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ERIC Number: EJ742137
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2004
Pages: 23
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: N/A
ISSN: ISSN-0018-2680
"This Has Been Quite a Year for Heads Falling": Institutional Autonomy in the Civil Rights Era
Williamson, Joy Ann
History of Education Quarterly, v44 n4 p554-576 Win 2004
Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and their students played a pivotal part in the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and early 1960s. Private HBCUs, in particular, provided foot soldiers, intellectual leadership, and safe places to meet and plan civil disobedience. Their economic and political autonomy from the state enabled the institutions and their students to participate in activism without the constant fear of legislative retribution. In this article, the author narrated the historical events at Tougaloo College which dramatized the consequences of HBCU participation in the Civil Rights Movement. Located outside of Jackson, Mississippi, Tougaloo is a private liberal arts institution committed to African-American equality. Tougaloo's role in the Civil Rights Movement triggered the debate and placed it in a precarious position. Accelerating civil rights activity severely worsened the already uneasy relationship between Tougaloo and the state. However, the College's financial status left it in dire need of economic assistance and at the mercy of philanthropic agencies with little interest in questions of institutional integrity. Consequently, their private status forced legislators and segregationists to invent creative solutions to curtail activism, but the institutions were far from invulnerable. Similarly, private status shielded HBCUs from state financial sanctions, but the institutions remained susceptible to philanthropic agencies with a clear agenda for higher education--an agenda that did not include institutional involvement in a social movement. At Tougaloo, these pressures collided and forced President Beittel's resignation. Tougaloo's situation demonstrates both the vulnerability and worth of HBCUs, particularly during the civil rights era. Such colleges played a unique role in the preservation of egalitarian aims in an enormously hostile environment. Tougaloo's role in the Civil Rights Movement became a liability in lean economic times. Together, internal and external pressures left their mark and impacted institutional autonomy. (Contains 76 footnotes.)
History of Education Society. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Educational Policy Studies, 360 Education Building MC-708, 1310 South Sixth Street, Champaign, IL 61820. Tel: 217-333-2446; Fax: 217-244-7064; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: Higher Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: Mississippi