Victory Without Triumph: School Desegregation in Delaware
Brett Gadsden

About the research


NAEd/Spencer Postdoctoral Fellowship

Award Year



Emory University

Primary Discipline

The central thrust of my project investigates how school desegregation proponents highlighted the inequalities between black and white schools and noted the constitutional protections denied black citizens. Victory Without Triumph argues that activists challenged many of the organizational typologies and tropes that historical actors, historians, and legal scholars have used to frame understandings of possibilities and limits of racial reforms. Thus, it explores how activists deployed legal and extra-legal arguments in their quest for formal equality and equitable access to resources, and ultimately challenged an abiding faith in the distinctions between city and suburb and de jure and de facto segregation that delineated the limits of racial reform in the post-Jim Crow era. Victory Without Triumph also charts the impact that white resistance to race reforms had on the public policy outcomes of court mandates and the ways that black communities continually assessed the merits of desegregation in the broader campaigns to expand educational opportunities for black students and achieve racial equality. Building on the insights of scholars who alternately stress the significance of supportive elite and grassroots actors in measuring the outcome of civil rights struggles, this project stresses the ways that reform, especially as law was translated into public policy, reflected the prerogatives of its detractors—as constitutive actors in Long Civil Rights Movement histories—as well as its supporters.
About Brett Gadsden

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