In the 1970s, Savannah
State University and Armstrong
Atlantic State University were named in a federal lawsuit that
in eight southern states. In this suit, the NAACP claimed that
Georgia was operating a dual system of racially segregated and unequal
schools. Predominately black Savannah State and predominately
white Armstrong offered similar degree programs to students in Savannah.
Talks of merging both schools to comply with federal law raised
tensions as general opinions on a proper course of action differed.
Allegations that Savannah
State and Armstrong
University were racially segregated caused a stir
on both campuses, as well as in the city's general population. Orders
to desegregate the universities led to talks of merging the two
schools, an option opposed by many students and community members. Arguing
that both welcomed people of all races, some students supported
the option of keeping both of them open. Frank Scarlett, the presiding
judge, heard arguments from community members opposed to desegregating
the schools, which revealed their disdain for the Brown
v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision.
Founded in 1890, Savannah State is the oldest historically black
public university in Georgia. Richard R. Wright, Sr. served as the
first president of the school, then called the Georgia State Industrial
College for Colored Youth. It was
first located in the Baxter Street School Building in Athens,
before being permanently moved to Savannah on
October 7, 1891. Cyrus Gilbert Wiley, the second president, served
from 1921 until 1926 and made advancements by allowing the admission
of women to the university. During the tenure of
Benjamin F. Hubert the college became a full-time, degree-granting
institution and a member of The University System of Georgia. In
1950 the school changed its name from Georgia State Industrial
College to Savannah State College.
Savannah Mayor Thomas
Gamble established Armstrong
Atlantic, a junior college, in May 1935. Negotiations began in
1957 to acquire state funding for Armstrong, and by 1959, it had
also joined the University System of Georgia. The campus was moved
in 1965 to allow for more modern facilities.
When plans to desegregate the schools began, the state of Georgia
submitted four versions of their “Plan for the Further
Desegregation of the University System of Georgia.” Although the
possibility of a merger remained high, the two schools
did not join. The adopted plan called for Armstrong to award
all teacher education degrees and Savannah State to award all business
degrees. Only students and faculty enrolled in these programs moved
to the respective colleges.
The decision not to merge the two schools has brought about some
talk and tension in the Savannah community. The biggest problem
that Savannah community members are facing is that they are paying
taxes to fund two major universities in a city with a medium sized
population. Also, there has been talk for years about reinstating
education and business programs back into both schools. However,
this has not happened so far.
Resources (click here)
Printable Version (click here)
1. Read the story Nazis
Protest Busing in the Freedom
on Film Savannah
pages. In what ways did the busing issue reflect the racial
tensions of the city? How smoothly did the integration process go
at the elementary and middle-school levels in Savannah?
2. Are there any other cities in Georgia that had to go through
the same type of integration? If so, which cities and which schools?
Why was Savannah different from these?
3. Besides merging the schools and swapping the business
and teacher education programs, what other solutions might
have been proposed? What benefits and/or drawbacks could have resulted
from these solutions? What benefits and/or drawbacks resulted from
the actual solution?
this video clip, many people express the conviction that the
system should not be altered. What reasons could have influenced
their lack of support for changing the school system? What problems
did the dual system pose for the government? What arguments against
segregation did supporters of integration make?
Take it to
Within the United States, many colleges and universities have traditionally
catered to one particular gender or race, such as historically black
colleges or universities or predominately white institutions; women's
or men's colleges; or military colleges. A woman who attends a women's
college, for example, will graduate with a different perspective
than a woman who attended a co-ed institution. Select two people
in your community who attended colleges with one or
both of these specifications. Make a list of questions which
you will use to interview them. How did their experiences
differ based on the make-up of their college or university? What
other factors may have influenced their experiences?
Writers: Michael Kobleur and Kathleen O’Riordan in Professor Barbara
McCaskill's ENGL 2400 (Survey of Multicultural American Literature),
Editors and Researchers: Christina L. Davis, Mary Boyce Hicks,
and Professor Barbara McCaskill
Web Designer: William Weems
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