Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Low Country for Black Children – Dropout Nation

Low Country for Black Children – Dropout Nation

Low Country for Black Children
Beyond the presence of former Gov. Nikki Haley and the BMW plant in Spartanburg, South Carolina has always been an unusual state. Yet its racial caste system – and how it keeps Black children from gaining high-quality education – makes it as normal as Wisconsin and Mississippi.
After Europeans arrived, they settled it with enslaved people from the rice growing regions of West Africa, who used their traditional knowledge and skills to turn the Low Country into a major source of food and indigo for the first British Empire. The slave owners, who seldom visited the malarial plantations along the coast, grew rich. The slaves, who survived, remained slaves. Away from the coast, the Piedmont foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains were settled by Scotch-Irish migrants working their way down the Appalachian Mountains.
This immigration pattern can still be seen today in the demographics of the state. The western-most counties are nearly entirely White. Though the coastal counties are now populated by White immigrants from outside the state, the Low Country is still mostly-Black.  
At the beginning of the twentieth century most farms in the center of the state were worked by tenants and sharecroppers, many of whom were White, but most of whom were Black, and they were still the majority of the state’s population. The textile and tobacco factories that were becoming common were the scenes of union organizing alternating with violent strikebreaking against the impoverished workers, Black and White, men and women.
Fitting for the place where Denmark Vesey and others were executed for leading a slave revolt at the beginning of the 19th century, Jim Crow was particularly severe in South Carolina. The Black population disenfranchised, allowed only minimal education. J. E. Swearingen, then the state’s Superintendent of Education, wrote in his 1915 Annual Report: “The Negro . . . cannot remain ignorant without injury to himself, his white neighbors, and to the commonwealth.  [On the other hand, h]is training should fit him to do the work that is open to him.” That year, according to researcher Elspeth Smith-Stuckey, more than 90 percent of the segregated schools for Black children had only one teacher. In 1920, Superintendent Swearingen’s “reform” budget asked for $5 per Black student and $$25 per White student.
The Great Migration saw much of the Black population of the state move north, leaving more than one million descendants of enslaved Africans now living in the state CONTINUE READING: Low Country for Black Children – Dropout Nation

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