Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Spencer J. Maxcy
The Fall of 1970 marked an important change in the East Baton Rouge Parish Public School System. In the previous 1969--70 school year, only three thousand out of twenty-three thousand African American children in the district attended school with White children. In 1970, the number rose to nearly nineteen thousand. In addition, for the first time, school personnel, busses, and extra curricular activities were desegregated. Over six-hundred teachers began the 1970 school year teaching in schools that were previously and predominantly another race. This event, known as the "cross-over," is the subject of this dissertation. The historical study of the 1970 cross-over in East Baton Rouge focused on three questions: the perceptions of school personnel during the cross-over; the impact of the cross-over on classroom teaching; and community attitudes during the cross-over. These questions are answered through a combination of oral history interviews and an examination of historical documents. Answers to each question are discussed in detail; however, a common theme emerged in all three answers. The phrase "deeply embedded racial attitudes and stereotypes" is used as a descriptor of the cross-over experience in East Baton Rouge. Deeply embedded racism is defined through a modification of Scheurich and Young's (1997) description of "civilizational racism." Scheurich and Young claim that racism exists, often unknowingly, in the construction of knowledge itself. This argument is expanded in this work with the claim that "civilizational racism" is present in the use of all language. The conclusion of the dissertation argues that the oral narratives and the historical record demonstrate problems resulting from embedded racism, particularly through the use of language. It is further argued that "racism" is contrary to the common values that resulted in desegregation efforts in the first place. Because of the nature of "civilizational racism," people often do not realize that what they are saying or doing is racist. Embedded racism often affixes meaning beyond the awareness or intent of the speaker. As a result, it is recommended that school districts developing a desegregation policy also develop an "integration policy" specifically designed and targeted to issues of "deeply embedded racism."
Davis, Douglas Raymond, "Crossing Over: an Oral History of the Desegregation Experience of Public School Personnel in East Baton Rouge Parish, Louisiana." (1999). LSU Historical Dissertations and Theses. 6984.