History professor’s grant will bring teachers to VCU to learn about school desegregation

A professor giving a lecture in front of a classroom.
Brian Daugherity, Ph.D., leads a workshop in 2015 for teachers about the struggle to desegregate schools in Virginia and the U.S. (Photo by Brian McNeill, University Public Affairs)

Teachers from across the United States will come to Virginia Commonwealth University next July for workshops focused on the history of school desegregation in Virginia.

The National Endowment for the Humanities awarded a $170,000 grant to Brian Daugherity, Ph.D., associate professor in the Department of History in the College of Humanities and Sciences at VCU, and Yonghee Suh, Ph.D., associate professor of social studies/history education at Old Dominion University, to lead the workshops, titled “The Long Road from Brown: School Desegregation in Virginia.”

The goal is to provide 72 participating teachers — who teach grades 6-12, primarily social studies — with the latest knowledge related to school desegregation in Virginia, so that they can use it in classroom instruction.

“Virginia was a central battleground in the struggle for school desegregation throughout the mid-to-late 20th century,” said Daugherity, a civil rights historian and author or editor of several books, including most recently “A Little Child Shall Lead Them: A Documentary Account of the Struggle for School Desegregation in Prince Edward County, Virginia” (University of Virginia Press, 2019).

“The state was home to one of the five cases ruled on in the historic Brown v. Board of Education decision, and Virginia was then an originator and strong promoter of the concept of white, southern ‘massive resistance’ to school desegregation,” he said. “Because it was also home to the largest NAACP membership in the South, and a plethora of determined civil rights attorneys, Virginia was subsequently home to a number of important court cases which brought about the end of massive resistance and then the widespread expansion of school desegregation in the late 1960s and early 1970s.”

Virginia … is an exceptional location in which to study school desegregation, its successes and failures, and issues related to race and education which continue to impact us in the present day.

These changes, Daugherity said, brought about a major reorganization of Virginia's race-based school system, although racial issues within integrated schools continued. Moreover, in recent decades, court rulings have allowed localities across the U.S. to end the use of policies aimed at promoting racial integration in public education, resulting in some resegregation, particularly in urban areas, including in Virginia.

“Virginia, therefore, is an exceptional location in which to study school desegregation, its successes and failures, and issues related to race and education which continue to impact us in the present day,” Daugherity said. “Moreover, many historic sites in Virginia honor this history and will offer our teacher participants the opportunity to see firsthand how this story unfolded.”

The grant, part of the NEH’s Landmarks of American History and Culture program, was one of only 16 funded by the NEH this year.

“To receive funding to offer workshops on school desegregation in Virginia is a true honor,” Daugherity said. “I am very much looking forward to developing and implementing a program that will be useful for our teacher participants and accomplish the goals set out by the NEH.”

The workshops will be held July 12-17 and July 26-31.

Daugherity and Suh previously received NEH grants to hold similar workshops for teachers in 2015 and 2017. Approximately 150 teachers from across the country have taken part in the workshops so far.

Funding for participating teachers is provided by the NEH. Teachers interested in applying, or in receiving more information about the workshops, may contact Daugherity at bjdaugherity@vcu.edu

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