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A Question of Justice

New South Governors and Education, 1968-1976

Written by Gordon E. Harvey

Publication Year: 2002

Three trailblazers for education reform in the Sunbelt South.

In southern politics, 1970 marked a watershed. A group of southern governors entered office that year and changed both the way the nation looked at the South and the way the constituents of those states viewed themselves. Reubin Askew in Florida, John West in South Carolina, Jimmy Carter in Georgia, and Albert Brewer in Alabama all represented a new breed of progressive moderate politician that helped demolish Jim Crow segregation and the dual economies, societies, and educational systems notorious to the Sunbelt South. Historian Gordon Harvey explores the political lives and legacies of three of these governors, examining the conditions that led to such a radical change in political leadership, the effects their legislative agendas had on the identity of their states, and the aftermath of their terms in elected office.

A common thread in each governor's agenda was educational reform. Albert Brewer's short term as Alabama governor resulted in a sweeping education package that still stands as the most progressive the state has seen. Reubin Askew, far more outspoken than Brewer, won the Florida gubernatorial election through a campaign that openly promoted desegregation, busing, and tax reform as a means of equal school funding. John West's commitment to a policy of inclusion helped allay fears of both black and white parents and made South Carolina's one of the smoothest transitions to integrated schools.

As members of the first generation of New South governors, Brewer, Askew, and West played the role of trailblazers. Their successful assaults on economic and racial injustice in their states were certainly aided by such landmark events as Brown v. Board of Education, the civil rights movement, and the expansion of voting rights-all of which sounded the death knell for the traditional one-party segregated South. But in this critical detailing of their work for justice, we learn how these reform-minded men made education central to their gubernatorial terms and, in doing so, helped redefine the very character of the place they called home.

Published by: The University of Alabama Press


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p. v

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pp. vii-viii

Over the course of preparing this book, I have become indebted to so many people for the countless favors and invaluable aid they have provided me. The staffs of libraries at Auburn University, the University of South Carolina, Florida State University, and the South Caroliniana Library made research in their fine institutions a pleasure. Reference staff at the...

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pp. 1-14

In southern politics 1970 marked a watershed. That year a group of southern governors entered office and changed the way the nation looked at the South and southern state chief executives. Across the region, southern politicians of a new style were elected governor: from the ranks of Democrats came "a no-liquor-no-tobacco Panhandle Presbyterian elder" named...


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1. “Deeper Than a Bus Running Down a Road”: The Integration of Alabama’s Public Schools

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pp. 17-44

Albert Preston Brewer did more to improve education in Alabama than most of his predecessors and all but a few of his successors. His education legacy is marked by several successes, including steering a progressive education reform package through the legislature in 1969. The package included creation of the Alabama Commission on Higher Education, permanent...

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2. “Why Not the Teachers?”: Education Reform in Alabama, 1968–1970

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pp. 45-64

Court-ordered school integration troubled Albert Brewer for several reasons. He believed that Alabamians would accept integration more willingly if they could do it themselves, on their own schedule. He also thought that public uproar over what many people in Alabama considered federal intrusion into public schools diminished support for much-needed...


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3. A Question of Justice: The 1972 Florida Busing Straw Vote

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pp. 67-90

To Reubin Askew, what made the New South new was actually something quite old. To the optimistic Florida governor, the humanitarian South had always been a reality, though concealed beneath a thin veneer of racism and ignorance. To Askew, this positive expression of the region asserted itself when southerners realized that their problems could best be solved...

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4. Building a Better Florida: The 1973 Florida Education Reforms

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pp. 91-114

In July 1973, Florida education commissioner Floyd Christian reported to state teachers that "better days are here." Christian had good reason for his claim. In June, Reubin Askew had signed into law one of the most sweeping and progressive education reform packages in Florida history. Not since 1947, when the state established the Minimum Foundation Program...


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5. Forging a “New South Carolina”: The Aftermath of Integration

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pp. 117-140

In 1949 V. O. Key described South Carolina as a state dominated by the politics of race. It rivaled Florida in political factionalism, wrote Key, yet whites were united by this singular issue. The civil rights movement drastically changed this situation. The 1965 Voting Rights Act increased the number of black South Carolina voters from 58,000 in 1958 to 220,000...

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6. Sunbelt to the Rescue: Education Reform in South Carolina

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pp. 141-168

John West believed South Carolinians should work out their race problems for themselves, but he thought differently about education reform. A vocal advocate of what he called quality education, West wished to make South Carolina education worthy of its citizens and suitable for the state to attract industrial investment. The state, said West, had to develop "the best...

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pp. 169-175

Perhaps Cash's quote applies, but in a different order, regarding New South governors and what they meant to their South. Albert Brewer, Reubin Askew, and John West proved that although there is one New South, there also exist many new political Souths. Each governor shared common beliefs, characteristics, goals for office, and, at times, similar results. Nevertheless, their individual experiences were quite different...


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pp. 177-209


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pp. 211-220


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pp. 221-229

E-ISBN-13: 9780817313371
Print-ISBN-13: 9780817353247

Publication Year: 2002

OCLC Number: 426059914
MUSE Marc Record: Download for A Question of Justice

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Subject Headings

  • School integration -- South Carolina -- History -- 20th century.
  • Educational change -- Alabama -- History -- 20th century.
  • Education and state -- Alabama -- History -- 20th century.
  • Educational change -- Florida -- History -- 20th century.
  • Education and state -- Florida -- History -- 20th century.
  • Education and state -- South Carolina -- History -- 20th century.
  • School integration -- Alabama -- History -- 20th century.
  • School integration -- Florida -- History -- 20th century.
  • Educational change -- South Carolina -- History -- 20th century.
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