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Between North and South

Delaware, Desegregation, and the Myth of American Sectionalism

By Brett Gadsden

Publication Year: 2012

Between North and South chronicles the three-decade-long struggle over segregated schooling in Delaware, a key border state and important site of civil rights activism and white reaction. Historian Brett Gadsden begins by tracing the origins of a long litigation campaign by NAACP attorneys who translated popular complaints about the inequities in Jim Crow schooling into challenges to racial proscriptions in public education. Their legal victories subsequently provided the evidentiary basis for the Supreme Court's historic decision in Brown v. Board of Education, marking Delaware as a center of civil rights advancements. Gadsden's further examination of a novel metropolitan approach to address the problem of segregation in city and suburban schools, wherein proponents highlighted the web of state-sponsored discrimination that produced interrelated school and residential segregation, reveals the strategic creativity of civil rights activists. He shows us how, even in the face of concerted white opposition, these activists continued to advance civil rights reforms into the 1970s, secured one of the most progressive busing remedies in the nation, and created a potential model for desegregation efforts across the United States.

Between North and South also explores how activists on both sides of the contest in this border state—adjacent to the Mason-Dixon line—helped create, perpetuate, and contest ideas of southern exceptionalism and northern innocence. Gadsden offers instead a new framework in which "southern-style" and "northern-style" modes of racial segregation and discrimination are revealed largely as regional myths that civil rights activists and opponents alternately evoked and strategically deployed to both advance and thwart reform.

Published by: University of Pennsylvania Press

Series: Politics and Culture in Modern America


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Title Page

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Copyright Page

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pp. 1-19

In the early summer of 1974, freshman senator Joseph Biden (D-Del.) accepted an invitation from the Gordy Estates Civic Association at the Krebs School in Newport, Delaware, located just south of Wilmington, to discuss the issue of busing with his constituents. Two years earlier, school desegregation...


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1. "There Is a movement on Foot"

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pp. 23-58

The origins of all social phenomena are debatable, but the roots of the movement to desegregate public education in Delaware can be traced, in a real sense, to the letter of inquiry of one Ira S. Edwards, who sought admission to the University of Delaware in 1939. Edwards, a resident of Wilmington and...

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2. "He wouldn't Help me Get a Jim Crow Bus"

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pp. 59-98

African Americans in Delaware and certain allies had long worked to address institutionalized deficiencies and secure greater educational opportunities for their children in primary and secondary education. Against the background of sustained institutional neglect of public education in general—and...


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3. "The Delaware method of Solving Things"

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pp. 101-135

Fresh from the Supreme Court victory on May 17, 1954, the NAACP outlined its approach to subsequent challenges to the constitutionally suspect sectional imaginary of de jure segregation the following weekend in Atlanta. The organization proceeded—in ways it would increasingly and forcefully...

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4. "If we must and Are to Have Integration"

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pp. 136-169

With the Supreme Court’s call for re-argument on remedy, the issue of school desegregation returned to the national stage and the parties to the case engaged in debates as to the pace of the desegregation of public schools. In briefs and oral arguments, the NAACP team took the position that the Court...


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5. "The other Side of the Milliken Coin"

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pp. 173-212

The challenge to the problem of racial segregation in public education in the 1970s began, in a sense, with one unlikely activist: Marilyn Harwick, a white substitute teacher with two daughters enrolled in David W. Harlan Elementary School and P. S. du Pont High School. The city of Wilmington was experiencing...

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6. "For and Against School Busing"

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pp. 213-240

On March 20, 1972, twenty-nine-year-old attorney and New Castle County councilman Joseph Biden formally announced his candidacy for the U.S. Senate. Before an enthusiastic and overflowing crowd in the du Barry Room of the Hotel DuPont in Wilmington, he introduced his family and outlined...

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pp. 241-249

The fiftieth anniversary of Brown—and the lower court cases that served as its evidentiary foundation—prompted a celebration of sorts in Delaware. In the period surrounding the anniversary, various groups sponsored a number of commemorative events intended—as part of the creation of a public...


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pp. 251-252


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pp. 253-304


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pp. 305-314


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pp. 315-316

E-ISBN-13: 9780812207972
Print-ISBN-13: 9780812244434

Page Count: 352
Publication Year: 2012

Series Title: Politics and Culture in Modern America
Series Editor Byline: Series Editors: Margot Canaday, Glenda Gilmore, Michael Kazin, Thomas J. Sugrue See more Books in this Series

OCLC Number: 830023834
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Between North and South

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Segregation in education -- Law and legislation -- Delaware -- History -- 20th century.
  • School integration -- Delaware -- History -- 20th century.
  • Discrimination in education -- Law and legislation -- Delaware -- History -- 20th century.
  • African Americans -- Education -- Delaware -- History -- 20th century.
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