Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Rachel Devlin

Rachel Devlin's new book is A Girl Stands at the Door: The Generation of Young Women Who Desegregated America's Schools. From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: In your book, you ask, “Why, then, did so many young women and girls file school desegregation lawsuits and volunteer to desegregate schools?” Why do you think that was the case?

A: There’s the moment in which you volunteer, and then there’s following through. I thought about this for many years. First, you have to have the commitment, to see yourself in a white school and believe that being in a white school has meaning.

Girls believed this pretty much uniformly. Young men saw the desegregation of public spaces, of voting, of pools, of libraries, as important, and there were some young men in the ‘60s who desegregated schools, but as a group, they were less sure this was the next step.

What helped girls and young women to see that was they could imagine themselves in these spaces. You can expect hostility, but it’s a mysterious process. Girls had developed skills for dealing with white people—on the streets where there was a great deal of scrutiny. They were familiar with that.

And there was the [experience] of going to work with their mothers inside white homes. In the mid-century South it was very hard to find anybody who didn’t spend time in a white home.

They watched their mothers being verbally combative in social spaces. There was a long history back to the 19th century of verbal conflict between black women and white women, and a sense of, I can confront this hostility and know how to respond.

The other component is...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue