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The Sociopolitical Context of Education in Post-Civil Rights Birmingham

Peabody Journal of Education: Issues of Leadership, Policy, and Organizations, Vol. 90, No. 3

Tondra L. Jackson, University of Alabama at Birmingham

ABSTRACT

Drawing on scholarship from the politics and history of education, narrative and archival data, and the author's emic perspectives, this article examines social and political transformations in the Birmingham City Schools (BCS) and some of the surrounding metropolitan school districts during the pre- and post-classical phases of the American civil rights movement. The BCS, in particular, has encountered a fate similar to urban districts across the U.S. South and nation, most notably, severe fiscal, social, and economic problems precipitated by historic racial inequities, the exodus of middle-class White and African American students and families to the surrounding suburbs, and increased enrollment of students who are socially and economically disenfranchised. Moreover, the district has been beset by inter- and intraracial school governance controversies and shrinking legal, political, and financial commitments from federal, state, and local governments. The question deliberated is whether or not post-civil rights Birmingham can reignite its renowned civic capacity, which is grounded in its historic role as a bastion of the civil rights movement, to address these pressing concerns. This question is considered in light of decidedly altered municipal and educational contexts that are more metropolitan, ethnically and linguistically diverse, and socioeconomically stratified.