My research explores the lives and stories of Black female educators, pre- and post-Brown, in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, between 1954 and 1971. It examines the historical implications of public-school desegregation in Hattiesburg, and the ways in which Black female teachers bore the brunt of this difficult experiment in American history. The study explores the lives and stories of these women, examines the historical implications of public-school desegregation in Hattiesburg, and draws connections between history and current day concerns in K-12 schools. Ever-present in this study’s findings are the facts that Black female teachers in Hattiesburg were at the forefront of these desegregation efforts, and despite the challenges endured, they remained steadfast in shining their light for their students caught in the crossfire of undoing centuries of segregation policy and practice.
Amplifying the voices of these incredible Black women, who were trailblazers in their profession and craft, serves as a corrective to the under-inclusion and under-emphasis of the role Black female teachers in Mississippi played in the desegregation efforts to dismantle Jim Crow schools. It breaks the silence of the hush associated with these women and serves as a counternarrative to the existing literature on the agency and presence of Black female teachers in southern desegregation efforts. This history reveals stories of innovation, creativity, and joy, compassionate characteristics of leadership all too often overlooked in the historiography on desegregation efforts in the South, particularly in Mississippi. By centering the stories and experiences of these educators, we can develop a more accurate historic record that represents their voices and guides us in how to best remedy current day concerns in education. This oral evidence will allow us to add to the scant research currently available, build upon the existing research, and ensure that the contributions and advancements that occurred in large part due to the efforts of these women, is recorded for future generations.