Just Trying to Have School
The Struggle for Desegregation in Mississippi
A study of the history of desegregation in Mississippi schools
After the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education ruling, no state fought longer or harder to preserve segregated schools than Mississippi. This massive resistance came to a crashing halt in October 1969 when the Supreme Court ruled in Alexander v. Holmes Board of Education that "the obligation of every school district is to terminate dual school systems at once and to operate now and hereafter only unitary schools. "
Thirty of the thirty-three Mississippi districts named in the case were ordered to open as desegregated schools after Christmas break. With little guidance from state officials and no formal training or experience in effective school desegregation processes, ordinary people were thrown into extraordinary circumstances. However, their stories have been largely ignored in desegregation literature.
Based on meticulous archival research and oral history interviews with over one hundred parents, teachers, students, principals, superintendents, community leaders, and school board members, Natalie G. Adams and James H. Adams explore the arduous and complex task of implementing school desegregation. How were bus routes determined? Who lost their position as principal? Who was assigned to what classes?
Without losing sight of the important macro forces in precipitating social change, the authors shift attention to how the daily work of "just trying to have school" helped shape the contours of school desegregation in communities still living with the decisions made fifty years ago.
"The authors take readers beyond the structures of formal education to include analyses of the racial integration of bands, sports, cheerleading, proms, and student government. . . . this is an excellent book. "- Wayne A. Wiegand, Florida State University, The Journal of American History
"Just Trying to Have School is a compelling portrait of the people who had no choice but to try to make school desegregation work. This study will be valuable to historians of education in the American South. "- William Sturkey, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, The Journal of Southern History, Volume LXXXVI, No. 1, February 2020
"In Just Trying to Have School: The Struggle for Desegregation in Mississippi by Natalie and Jim Adams, the history of one of the most important and impactful events of the previous century in Mississippi and the Deep South is examined on a granular level and thankfully preserved. Massive school desegregation was a national political issue, but in Mississippi it was intensely personal and produced far-reaching changes in the state’s communities. The unsung heroes of this dramatic social and educational transformation were the teachers and administrators—both black and white—in Mississippi’s public school districts. The Adamses have lovingly and faithfully captured this poignant narrative in this exemplary book. "- Sid Salter, Mississippi journalist and author