Book co-authored by ISWD professor tells new stories of school desegregation through Mississippians’ eyes

Published Wednesday, September 04, 2019

Dr. Jim Adams
Dr. Jim Adams

A new book published by a Mississippi State faculty member reflects on a yet untold perspective of the Civil Rights Era in the Magnolia State.

MSU Professor James H. “Jim” Adams and co-author Natalie G. Adams, a University of Alabama professor, wrote their look at school desegregation in the state with the intention that it will lead to fresh discussion about Mississippi’s public-school system.

“We come from a long line of public school teachers who instilled in us an unwavering commitment to public schools. This book is an extension of their dedication,” Jim Adams said. “We are grateful for their influence and hope the book is a tribute to each of their legacies.”

Seven years of archival research and more than 100 oral history interviews led to “Just Trying to Have School: The Struggle for Desegregation in Mississippi,” published in 2018 by University Press of Mississippi. The book features oral histories of more than 100 parents, students, community leaders, school board members, principals and superintendents who worked during desegregation of Mississippi’s schools.

A professor in MSU’s Department of Instructional Systems and Workforce Development, Jim Adams was a ninth-grader at DeKalb High School during the first year of school desegregation in Kemper County. Natalie, a professor of social and cultural studies in education at UA, was a third-grader in 1970 when her elementary school in rural north Louisiana was desegregated. Their parents were white educators who made the decision to leave their children in public schools at a time when many of their friends were fleeing to newly opened private academies.

Jim Adams said that while several teachers and students have written personal memoirs about their experiences in a particular locale during this time period, no other book has been written combining the voices of educators, parents and students statewide.

Sid Salter, a longtime Mississippi journalist who now serves as MSU’s chief communications officer and director of public affairs, said the book examines and preserves “the history of one of the most important and impactful events of the previous century in Mississippi and the Deep South.”

In reviewing the book, Salter writes, “Massive school desegregation was a national political issue, but in Mississippi it was intensely personal and produced far-reaching changes in the state’s communities. The unsung heroes of this dramatic social and educational transformation were the teachers and administrators―both black and white―in Mississippi’s public school districts. The Adamses have lovingly and faithfully captured this poignant narrative in this exemplary book.”

Jim Adams teaches MSU courses such as Diversity in Work and Educational Environments and History and Philosophy of Vocational and Technical Education with research interests in post-secondary educational programs for marginalized students, diversity issues in the work place, work in a post-industrial society, GED programs in high school settings, multicultural education in higher education, and leadership issues in higher education settings. He has published articles in the Journal of Career and Technical Education, International Journal of Instructional Media, Journal of Interactive Learning Research, and Journal of Critical Education Policy Studies.

Natalie Adams also serves as director of the New College interdisciplinary liberal arts program at UA. She is co-author of “Cheerleader! An American Icon” and co-editor of “Geographies of Girlhood: Identities In-Between.”

Copies of “Just Trying to Have School” are available from the University Press of Mississippi at http://www.upress.state.ms.us/books/2186 or from other online booksellers.