The modern civil rights movement fought for racial equality and to create an interracial “beloved community.” People in the movement did not make a distinction between action in the schools, the voting booth, or the streets toward those goals. Education was another arena for fighting racism and securing equal resources and opportunity. Seeing school desegregation as an integral part of the civil rights movement reminds us that an equal education is a basic human right that has been fought for but not yet achieved, and that overcoming racism in the classroom as in the community remains a moral imperative. For many local people, like Suzy Post, in Louisville and Jefferson County, the civil rights movement continues because the struggle to protect desegregation and through it achieve educational equity and better human understanding has not yet been won.
For historians of school desegregation, Louisville’s story challenges a narrative that has been dominated by resistance, disillusion, and failure. For citizens, these stories remind us how our predecessors struggled for equality in education and inspire us to keep up a fight that is far from over.
What is missing here is any social and economic context. True, the Civil War is the film’s encompassing social explanation, but it leaves me wondering why the set of social and economic circumstances that confronted folks in post war Appalachia is completely ignored. In the Tug Valley, as in all Appalachia and even the entire South, economic decline was a serious threat to almost everyone.
The History Channel will be airing a three-part miniseries about the Hatfield and McCoy families starting on Memorial Day. The miniseries stars Kevin Costner, Bill Paxton, Mare Winningham, and lots and lots of guns and violence. Historian Altina L. Waller, author of Feud: Hatfields, McCoys, and Social Change in Appalachia, 1860-1900, was interviewed extensively for the accompanying documentary to the miniseries.