roles that two Historically Black Colleges and Universities--Claflin College and South Carolina State (located in her hometown, Orangeburg)--played in the desegregation movement. Thomas also describes the ostracism and harassment she experienced as one of the first Black students to attend Orangeburg High School. Making effective use of archival materials and interviews, she identifies the educators, religious leaders, and educators who laid the foundation for desegregation and who provided Black Americans with a vision of a better future. As Thomas deftly intertwines these narratives, she also discusses ways in which Black activists led protests and pushed for legislation in spite of the injustices imposed by the dominant class of white South Carolinians. She points out that U.S. school segregation exists to this day, as white parents opt for private schools or move into white-majority districts, and she challenges readers to learn about the destruction wrought by racism and about actions to overcome it. VERDICT A powerful, enlightening read; highly recommended for readers interested in the civil rights movement, the struggle for educational equity, and South Carolina history.--Lydia Olszak

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