Separate but Equitable: Race, Liberalism and Abandoning Desegregation in Austin, Texas
Allison Raven

About the research


NAEd/Spencer Dissertation Fellowship

Award Year



Duke University

Primary Discipline

In 1954, the Supreme Court ruled in Brown v. Board of Education that segregated schools were inherently unequal and detrimental to students. Just three decades later, school boards and communities across the United States ended desegregation programs and returned to largely segregated schools, claiming that these schools would be more equitable than integration programs. Integration’s disappearance from the definition of educational equity was a policy choice embraced by communities across the political spectrum. I explore that choice and its consequences by looking at how resegregation reshaped Austin, Texas. Austinites altered their definition of educational equity to make segregated schools compliant with the city’s ideals of progressivism. Combining histories of the civil rights movement with public policy scholarship, my project analyzes not only how schools once again came to be segregated, but how that new segregation became normalized in American society.My dissertation makes three interventions across the disciplines of history and public policy. First, I emphasize contingency, demonstrating that school desegregation ended as Austin school officials actively sought new definitions of educational equity. Next, I intervene in the public policy discussion of “educational equity,” which generally does not consider education as a component of educational equity. I demonstrate that excluding racial segregation from the definition of educational equity was an active process during the 1970s and 1980s that required buy-in from people of color as well as white Austinites. Finally, I intervene historically by shifting the time frame of educational desegregation history forward from Brown implementation and into the 1980s.
About Allison Raven
Allison Raven is a Ph.D. Candidate in History at Duke University. Her research examines the end of school desegregation as an active public policy choice, rather than an inevitable outcome. As a historian of the twentieth century United States, Allison’s work bridges the social and cultural histories of the civil rights movement with education policy scholarship, demonstrating the political and spatial considerations of ending school integration programs. Prior to beginning her graduate studies, Allison earned a B.A. in History from Rice University and worked as a middle school teacher in Houston, Texas. During her graduate studies, she has received support from and worked in partnership with Duke’s Center for Documentary Studies, the SNCC Legacy Project, Teaching for Change, Learning for Justice, the Kenan Institute for Ethics, and the Tobin Project.

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