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Participant name: Christopher Bonastia

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HR-50410-08Research Programs: Faculty Research AwardsChristopher Jay BonastiaThe Struggle Over School Desegregation in Prince Edward County, Virginia, 1959-19647/1/2008 - 6/30/2009$50,400.00ChristopherJayBonastia   Lehman College LibraryBronxNY10468USA2007U.S. HistoryFaculty Research AwardsResearch Programs504000504000

This project examines the struggle over school desegregation in Prince Edward County (PEC), Virginia. From 1959 to 1964, this rural, "Black Belt" county avoided court orders to desegregate its public schools by closing them, becoming the only school district in the nation to do so for an extended period. Most white students enrolled in segregated, private academies, while nearly two-thirds of the 1500 black students in the county did not attend school during this time. I assess why PEC, alone among American localities, traveled down this destructive path for five years as human costs multiplied. In doing so, I examine factors such as the paternalistic nature of Virginia politics, the perseverance displayed by the black community in the face of limited power, and the rhetorical justifications employed by the county's segregationist leadership. In addition, I consider the school closings in the context of other responses to the threat of desegregation, such as "white flight."