Struggling to Learn

An Intimate History of School Desegregation in South Carolina
  • Author: June Manning Thomas
  • Product Code:SLIH
  • ISBN: 978-1643362595
  • Publisher: University of South Carolina Press
  • Pages: 320
  • Availability:  In stock
  • Weight: 20 oz
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The battle for equality in education during the civil rights era came at a cost to Black Americans on the frontlines. In 1964 when fourteen-year-old June Manning Thomas walked into Orangeburg High School as one of thirteen Black students selected to integrate the all-White school, her classmates mocked, shunned, and yelled racial epithets at her. The trauma she experienced made her wonder if the slow-moving progress was worth the emotional sacrifice. In Struggling to Learn, Thomas, revisits her life growing up in the midst of the civil rights movement before, during, and after desegregation and offers an intimate look at what she and other members of her community endured as they worked to achieve equality for Black students in K-12 schools and higher education.

Through poignant personal narrative, supported by meticulous research, Thomas retraces the history of Black education in South Carolina from the post-Civil War era to the present. Focusing largely on events that took place in Orangeburg, South Carolina, during the 1950s and 1960s, Thomas reveals how local leaders, educators, parents, and the NAACP joined forces to improve the quality of education for Black children in the face of resistance from White South Carolinians. Thomas's experiences and the efforts of local activists offer relevant insight because Orangeburg was home to two Black colleges - South Carolina State University and Claflin University - that cultivated a community of highly educated and engaged Black citizens. While going through these educational experiences, Thomas also mentions her encounters with the local Bahá’í community and eventually becoming a Bahá’í herself.

"By telling her story in the larger context of Southern Racism, vitriolic resistance for anything challenging the status quo, and the structural assault on human and familial dignity and integrity, Dr. Thomas sets up the heroic story of the battle against these forces, and the deep wounds and traumas that still call out to be healed." - Hoda Mahmoudi, Bahá'í Chair for World Peace, University of Maryland

Average rating 10 out of 10 ( based on 1 review )

Struggling to Learn: An Intimate History of School Desegregation in South Carolina

Review by Dawn on 2/26/2023

Dr. Thomas captivates readers determined to learn more about what created current race relations. By overcoming her personal reticence and sharing her own experiences amidst South Carolina’s lagging, reluctant compliance with federal school desegregation requirements, she is able to humanize her important observations, which she backs with meticulous research. Her account of that facet of an important era in American history, in which she was an active participant, goes beneath the surface of “facts and figures” to include not only unsung African American heroes but the few members of the dominant white culture who personified “the other tradition” of race amity, also with much sacrifice. Additionally, she analyzes the strategies of those in power to preserve their dominance by undermining truly equal opportunity—strategies by no means limited to the South—which helped set the stage for on-going tensions and tragedies.

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