Date of Award
W. Ralph Eubanks
This is the story of belief in a southern Mississippi town and how that belief mirrors the national conservative counterrevolution that took shape at the same time. Hattiesburg’s segregation academy and church school were founded in the context of broader social movements. As the political power of the Citizen’s Council faltered and white moderates’ voices became louder, practical solutions to retain segregation within the boundaries of law grew to be the new focus of white communities. The conservative counterrevolution exploded in the South as Christian morality and “family values” became the rallying cry of former staunch segregationists and white moderates alike. The counterrevolution was a response to the changing social and political landscape. Many Christians believed the country to be in the midst of a moral crisis as de jure segregation ended and the teaching of the Bible in public schools was threatened in the courts. Across the nation, churches began their own schools to combat the secular liberalism which they saw overtaking their way of life. These “church schools” were founded only a few years after the “segregation academies” opened in explicit rebellion of school integration in the South. Since the eras in which these schools were founded overlap, they are often lumped together as a singular movement in popular consciousness. To fully understand the changing face of racism, these schools must be understood as fundamentally distinct from one another. This distinction highlights the ways in which the ideas of the Citizen’s Council were upheld and their defiance was repurposed after many segregation academies closed. This is the story of my hometown. I felt the reality of the story as I grew up, but I only learned it after I left. This is the story of white belief which extends far beyond the borders of a town in Mississippi. This story is America. This story is whiteness reborn.
Winstead, Rachel, "Basements Below the Sanctuary: A Story of the Church School" (2020). Honors Theses. 1573.
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