From the June 2019 Desktop News | New College professor Natalie Adams and James Adams of Mississippi State University are awaiting the publication of their new book, Just Trying to Have School: The Struggle for Desegregation in Mississippi. Grounded in extensive research and hundreds of interviews with students, parents, and educators at every level, the pair piece together a living and breathing recount of Mississippi’s school desegregation— a topic that they say has yet to be explored in desegregation literature before now.
“We are both former public school teachers, and both of us were personally involved in school desegregation in the late 1960s and early 1970s,” Natalie Adams said. “Much has been written about the macro-forces of desegregation in the South, and we wanted to document the micro-forces to tell the multiple stories of how school desegregation was and was not accomplished in the small towns and communities of Mississippi— the state that fought the longest and hardest to preserve segregated schooling.”
In exploring this unbeaten path of Mississippi’s desegregation history, traditional methods of historical research were left behind as the authors were met with a lack of preserved history and literature on the topic. After hundreds of hours of scanning newspapers and documents in rural Mississippi libraries and dozens of interviews with Mississippians who experienced the desegregation process, the backbone of a narrative began to take shape.
“We were determined to interview a wide swath of folks from all parts of Mississippi who represented the diversity of players in the school desegregation story,” Natalie Adams said. “The title of our book—Just Trying to Have School—came from one of our interviewees, a teacher assigned to teach at a formerly all-black school in Jackson. At the time, individuals working through school desegregation didn’t necessarily realize that they were playing a role in the freedom movement, but they were through their daily acts of teaching, resisting, learning, and guiding. We wanted to tell that story.”
Contextualized by a historical overview and featuring a look into Mississippi’s contemporary public education, Just Trying to Have School argues for the importance of understanding the history of school desegregation in order to make informed decisions about educational policy and practices today. Published by University Press of Mississippi, Just Trying to Have School will reach readers upon its November 2019 publication date.