- Lines Were Drawn: Remembering Court-Ordered Integration at a Mississippi High School ed. by Teena F. Horn, Alan Huffman, and John Griffin Jones
Lines Were Drawn: Remembering Court-Ordered Integration at a Mississippi High School is a fascinating group memoir of more than fifty students from the 1973 class of Murrah High School in Jackson, Mississippi. It provides an "inside-out remembrance" of the three remarkable years after the court ruling requiring the mass integration of Jackson's schools, beginning halfway through the 1970–1971 school year (p. x). The volume also includes brief contributions from teachers, coaches, and parents, including former Mississippi governor William F. Winter.
The introduction provides historical context for the personal reflections that make up most of the text. A brief overview of court-ordered desegregation in Jackson follows, alongside interesting recollections of Jackson in the 1960s and 1970s by lawyer, Murrah alumnus, and volume coeditor John Griffin Jones. In the following chapters, interviews with Murrah alumni are skillfully edited and compiled within thematic chapters, enabling the reader to journey through the remarkable years from 1970 to 1973. The recollections provide fascinating insights into the inheritance and transmission of racial attitudes; the breakdown—albeit partial and temporary—of some racial and socioeconomic barriers through forced integration; and the gendered nature of the white flight to private schools such as the newly created Jackson Preparatory School and Citizens' Council schools. In two complementary chapters, Jones and Murrah alumna Teena F. Horn explore the integration of extracurricular activities including football, baseball, marching band, cheerleading, and dancing. Jones's candid reflections illustrate that while baseball did provide some common ground, it was not enough to break old traditions and overcome the deep divisions existing between Jones and his teammates. In two engaging chapters the third coeditor and Murrah alumnus, Alan Huffman, recalls the response of his teachers to the mass integration and explores the nature of memory and the challenges of group [End Page 476] recollection of these controversial years. A fluent epilogue brings together the memories effectively, reflecting the range of views from those who see the social experiment as an abject failure to those who consider it a success, particularly in light of the absence of violence. But integration did fail, leaving the Jackson city schools mostly resegregated by the mid-1970s. However, genuine and long-standing affection for Murrah High School is evident among most alumni represented in the volume. While their education was disrupted and their freedom of choice removed, they learned valuable lessons in a "social interaction sense," which helped "shape [their] social views of the world today" (pp. 211, 216).
The volume provides a valuable perspective on the process of Jackson's school desegregation discussed in Charles C. Bolton's The Hardest Deal of All: The Battle Over School Integration in Mississippi, 1870–1980 (Jackson, Miss., 2007) and Joseph Crespino's In Search of Another Country: Mississippi and the Conservative Counterrevolution (Princeton, 2007). It augments existing firsthand accounts of Mississippi's school desegregation, including the memoirs of David W. Beckwith, A New Day in the Delta: Inventing School Desegregation as You Go (Tuscaloosa, 2009), and numerous oral histories, such as those in the Mississippi Oral History Project at the University of Southern Mississippi. Contributions came in the form of essays, responses to questionnaires, and interviews conducted by the volume editors with former classmates. The presentation of these contributions also varies throughout the volume, from chapters in which recollections are presented without context, to chapters in which recollections are incorporated into the prose. Some chapters would have benefited from using the contributions of the editors in the same format as the recollections of their classmates.
A problem with this volume—discussed by the editors—is the imbalance between contributions from black and white alumni. While white students were in the minority in Murrah's class of 1973, there were markedly fewer contributions by African American former students to this volume...