Emmett Scott High School’s Social & Academic Culture

The purpose of this case study is to examine the roles that educators and students played in the social and academic culture of Emmet Scott High. Emmett Scott High opened in 1920 as a segregated school for African Americans in the city of Rock Hill. Although it closed in 1970, it still remains a symbol of pride of the African American Community in Rock Hill, South Carolina. Many of its students and faculty revere it as a place central to the schooling experience of the students who attended. Today, it currently operates as a community center for the area.

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The negative aspects of segregated schools have been well documented (Price, 2000, p. 5). However, Eliza Walker Mill, an alumnus, and teacher, stated pride in Emmett Scott’s founding

“After being born (Emmett Scott) much had been done to develop Emmett Scott to bring it into focus. An Alma Mater was born written by George L. Walker and put to music by Frontis Brooks. A boys and girls basketball team was established. We know that music played a very important part in the Negro race during the early years, therefore, Frontis Books organized a band and Booker T. Brown organized a choir” (Mill).

These events demonstrated that from its inception, Emmett Scott High School was compelled to serve as an institution instrumental in instilling pride and respect within its community. This case study of Emmett Scott has examined the issues of student leadership, academic culture, social culture, and the academic characteristics of segregated schooling of African American students at Emmett Scott High. As well, this study is an examination of topics at Emmett Scott High, not as a historical event but as a lived experience of the past from which much can be learned. To this end, a broader context of understanding about the African American educational experience, its driving force, and its institutions behind Emmett Scott’s success both within the four walls of the classroom and the community as well have been told.

Related Literature

Struggle for Education

Education was always seen as a means that enlightens and makes people aware of their rights. Therefore, laws like the South Carolina act of 1740 made the proliferation of education for blacks illegal. Education was held as the reason for the slave rebellions like the Stono rebellion of South Carolina. The whole objective of such kind of oppression was the belief in the supremacy of the white race.

The book Faithful, Firm, and True: by Titus Brown breaks the white euphemism that it was the white man who was responsible for bringing knowledge and refinement into the lives, the uneducated black community. These schools were not opened to generate any kind of hopes and expectations in those receiving education. (Brown, 2002). According to Brown, they were aimed at quelling any kind of ill feelings that the blacks might have as they had been oppressed by their white masters. These institutions were run by The Western Freedman’s Aid Commission, and various denominational churches provided the other inputs like the building. These institutions were not up to the mark as can be expected as the resources were few and the teachers were lowly paid.

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The American Missionary Association took over the control of these schools. Mr. Cravath had acquired a house from a black church to house teachers. The house was cleaned and prepared by the black women even before his arrival in Nashville. The enrollment in the schools kept increasing despite the epidemic of smallpox. The schools grew in number and strength of the association of missionary sympathized with the problems of the racially oppressed people. Their misery was due to the exploitation by the plantation owners. They turned out the plantation workers in the winter months. The teachers in these missionary schools also provided relief by asking for a donation of clothes and food for the poor black and exploited community. The white teachers from the north didn’t possess the apathy that the white southerners had towards the oppressed blacks. The white southern community was very skeptical about what they called the pseudo-philanthropist from the north were trying to achieve.

It is very interesting that these endeavors have been seen in a very different light by the blacks themselves. These educational establishments by northern philanthropic associations have been criticized for providing education that could enable the black community to serve in the industries of vocation only. They are accused of subverting the genuine efforts of the ex-slaves to provide education that could help the future generation to help climb the social ladder. The educational institutions were in the hands of the white oppressor community. It is they who decided what was going to be taught to the racial minority. It has been seen as a deliberate attempt to undermine the institution set up by the black ex-slaves towards the objective of providing acquisition of knowledge to their young ones. In recent times, the focus of the research has shifted from studying the injustices of the segregated school system to studying the kind of education that was being offered in these institutions (Walker, 2000).

These segregated schools were being run by the missionary schools of the north with a religious zeal. Bible teaching was an integral part of the curriculum that was being taught in these schools. (Hoffman, 2003; Jones,1992). During the 1830 and 1860s, a dichotomy existed in the American Missionary Society. On the one hand, laws were being promulgated banning anyone from providing education to the black slave communities in the southern states of the United States. On the other hand, there were campaigns to provide free popular education. These free Americans were the white majority community that enslaved and unleashed a reign of violence and discrimination against the poor black community.

James Anderson, in his book The Education of Blacks in the South 1860-1935, has tried to give a complete picture of the state of education in the south. The struggle for educating the members of the black community began in the context of oppression and discrimination of the racial minority. Blacks were living in abject poverty. They were denied basic political rights like citizenship rights. They could not vote and consequently could not raise their voice against exploitation. Despite the fact the blacks were economically and politically deprived, they struggled to form educational institutions that could cater to their needs. According to the author, their plans were subverted by the racist agenda of the school boards, which dominated the kind of education being offered to the blacks. The growth and the spread of education have been attributed by most historians to the intense desire of the blacks to get themselves and their children educated. An underlying thought process of controlling their institutions was present in the strong desire to acquire knowledge. In 1865, Alvord, who was superintendent of schools, noted that there were many “self-teaching” and “native schools” existing in the south prior to the entry of the missionaries. The first school established in the south with the objective of educating the black was Fortress Monroe, Virginia, in September 1864. Still, there is evidence that there were very efforts in this direction earlier than this. “In 1865, the Freedmen’s Bureau took control of this school system, which then included 126 schools, 19,000 pupils, and 100 teachers.” According to James Anderson (Anderson, 1988, p. 9), The benevolent missionaries of the north who took up the cause of educating the illiterate racial minority of the south were solely responsible for educating the black community. The general tax that was used by the Freedman Bureau to run the expenses of providing education was scraped on military orders. The freedmen replaced the federal schools with free local schools. Despite this measure, there independent private schools being run by the blacks, which were by far more successful as more students enrolled in their institution? The book also categorically negates the concept that the institutions established by the black people lacked organization and thus were haphazard. African-Americans cherished literacy because, to them, it was tantamount to liberty. Free blacks who knew how to read and write arranged secret literacy camps. Planters or slaveholders saw literacy as means which would destroy their hegemony Schools were seen both by the black leadership and laity as a ticket to freedom and liberty. The concept of universal education, which was ingrained in the constitution as the fundamental right, was mainly due to the efforts of the leaders of the black community.

The census data of the literate people in the south have been based on the grade completed. This methodology has some problems because the early school didn’t have a system of grades (Margo, 1986). Illiteracy was rampant in the black community after the Civil War. It stood at 81% between the ages of 10 and older in the year 1870. There was a decline in the literacy rates after this year because the offspring of these ex-slaves started getting educated and moving to adulthood. The plantation owners and the masters of the slaves didn’t want the slaves to be educated because they would become aware of their rights and can foment rebellion. (Placeholder1)Therefore laws were promulgated to prevent the slaves from getting educated. This suppression could not stop the slaves from becoming literate as there were economic benefits, as well as religious benefits, as they could read Bible.

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However, despite almost insurmountable barriers, some 32,692 blacks attended educational institutions on the eve of the Civil War. Against the odds, other African Americans learned, often covertly and at their peril, from slaves, and from free blacks, from whites who would teach them, and from their parents. According to historian Thomas Holt, some 200,000 slaves were literate in 1860. After being taught to read by his father, John Mercer Langston attended private schools in Cincinnati and Chillicothe. There a young black instructor, himself attending Oberlin College, inspired Langston to pursue a college education. He did so in 1844 and graduated with high honors from Oberlin in 1849. Langston then chose to go to law school, but none would admit him, as was the common practice in most seminaries, colleges, and professional schools. Undaunted, the future African American reform leader and government official began studying law with the abolitionist ex-Congressman Philemon Bliss of Elyria, Ohio, and passed his bar examination in 1854.

There was a steep decline in illiteracy rates during the 1930s and 1940s. It had a positive outcome in the shape of the ex-slaves becoming more economically well established. They had better occupation and wealth. This mammoth decline can be attributed to the banning of slavery (Smith 1984; Collins and Margo 2001).

The studies conducted on the kind of education that was being offered to the black students have divergent views. Some view the efforts done by the northern philanthropic missionaries as having positive outcomes others highlight that these associations had a racist agenda. There were certain peculiar aspects of schools in the south. They had legally operated segregated black schools. The other feature was that the teachers were lowly paid compared with the teachers in other parts of the United States. Therefore it can be safely assumed that the teachers who were lowly paid also had low caliber (Margo, 1984). More and more blacks were becoming educationally conscious. There were more children and adults were seeking education. The classes in schools were becoming oversized. (Placeholder1) If we put the two aspects together, we will see that there was less amount of money being spent per pupil. It can be deduced that the black students were getting substandard education in segregated schools. There was an upward trend in the spending per pupil by the boards during the 1910 and the 1930s. The reasons are obvious. There was an increase in the salaries of the teachers and a decrease in class size. The disparity between schools for the black and white children considerably declining in the south when the law banning segregated schools was issued by the courts. William J. Collins and Robert A. Margo, in Historical Perspectives on Racial Differences in Schooling in the United States, have done a thorough study of all the aspects of the state of black education. The topic studied is the punctuality of the students in school, the per capita educational spending by the district boards on each student. They also studied the age of the students in each grade.

The term desegregation was used for the first time in the context of passengers traveling in different railroad cars due to the difference in their color. Charles Hamilton, the African attorney, challenged the notion of segregated but not inferior in the context of an educational institution. The historic verdict of the court that the segregated school provides unequal educational opportunity to the underprivileged black minority and there should be desegregation of schools in the United States in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka case was the beginning of the process of social change which took almost a decade to implement legally completely. Blacks continued to face prejudice long after this law was implemented. According to Robert Andrew Margo, blacks showed less educational achievement in separate schools because these institutions were poorly funded, and the individuals who attended these institutions came from an impoverished social background (Margo, 1986). However, this research on segregated education has dealt with the aspect of the phenomena which deals with the inequalities in the system.

In order to fully comprehend the social change which was brought about by the injunction of the court to bring about the desegregation of the schools, we need to study the background and the time of the said verdict. It is surprising that literacy rates are much higher in the south. There is a steady increase in the literacy rates after the Civil and World War 1. Du Bois, a leading educational thinker, fought against the prejudices faced by the Negro people. The book ‘Du Bois on Education ‘ by Eugene F. Provenzo Jr.Publisher a collection of essays that shed light on the making of the man called Du Bois, who fired the passion for education in the black community. There are pieces that recount the difficulties and the hypocrisies of the white men in power who, on the surface, were trying to help the deprived black community to acquire a liberal education, but they were making hollow claims. He describes how the Slater Fund Board initially denied him the loan to fund his studies in Germany, which was essential for his completion of the thesis on suppression of the slave trade in America.

He coerced the board into issuing the loan by saying he would beg for money from his colleagues and acquaintance at Harvard to go abroad. The collection of the essays is more autobiographical in nature and reveals the biases faced by him. Racial discrimination was present even the prestigious institution like Harvard. Du Bois was denied membership of the famous Glee club despite having a sonorous voice. Du Bois’ essay “Does the negro need a separate school” presents a very controversial point of view in the decade following the 1940s, when there was a movement for desegregating educational institutions in America. He was a pragmatic thinker who was not carried away by the emotional appeal of the movement. He had studied in an all-white institution and had experienced discrimination. He was in favor of the segregated black schools because it was staffed by black teachers who were sympathetic to their cause because they had faced the same hardship. He believed that the empowerment of black education was a must and the issue of mixed and segregated schools was of lesser importance. He had denounced Jim crows by saying that Jim’s educational system was a major hurdle in the attainment of true democracy. But he was not in favor of completely dismantling the segregated schools, which were built by the mutual hard work on the part of the Negro community and the philanthropic organization.

Du Bois had traveled up the social ladder not by the practice of sycophancy but by sheer dint of hard labor. He took a firm stand against the white oppression of the blacks. He was very outspoken and supported the black cause with all his heart. The same practical approach is reflected in the essay that was reflected when he said that he was not against industrial training of the black, but it should not carry the racist agenda of limiting the blacks to always be in a subservient position of a vassal. He supported the student rebellion that broke out as a result of the impoverished condition of the segregated Hampton institute. He was very skeptical of the belief that the discrimination of race was lessening.

One of the negative falls out of the desegregation of the schools was that many black teachers became unemployed. People’s habits and thinking don’t change overnight. Therefore, when the black students and the teachers faced racial discrimination when they entered the all-white working environment. Foster, Michele’s Black Teachers on Teaching shows that how foresighted Du Bois was as the book relates the problems and anti-black feelings that the teachers and the students faced when they worked in desegregated schools (Foster, Michele. 1997).

The other problem that cropped up later on was that the black students were made to work harder. The fear of retribution from the law enforcement agencies made the teachers soft on them. Lorraine Lawrence taught English and was appalled at the small numbers of blacks in the honors classes participate in school activities. However, “the majority of black students… are generally left out”. V.P Franklin is a professor of history at California University. He specializes in African American history and especially educational history.

Recent times have seen that the formulation and adoption of those laws that have been considered to be hallmarks in the achievement of true democratic values like equality are nothing but a superficial cure to the disease that had plagued our society and nation. The deep-seated prejudices and discriminatory attitudes just do not vanish with one stroke of litigation. Society has to take up multiple therapeutic measures to cure society of social ills. The black thinkers, academicians, leaders, and philanthropists have been voicing their fears that just constitutional measure is not going to solve this problem.

Derrick Bell’s Silent Covenants takes a very extreme stand by describing that all these constitutional and the court decision which were taken either to protect or to deprive the blacks as not having the well-being of the Negro people as its prime motive. According to him, all the decisions of the court have the ulterior motive of serving the whites. Judgment of the motives of individuals or a group of individuals is next to impossible. The author suggests that the decision was taken at the time of the civil wars to present to the world a positive image of democratic America where all the citizens were equal in the eye of the law. All the decisions of the court are divided into two categories one that was anti Negro to quell the disputes among the white policymakers and others that seems to provide relief and rights to the Negro populace. Still, this was done more to serve the whites than the blacks. The case of Plessey.v. Fergusson shows that the court’s decision upheld the denial of voting rights of the black because there were disputes among the white policymakers.

Bell has given the full-length court decision word by word. The court, in its verdict, initially tries to exonerate the court of the decisions that it issued against Negroes by explaining the limitations that the court has. It goes on to length to explain that how some wrong decisions are arrived at because of the fear of repercussion. The court also accepts that the ideal of separate but not equal was a myth and that it perpetuates the belief of the supremacy of the white race. The court also acknowledged the hard work and the quality education being provided by some of the Negro schools. The court just didn’t say there will complete desegregation from immediate effect. It suggested a three-tier program. The first step would be to compare the resources and the academic standing of the southern schools with the schools in the other parts of the United States. The second step was to provide complete equality between the black and the white school. The third and the last step were to induct Negroes into the school boards so as to ensure that the desegregation programs are successfully implemented.

Bell gives a very astounding solution to the problems faced by Negroes in the acquisition of education and job-related skills by saying that courts should have upheld Plessy v. Ferguson. The law-making body should have made sure that the segregated schools get their rightful share of the school board fund. He had a strong belief that “courts generally do not make the connection between unequal funding and race” (Bell, 2004). He makes a very pertinent point by saying that the problems faced by negroes have still not been resolved. He lends a forceful voice to the hurdles in the path of negroes educational and social attainment but doesn’t provide solutions based on reality. It is a very powerful exposition of the educational needs of the Negroes, which has been relegated to the background after the desegregation of the schools.

Desegregation (shorten section)

The desire to be treated equally is innate in human nature. Therefore, there were many blacks who were fighting for getting equal financial support for their institution or filed litigation against those institutions which denied admission to them, like Reverend Oliver Brown. Similarly, Harry Briggs in Clarendon County, South Carolina, took the school board to court over the issue of insufficient buses for the segregated black schools.

Discrimination was being practiced at all levels by whites. The school boards comprised of the dominant white population. They saw to it that the funds were unequally divided between the back and the white schools. The segregated Negro schools were being run in dilapidated buildings; the classes were oversized, the teachers were underpaid. They received half the salary of the white teacher.

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) came into being in 1909. It was an organization whose purpose was to take up the cause of the people of color and give them their due through legal and political means. Segregation was being practiced in all walks of American life like housing, transportation, education, etc. because the whites had a sense of superiority. Human nature rebels against any kind of exploitation and discrimination, and so did the robust and vital community of Negro people. The NAACP founded legal defense with tax exemption donations to help it meet the monetary requirements to fight the legal battle against the nation of predominantly whites.

Tushnet was a legal realist who propagated the doctrine that, like any other domain of human society, was vulnerable to manipulation. This meant that it was not a fixed set of rules that are bound to produce the same results irrespective of the milieu in which it is operating.

Tushnet, in his book “The NAACP and legal segregation,” tries to describe the limitation that was operational on the NAACP as a strategy to fight the lawsuit of Brown v. Board of Education as a result of the needs of the organization. He presents the concept of litigation as a social process. The economist and the sociologist understand that the end results of a social movement are sometimes not determined by the proponents of those movements. A keen observer of the social movement will keep an on the role of chance sudden events and idiosyncrasies of the men participating in those movements. Litigation is a social process, and it is more so for public interest litigation. The 1954 court ruling of the Brown case is not the end of social movement but rather a beginning of movement whose end is unpredictable and can prove that the very decision was wrong. The real aspect is how those rulings are implemented.

NAACP was staffed by a number of lawyers who had a lot of political skills. The author points that not all the course of action was determined by the need of the hour. He doest denounce the major players in the desegregation litigation. He says that Walter White, Charles Hamilton Houston, and especially Thurgood Marshall rose up to the occasion.

He described how the resources of the NAACP, like the American Fund for Public Service, founded by Charles Garland, were utilized by a staunch leftwing antiwar Baldwin, who was the chief administrator. He describes how NAACP began its movement against desegregation by first publishing a detailed statistical report on the disparities between the black and the white per capita spending in the schools. The report on South Carolina was a bit manipulated and didn’t present a positive decrease in the disparities. Baldwin thought that the blacks were basically working class which was being exploited by the capitalist white. He recommended that NAACP stop fighting the isolated cases and organize consolidated 45 litigations (Tushnet, 1987). He wanted to prepare the masses psychologically for a union. Du Bois questioned the litigation, and the author makes clear that there was a difference of opinion over the efficacy of the lawsuit. Tushnet, like other foresighted blacks, suggests that pushing for desegregation was less practical as the racist white would have found the equal distribution of resources more palatable than scraping the old system. The historic court verdict on the brown case served more as propaganda. NAACP should have first strived for a more practical solution of equalizing the resources. He also suggests that parents irked by inequalities had come to the NAACP lawyers who redirected their grievances into demand for segregation.

Derrick Bell has similarly criticized the NAACP for becoming an organ of serving the cause of the majority of the white populace because in the interest of the whites to accede to the desegregation call and practically not improving a lot of Negro people.

Desegregation or segregation: which is better for the black community?

It has been 50 years since the supreme court of the United States issuing the ban on segregating educational institutions on a racial basis. Statics regarding the level of black education in segregated has been collected by a voluntary organization. The voluntary inter-district co-coordinating committee and civic progress of St.Louis have been very dismal. Gary Orefield has been saying that the graduation rates of blacks are low, even in the case of integrated schools. This shows that there is another factor also involved in poor academic attainment by the Negro community. The element of class as a determinant factor in the poor educational competence of a group has to be understood. The problems faced by society have multiple reasons, and we cannot cure the problem of black deprivation of education unless we realize the twin tension existing in the creation of the said problem (Banks, 2004).

The Counter Narrative

This case study is grounded in Critical Race Theory (CRT). Critical Race Theory argues that for a narrative to have better meaning and understanding, it must be told from the views or perspective of members from racially oppressed groups. Too often, stories are told from a dominant cultural view. For instance, CRT starts with the belief that racism is “normal, not abnormal, in American society.” It is so interwoven in the fabric of American society that we hardly notice racism is present. (Delgado, 1995, p. xiv). Derrick Bell stated in Faces at the bottom of the well (1992) that racism is “a permanent fixture of American life. Thus, the strategy becomes one of unmasking and exposing racism in its various permutations.”

For instance, Gloria Ladson-Billings has emphasized that as far as legal research is concerned, Critical Race Theory (CRT) was developed as a means for understanding the relationship of race with legal procedures. The same needs to be done in the field of education (Billings, 2001). In Crossing Over to Canaan: The Journey of New Teachers in Diverse Classrooms, Billings gives some practical advice to those teachers who are working in environments with Black students. It is a real-life story of the eight teachers’ journey from teaching in a multicultural setting without training and then teaching when they have enriched themselves after attending a Teach for Diversity class. (Billings, 2001) The reason that she cites for the unpreparedness of the teachers is that they don’t know what social milieu these deprived students belong to. The intention of writing the book, according to the author, “is to tell a richly textured story of what it means to become a teacher in a program devoted to preparing teachers for diverse classrooms.” Her experience is unique and rich because it is seen through the frame CRT. (Billings, 2001). This book fills in the much-needed gap of giving practical solutions to the problem of educational complexity of the Black community and could be disclosed from a CRT view. Because this work is grounded and framed in CRT, it provides for a unique story that has rarely been told by educators of color who have a perspective that is based on race as an oppressive measure. Jerome Morris argues that such works as Billings tell a Counter-Narrative. Applying CRT to deconstruct this American society’s dominant view about educating Black Children takes on an entirely different meaning from the Master Narrative view that has been told. This Master Narrative will be countered with different insights if told from the CRT perspective because race is the central focus (Morris, 2008, p. 717).

Another leading researcher on black schooling today is Vanessa Siddle-Walker. Siddle-Walker describes the trials and tribulations faced by the educationist who opened institutions to cater to the needs of the underprivileged and deprived Blacks. In Siddle Walker’s (1996) book, Their Highest Potential, she describes how the community and the social organizations work hand in hand to provide for the intellectual need of their community. Nobody can improve a lot of people unless they themselves try and build their destiny. She puts the debate in a real context by providing the specific example of the Caswell County Training School of North Carolina. The book has an insider’s view. Her story suggests that the positive contribution of the black segregated schools looks out of sync when there are so many moans and cries about the perceived substandard education being provided in the segregated school of Blacks. She had the opportunity to observe the Black students in the segregated school where they didn’t fare well academically in the all-white environment. (Walker, 1996). Despite the lack of resources, these segregated schools were run by dedicated teachers who took a keen interest in the well-being of the students. They exercised discipline and didn’t allow their students to be idle. There was only one option that was to study. The work of these institutions was recognized by the community itself, which protested against the closure of many black schools like the Hyde County Black populace, which discontinued their children’s education for one whole academic session in protest against desegregation.

Another counter-narrative is that of Hyde County, North Carolina. David S. Cecelskiin Along Freedom Road discussed how the Black Community there opposed desegregation methods in favor, retaining their own schools. George Noblit and Van Dempsey (1996) echoed the same sentiment that Black children lost a portion of their community and culture when forced to attend the traditional all-white school. (Noblit, G., & Dempsey, V. 1996).—(more to come from this source, it speaks volumes to the Emmett Scott case as well.)

In all these examples, race, culture, and oppression are at the center of the narrative. Critical Race Theory and the Counter Narrative will be the preeminent conceptual framework employed in researching Emmett Scott High’s educators’ and students’ perspectives. The purpose of this research is to spark educational research where primary and secondary data are gathered to complement each other in full circle (Billig & Waterman, 2003, p. 74).


As stated by Glesne, researchers describe interviews as conversations with a purpose. An interview is a powerful way to get large amounts of information without delay (Glesne and Peshkin, 1992). Two methods will be used for obtaining information about the culture of schooling at Emmett Scott High School. Interviews and document reviews will be the vehicle by which I will approach this project. I will examine through interviews the social, academic culture as well ideas around the broad political currents and legislative mandates set by local, state, and federal governments, which led to its closing.

However, Spradley (1980) noted, “none of the sources for making inferences about school culture are foolproof, but together they can lead to an adequate cultural description.” Collecting data on cultural artifacts and conversations with members of the culture will be central in driving the discovery process. It is my hope that this qualitative case study of Emmett Scott High School will reveal multiple realities of the school culture as perceived by faculty and students of the school as well community members.

Snowballing method

Concurrently, I used the Snow Balling method emphasized by Patton. Patton stated that initial interviews could yield suggestions for more interviews from the original respondents. Thus the interview process will create a “snowball effect” with interview suggestions gathered from previous interviews. Snowball sampling best fits this type of research due to the easy availability of the respondents from the teachers, students, and administrations. (Patton, 1990). One major advantage of the Snowball method is that additional angles can be developed from the case narrative. I was able to

Interview setting and participants

I conducted-on-one interviews with one teacher, administrator, and student of Emmett Scott High School from the period 1965 to 1970. A digital recorder was used to gather the interviews and collect field notes. I will use a focused interview approach at the start of the interview. I asked a set of broad, open-ended questions to yield some initial thoughts about Emmett Scott’s social and academic culture.

The first subject of the interview will be Representative Sam Foster. He will forever be known as the last principal of Emmett Scott High when it finally closed its doors in 1970. A second resource person for this study would be Robert Parker. He was the teacher of Emmett Scott High School during the same time period under study. He transferred to the desegregated Rock Hill High School after Emmett Scott closed down. The third respondent that I am scheduled to interview is the last, Ms. Betty Louis Richardson. She will forever be known as the last valedictorian of Emmett A Scott High School. She had the option in her senior year to attend the integrated Rock Hill but chose instead to graduate from Emmett Scott.

Secondary resources

Data collection will be important in bringing the case narrative into a broader context. Moreover, documents will offset any bias or missing pieces in the narrative. Artifacts such as newspaper articles, yearbooks, class awards, photos, and trophies will be added to the data collection. I will gather all interview notes, taped interviews. As well, I will gather the materials gathered from secondary resources. The researcher will apply fairness in writing the gist of the interviews, thereby not favoring one respondent over the other.


I heard all my life that Emmett Scott had great basketball teams, bands, teachers, and students. My father played football at Emmet Scott and sometimes would jokingly make remarks about how the teams at all-white Rock Hill High would come by to watch them practice. Also, I heard Emmett Scott High was treated as a second-class school. My mother attended Emmet Scott from 1953 until 1957 to talk about how the books they received would be the discontinued books from Rock Hill High. These opposing views and perceptions of the Black community in Rock Hill cause me to pause. Therefore, I wish to gather a complete story. I never had the chance to attend Emmet Scott, but I lived in the area for over 20 years. As an insider and outsider, my duty, as a researcher, is to share the culture of Emmett Scott High School – to present the story as the community perceived it.

Data Analysis

The emergence of themes

It can be seen from the primary and secondary sources of the research that Emmett Scott High School was quite a well-respected educational institution even with the financial and other limitations faced by it. The school was able to provide a holistic education that included sports, music, and a chance to develop the student’s leadership skills. These facts become quite evident from literature published about the school and also from the interviews conducted. As a result, it is possible to identify and extract four specific themes from all the data that have been collected to date. The first and foremost theme that seems to emerge is the evident pride of the black community, especially those people living in the locality in which the school was situated. The next theme that can be attributed to this community pride is the academic expectation of parents and other members of the black community on their children in particular and the students as a whole in general. This so-called wholesale expectation from the community will naturally transfer this belief into the students as well, and they too had high academic hopes for themselves. The part of the teachers played a large role in bringing about this expectation in the community, among parents, and also among the students. What resulted next was the concept of student leadership. The school encouraged leadership roles among the students by following the practice of having class presidents and students councils. There can be an argument at this point about the development of the themes. This is because it cannot be conclusively said whether the community pride led to the development of academic expectation or student leadership aspirations. One can argue that community pride led to leadership aspirations which in turn led to academic expectations. The argument here is that community expectation led to academic expectation, which in turn helped in forming leadership aspirations. This does not matter much since the focus is on the four individual themes rather than the order of precedence by which it was set. Maybe it was the efforts of the teachers that led to the community’s pride in the first place. The final theme that emerges is the concept of respect the students had towards the school and their teachers and the respect shown to them in turn by the school and the teachers. The respect shown by the community towards the school, its teachers, and the students who passed out is also relevant here. Each one of these themes will be substantiated here.

Community pride: Just one source is enough to establish this fact, but this researcher will not limit himself to it. The article written by Catherine Stanford for the online State.com will nearly thirty years after the school closed down is the artifact referred to in the above sentence. “That’s why more than 300 former students and teachers have joined with other community members to ask the Rock Hill school board to name the city’s new high school in honor of the old Emmett Scott building”. There is more from the same article – “They’re asking the board to adopt the name, blue-and-gold school colors, alma mater and rattlesnake mascot of the old Emmett Scott school at the new high school.”

Betty Richardson, a former, echoes this sentiment when she says that “Yeah, I think there were expectations of certain people. I don’t know – and I can only speak for myself. I think there were expectations of me to do well, to go to college, and just to – and I don’t want to say do well, but do what was expected. To go to college, get a job, and just be a good citizen. (Interview with Betty Richardson). Sam Foster, the last principal of the school, had this to offer – “Which led me to believe that, and something that I have not said a lot because I know Emmett Scott was near and dear to a number of people in this community.” (Interview with Sam Foster).

Academic expectations: This was quite high among members of the community, the parents, the students, and the teachers. Her own views on this topic were similar. “I was competitive, so if I got a 95 on a test and somebody else got a 96, I didn’t like that.” (Interview with Betty Richardson). Robert Parker (a former teacher with the school) with whom a full interview was not possible still remembers this within the short time I spoke to him. “The expectation for students in my class were just as high as they were when I transferred to Rock Hill High School. I told students at Emmett Scott and Rock hill High– black or white that they could achieve”. (Interview with Robert Parker). Sam Foster recounts an interesting incident that concerned a young white teacher and a bright student. The student would manage to finish class assignments much earlier than others in the class. The white teacher would then give the student additional assignments in a sincere effort to help the student academically. The student, on the other hand, thought that the teacher was picking on her and went to complain to the principal. “How come you always picking on me ‘cause I finish before everybody else?” I say, “So let me tell you. The lady is trying to take care of you…”. (Interview with Sam Foster). The commitment and the expectations of the teachers and the students towards academics are evident from these opinions.

Student leadership: In this regard, Betty does not have much to say. It was probably because of the confusion that resulted from the (welcome) desegregation orders passed when she was in her final class. Mr. Robert Parker, too, has nothing much to contribute, probably because he did not get a chance due to the short duration of the interview. But Sam Foster did have some very definitive views on the topic. “Some of the shining atmospheres would have to be associated with leadership. There, black youth had the opportunity to be class presidents, to be student council members that taught some aspects of leadership, and to assist those youngsters with gaining some of the kind of skills that they would need after they left the atmosphere”. (Interview with Sam Foster). Another way of highlighting the atmosphere for leadership development is to showcase a couple of real-life leaders who were alumni of the school. One of the most prominent ones would be Robert McCullough, a black civil rights activist also known as Napoleon. More details on the man and his activities will be provided in the coming sections of this paper. Another person who did earn respect as a religious leader was Rev. Bob Lindsay Sr., noted for his efforts in bringing together the White and colored worshippers under one roof. “We’re doing this so the walls will come down, so we can come together in unity to lift up Jesus and to do effective work for him,” Lindsay said.” http://www.heraldonline.com/107/story/499771.html. It should be mentioned here that there is no direct evidence that their leadership skills developed because they were students of this school. But there is every chance that the atmosphere of the school did play a crucial part in nurturing the leadership potential of the men did help them to become real leaders in life.

Respect: The self-respect that the students were able to achieve from their days at the school is reflected here in Betty’s words – “They had taught me all these years and prepared me to compete anywhere. I had offers to attend NC A &T USC, and two Ivy League Schools. We were prepared and ready and told that all the time”. (Interview with Betty Richardson). Many students from the school went on to lead comfortable lives with a good career and were able to integrate themselves very well into society. They would definitely be thankful for the atmosphere in the school that helped them in their later lives to be considered as responsible and accepted citizens of the country.

Data Analysis

As mentioned in the design and methodology section of this research paper, three interviews are now analyzed, as well secondary artifacts, in order to see whether they coincide with what has been found from secondary data.

The first interview is the last principal of Emmett Scott High School, Sam Foster, who was in charge of the school during 1970. Apart from his stint as principal of the school, he was a State Representative and also the first principal of the new Northwestern High School, a post he held from 1971 to 1977. He had a fairly long stint in politics and served as Democratic choice from house district 49 to the House of Representatives from 1980 to 1992. At the time of retirement in 2002, he was working with the South Carolina Employment Security Commission. (Black History: Names & Faces: Sam Foster). The second person was a former student of the school called Betty Richardson. After school, she graduated from North Carolina with a degree in psychology and now works as a human relations manager in a private firm. It is proposed that the interviews be used to basically answer the five research questions given at the beginning of this paper. The third interview was with Robert Parker, a former teacher of the school. He also later served as the assistant principal at Rock Hill High School and principal of Rawlinson Road Middle.

Analysis of the Academic Culture

From the interview with Ms. Betty Lois Richardson, the last valedictorian of the Emmett Scott High School, it is apparent that the teachers, administrators, and faculty of the school were dedicated to empowering the students together with academic achievements. “There were teachers at Emmett Scott that could match up with teachers at Rock Hill High and exceed some of them. Because I mentioned at the outset that we had the best and the brightest in many instances in the black schools”. (Interview with Sam Foster). The interaction between teachers and students were very close, and it helps them to create a strong relationship between them. “Betty Richardson fondly remembers her former teacher Mr. Brown – And I remember Mr. Brown particularly if I didn’t do something that’s right he said, “I can still tell your father,” or he’d joke with us because he knew my father, and he always joked that my father told him that he could whip us or something like that.” (Interview with Betty Richardson). This made academic education highly effective and efficient for developing the personal skills of students. The teachers knew all the students individually. Teachers were inspiriting students to provide better results for their personal and academic development. They are always trying to make the students be proud and hopeful about the well-being of their community. Personal caring and treatment were provided by them to students. There was also parents’ involvement in the workings of the school. This helps to create a better parent-teacher relationship. A very personal relationship among teachers existed. Their interaction with students was also memorable. Extracurricular activities such as basketball, band, football, etc., are carried out in the school. For each sport, school teams were also set up to encourage the sports and music skills of students. Different kinds of bands and clubs such as music band, Math club, French Club and drama club were formed as a part of developing the skills of students. Both black and white teachers were working in the school. In the opinion of Ms. Betty, it was an effective school in teaching black students, and on a communal basis, it was an effective place for social interaction. “But I think for the teachers, I just think that they cared about you and the setting was small enough to where the teachers knew all the students individually, even if you didn’t take classes under the teachers, they’re teachers that knew you individually.” (Interview with Betty Richardson).

In the viewpoint of Mr. Sam Foster, a former Principal in the school, the academics in Emmett high school was a very viable place for the black children to learn. Parents of students were more involved in the ongoing school process, and they were more careful about the development of skills of their children. Black community teachers have chances to develop the community by developing the academic and personal skills of younger members of the community. Says Foster – “There were times that if I were having a little trouble with a youngster, I’d go by the house after school, talk with the parents about it, that kinda thing. So it was that kind of interaction. And so the parents entrusted their children to the school because they knew that that was the avenue for them to go”. (Interview with Sam Foster). Students in school were chances for developing their inborn leadership quality and share it with other members of the community. This was done through the practice of having class presidents and Student councils in the school. Sam Foster also says that the quality of the teachers was also quite high. “We had teachers, many of whom were smart and the best of the best in the black community because we didn’t have a lot of choices to do other things” (Interview with Sam Foster). The members in the student councils were providing leadership training to other students, which helped to empower them to a great extent. In spite of several limitations like the availability of proper books and other resources, the teachers managed very well in their efforts to teach. “I never felt that we had the resources, the power to make things absolutely equal in those segregated schools.” (Interview with Sam Foster). Emmett Scott High School was considered to be one of the top black schools in the South Carolina state. “This institution of higher learning helped create and develop respect and pride within the community.” (Mills).

Social Culture

All the respondents were unanimous in their opinion about the healthy social atmosphere that existed in the school. There were some minor incidents, according to Mr. Foster, but they did not in any way create problems in the social milieu. In this respect, Mr. Foster is more qualified due to his post and experience, and his opinions will be analyzed first. He speaks with evident pride the post he held at the school. In his opinion, the school provided the students (apart from academics) a chance to develop their leadership potential. The culture of the school that enabled students to develop their leadership potential had already been mentioned earlier. But it will be pertinent at this point to provide more details about civil rights activist McCullough. Robert L. McCullough, a civil rights activist and leader, was a 1958 alumnus of Emmett Scott. Mr. McCullough and his followers created a history of sorts when he refused to pay a fine after his arrest for demanding food at a white’s only cafeteria when he was at college. “Mr. McCullough was the informal leader of nine black students who, on Jan. 31, 1961, sat down at the McCrory’s lunch counter in Rock Hill and ordered hamburgers and drinks. They were refused service and arrested for trespassing” (Martin, 2006). They preferred to work as a part of a chain gang doing farm work in the prison fields. This Gandhi-like act, as mentioned in the article by Martin (above), became a sensation in the country at that time for its novelty and audacity. It also created a new trend in the community because arrested activists could save hard-earned money by refusing to pay fines. This also created problems for civic authorities because of the problem of overcrowding in jails. This group of nine students became famous as the Friendship Nine in later years. It can be argued that the leadership potential developed during Mr. McCullough’s formative years in Emmett Scott. Mr. Foster also said that the school also actively promoted sports and had a strong athletics and football team. “Emmett Scott High School in Rock Hill supplied many great moments to its fans, but its football history ended when it, like many other traditionally black high schools, was merged with a white school in 1970.” (Press release, 2008). Mr. Foster also took pains to personally visit parents and discuss the problems and progress of the students. According to him, the school’s success and popularity were partly due to the cooperation shown by the community. Resources were limited, and the school even had to use hand-me-down books from white schools. Both these are in agreement with the views of Vanessa Siddle-Walker, mentioned earlier in the paper. Apart from some random acts of mischief and discipline, school life was much better than it was found in many blacks-only schools.

Betty Richardson was incidentally the last valedictorian of Emmett Scott High School in 1970. She refused to join an integrated school when the choice was offered to her. According to her, “I felt that the community was happy that I stayed and many people—teachers, minister, and thanked me for staying.” (Interview with Betty Richardson). The book Along Freedom Road (discussed earlier) also discusses the same point when it says that black communities opposed desegregation methods in favor of retaining their own schools. Another advantage, according to her, was that the whole school was like a close-knit community. Most of her teachers knew Betty and her family well. She talks about a Mr. Brown, one of her teachers. “or he’d joke with us because he knew my father, and he always joked that my father told him that he could whip us or something like that. He joked with me like that all through high school”. Mr. Robert Parker is much more personal in his views. He mentions the support that he received from ‘Sam,’ as he calls the principal. Mr. Foster’s social skills were praised when Mr. Parker opined that the principal would handle the desegregation process well. “He was someone in the community that everyone respected. When he became principal, many of knew he would make the situation ( desegregation) a better transition”. (Interview with Robert Parker). The school also encouraged other fine arts like music and even had a school band. One example would be rock and funk guitarist Johnny King who started playing when he was at Emmett Scott. “King, who recorded a gold record with the funk and disco group Fatback in 1979, will be recognized Friday – along with three other Carolinians – with the 7th Annual Medal of Honor in the Arts from Winthrop University.” http://www.charlotteobserver.com/352/story/259634.html. It can be concluded that the social atmosphere was very good in the school. Both of them did not mention any incidents of racial hatred within school life.

Principal’s Perception on his role as an educator at Emmett Scott High School

Mr. Sam Foster stated that he was elated to have been selected and supported as the Principal of Emmett Scott High Scholl. His own personal view of the school can be reflected from the following statement – “Emmett Scott was a place that I saw like my own High School in Chester. It was an honor, and I was over elated to be chosen as the Principal and to be supported by the Community”. (Interview with Sam Foster). The community in all relevant and conflicting situations had supported him. It is interesting to note that Mr. Foster was not too keen on taking up the job because he did not feel qualified enough for the job. He initially refused the offer from his superintendent but was persuaded to accept because of his superior’s insistence and belief in his capabilities. In Foster’s own words, “And I told him that I had no interest in going to Emmett Scott because I didn’t have any high school orientation and was really not interested in it, and he told me that that was alright. But about two to three weeks later, he called me back and said, “Sam, we really need you to go to Emmett Scott High School for these last two years. You know we have plans to build a new high school, and you oughtta provide yourself with some flexibility.” (Interview with Sam Foster). Anyhow, the action was totally justified by the way in which Foster conducted himself during the last years of the Emmett Scott High School. He performed all his duties at the school as if he was the owner of Emmett Scott High School. He firmly believed that the studentship at Emmett Scott High School was a great opportunity to learn about leadership and develop leadership qualities, which many students missed by joining other schools like Rock Hill High School. His experience as a Principal for two years was quite memorable, and he was of the opinion that Emmett Scott had the best teachers than any other school in the city. He would have recommended Emmett Scott as an ideal school for the Black kids for their best education if the school had been in operation. He had a bitter experience in his second year when Freedom of Choose poached some of the best teachers and students. He remembered that as a tribute to the efforts put forward by the teachers and principal at Emmett Scott High School, the parents always had respect and loyalty towards them. The teachers and principal had visited the homes of students to enquire about their welfare and to know whether they had any grievances at school. It was a successful and effective effort that they had been revered by the students, their families, and the society at large. The people in the city had treated the teachers and principal as their role models and paid homage to them on all occasions. He specifically mentions the challenges he faced during the desegregation period. “I guess Terrence, one of the greatest challenges would have been that some of the students whose parents were more involved in the process perhaps, had taken some of their children out of Emmett Scott, who had good academic backgrounds, and under the freedom of choice plan, those kids were at Rock Hill High.” (Interview with Sam Foster). This situation would have in a way affected the quality of the students that remained. But even then he was optimistic about the whole issue. “And so the academics at Emmett Scott were beginning in some measure, being a little bit diminished. But it was still a very, very viable place for black kids to learn”. (Interview with Sam Foster). There were other challenges as well. Sometimes the Foster would ask a person who just walked into the school in what way he may be assisted. “Can I help you?” “Well, I just came in to use the bathroom.” And so those kinds of things were problems.” (Interview with Sam Foster). Maybe the community saw the school as something that is part of their belonging and did not hesitate to use the facilities. He also had problems with alcoholism among a few students who were part-time wage earners also. “I had students, Terrence, that were in school but who worked at the Bleachery and got paid on Thursday night; didn’t come to school on Friday and was out across the street with alcohol enticing other kids to come out and that kinda thing. So I say that just to give you a gist of the kind of problems that I experienced.” (Interview with Sam Foster). Foster and the other teachers would also tell the students about life after school during that time. Things were very different when compared to the situation today. “You may not ever be able to buy a brand new car. But if you take what earnings you have and you buy a house that you can afford, and you buy a used automobile that provides transportation for you and your family, then ultimately you are really no less man than anybody else because you are making the best of and doing the best with what you’ve been afforded”. (Interview with Sam Foster). This was the attitude that helped the students generate a sense of respect for themselves. About his teachers and their capability, Foster had this to say (apart from what has already been quoted). “There was some teachers, a few of them who went to Rock Hill High to integrate that faculty and ultimately succeeded and retired from public education in the community. So we had, there was faculty that was quite capable. (Interview with Sam Foster). He appeared a little concerned abound the falling standards due to students and teachers leaving the school due to the Freedom of Choice. When asked about how parents viewed the school during the last two years of the school he replied that “That’s an interesting question because I’m not absolutely sure about the answer to that question because you see there was a time that our black parents respected the school.” (Interview with Sam Foster). Sam Foster was a person who genuinely cared for the welfare of the school and its students. It would have been particularly hard and challenging for him to be in charge during the closure of the school. Many of his views have been elaborated elsewhere, and presenting them here would amount to repetition. What matters is that Foster and other teachers managed to maintain the reputation of the school until the very end. But he appears genuinely happy that the dreams of famous civil activists like Martin Luther King had materialized to a large extent through desegregation. This is reflected in his statement to his own son, who studies in a desegregated school. His son, who until then was studying in a segregated school, wanted to continue there. Foster’s reply was, “You need to be over there so that you then understand, as a fourth-grader, that you are better than some of them at doing some things, that you are not as good at some things or something. They are the people that you are going to have to compete with as you grow up, and you need to know something about them.” That’s the position I took.” (Interview with Sam Foster).

Teacher’s views on the education at Emmett Scott High School:

Mr. Robert Parker, the then Chemistry teacher, remembered the school and the events at the school very well. He was the teacher whom the principal supported a lot, Robert said. Also, he remembered that Mr. Sam Foster had many supporters in the community when he became the principal. Many people in the city had believed that the principal could make desegregation a better transition. About the leadership at other schools in the city, the teacher had unsatisfactory opinion only, which he thought, as similar as churches. He also believed in the learning possibilities on leadership at Emmett Scott. The teacher had high expectations of the standard of education at Emmett Scott. He opined that the quality of education at Emmett Scott is as high as Rock Hill, where he was transferred later from Emmett Scott.

Student’s views and perceptions

Betty Richardson, the student and valedictorian at Emmett Scott High School in the year 1970, had a very sincere and loyal opinion about her school. She replied out of her memories that her education at the school was quite a good experience, which she could not have experienced if she had been admitted to Rock Hill for her schooling. She stressed her view that Emmett school was the best at that time to get graduated from. She remembered that many people in that locality were happy with her decision to stay at the school. She wanted to stay at school because she had to participate in many functions, which she heard while she was at Rock Hill. The teachers were so helpful, and spending time with them was really informative and enthusiastic. The teachers who were the seniors of Betty Richardson had taught and prepared them for taking many examinations like NC A&T USC and two Ivy League Schools. She remembered particularly one Mr. Brown who had always teased and witted at her. Mr. Brown knew Betty’s father, and whenever she had done anything wrong, he warned her that he would talk the matter to her father. But, it came to know later that Mr. Brown was joking. Betty’s academic expectations were not just to complete the education; rather, she had to attain a job and indeed be a good citizen. When asked about the memory of the most respectful person, Betty replied that Mr. Cain came to mind more often than any other. Mr. Cain was a psychology teacher and was known for his efficient and effective teaching methodologies. She was disappointed because she wanted very much to be in his class. “And it was widely rumored that he was a great psychology teacher. I just remember being very disappointed that when I got to whatever grade it was – 11th, 12th grade – that I didn’t have him because he was gone to Rock Hill High and we didn’t get him as a psychology teacher”. (Interview with Betty Richardson).

Freedom of Choice and Desegregation

The closing of the Emmett Scott High School brought about mixed emotions among the black community of the area. On the one hand, desegregation was a victory in their struggle for freedom and equality. But the cost that they had to pay was the closing of an iconic institution of the black community in South Carolina. Desegregation and the closure brought forth many narratives and stories from many people associated with the school as well that outside. Mr. Robert Parker does not appear to show any emotion towards the closure. All he says is that “When he became principal, many of knew he would make the situation (desegregation) a better transition.” (Interview with Robert Parker, Conducted by Student). Moreover, all that was mentioned by all the three interviewees were reminiscences about their life with the school. But there were many others who have fond memories of their relationship with their alma mater. A former student Hattie Thompson “said if she could turn the clock backward she’d live her Emmett Scott days all over again.” She reminisces about her former principal. “Our principal Ralph W. McGirt who we called (Ballie), didn’t play around with us. I can remember Ballie’s very quiet and pleasant demeanor, always wearing a smile on his face, and not saying a lot”.


The Emmett Scott High School is still fresh in the minds of many of its former students and teachers. “That’s why more than 300 former students and teachers have joined with other community members to ask the Rock Hill school board to name the city’s new high school in honor of the old Emmett Scott building.” (Stanford, 2004). Care has been taken to see that the matter mentioned in the Counter Narrative is about getting views from those who actually suffer from racism and not those who practice it or are free from it. All the interviews and opinions are from the individuals who worked or attended Emmett Scott High. It is evidenced that Emmett Scott was much better to run and really cared for the overall development of the students. The school taught the students not only academics but also how to live with racism and lack of freedom. It appears that there is a unanimous opinion among all those who associated with the school that is always positive. There are many strong alumni associations that often meet even today. Academically, the school had many competent teachers who managed to teach with much fewer resources than what was available in other schools. Socially, the school community was close-knit, and many of the teachers knew their students and their families personally. The administrators had the vision to include extracurricular activities, sports, leadership development opportunities, and life education in their informal curriculum. Desegregation is good, but the spirit of institutions like Emmett Scott High School should live on and be copied by other organizations.


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