Cities: Athens

Integration Debate at The University of Georgia

In this January 1961 WSB video clip, two students and a professor debate the desegregation of The University of Georgia. Specifically, they discuss whether the state should continue paying qualified black students to attend universities in other states, or extend them the privilege of attending a premier institution in their home state of Georgia. The professor in the clip argues that African American students seek to enroll at white institutions in order to improve their economic status through equal opportunities in education. He argues that employers deny jobs to black people because of discrimination and unequal resources. The student in the clip defends the University's policy of outsourcing black students and claims that it is a privilege to be able to attend school out of the state.

Debating matches have a long history at UGA. In February of 1803, Augustin Clayton, Williams Rutherford, and James Jackson, all junior students from Franklin College, formed the Demosthenian Literary Society to develop an oratory tradition at the University. The Phi Kappa Literary Society, the University's second debate society, formed in 1820. In this WSB clip, the student debaters demonstrate the type of impromptu speeches supported by these societies. Although it was not integrated in 1961, in January of that year the Demosthenian Literary Society created a committee to petition for an end to segregation at the University, so that the school would not be closed. 

In 2004, educator and former civil rights activist Jonathan Kozol published The Shame of the Nation: The Restoration of Apartheid Schoolin in America. Kozol's research, based on observations from sixty schools in eleven states, reveals the inadequacies of many schools comprised mostly of poor or minority students. This book describes the ineffectiveness of court-ordered desegregation in the United States. Kozol documented the poor conditions of these underfunded schools that included a lack of up-to-date textbooks, sicence laboratories, and extracurricular academic programs. According to Kozol, some teachers in these schools discouraged creative thinking, and instead embraced a curriculum aimed at social control. His study suggests that the de facto segregation of the country's classrooms diminishes educational opportunities for minority and poor children.

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Discussion Questions

1. Sometimes students in the minority isolate themselves from the rest of the school population or find themselves ignored or excluded by other students. Unfortunately, social alienation can result in violence, such as in the April 20, 1999, Columbine High School shootings. What personality types of characteristics lead students in your school to shun or stigmatize those who do not fit the social mold? What do you think causes violent responses to such isolation?   

2. Though schools may be integrated, social circles within those schools may remain segregated. Why do you think this is the case? Are there any steps that you can think of that could end this segregation?

3. What is an HBCU? Why would a student attend an HBCU?

    Take it to the Streets!

Interview three other students at favorite hang-out spots such as the lunch room, fast food restaurants, the local mall, a community bowling alley or movie theater, or city parks. What kinds of issues do they debate over a meal or in between classes? Be prepared to discuss differences in the slang they use, the references to movies and music they make, and the extent to which they discuss politics and world events. What do your findings say about differences in social awareness based on race and class?

Writers: Imann Gad, LaToya Howard, James Robinson, Ruthie Taylor, and Stacie L. Walker in Professor Barbara McCaskill's AFAM/ENGL 3230 (Survey of African American Literature), Spring 2007.

Editor and Researcher: Christina L. Davis, Mary Boyce Hicks, and Professor Barbara McCaskill

Web Designer: William Weems

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