Electronic Theses and Dissertations




Maurice Brown



Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Committee Chair

Arwin D. Smallwood

Committee Member

Charles W. Crawford

Committee Member

Margaret M. Caffrey

Committee Member

Randolph Meade Walker


This dissertation addressed rural black one-room schools in the Mid-South and Mississippi Delta with particular emphasis on Bolivar and Marshall Counties in Mississippi and Fayette County in Tennessee. From Reconstruction to 1968, one-room or one-teacher schools were the predominate model used to educate black students in the Lower South. Influenced by an agrarian economy and white plantation elites, rural black schools provided a minimal eight-grade education that was disproportionately funded and staffed in comparison to white schools. While African Americans constituted the majority of the population in these regions, black education was never considered a priority among white-controlled school boards, state education administrators or elected officials. In fact, the substandard education provided to black students was deemed adequate by whites who realized that under-educating African Americans maintained their political and socio-economic status. Due to the lack of economic and occupational diversity that emerged after the Civil War, the educational experiences of blacks in the states of the Upper South differed from those of blacks who lived in the cotton plantation regions of the Lower South. The political, economic and social limitations imposed upon rural one-room schools affected the quality, duration and type of education that millions of African Americans received in the Lower South.By comparison, blacks who lived in regions of the Upper South and Border States exercised a degree of autonomy whereby they could control the day to day operations of their schools. An understanding of the historical correlation between rural black one-room schools, Jim Crow, cotton tenancy, and migration is crucial because these factors defined and shaped the lives of the blacks in both the Upper and Lower South. Although the landmark Brown vs. Board of Education decision was a sweet victory, it soured in the Lower South as whites initiated numerous campaigns to maintain separate school systems and perpetuate its antebellum ideology.One-room schools survived in many Tennessee and Mississippi counties until court ordered school desegregation was implemented during the mid-1960s. For nearly one hundred years, African Americans endured an inferior school system that superimposed white supremacy and Jim Crow as the foundation for black education.


Data is provided by the student.

Library Comment

Dissertation or thesis originally submitted to the local University of Memphis Electronic Theses & dissertation (ETD) Repository.