Prevailing over prejudice : a story of race, inequity, and education in Gonzales, Texas

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Morowski, Deborah Lynn, 1959-

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This dissertation traces the history of Edwards High School in Gonzales, Texas, from its origins in the late 1800s through its closure in 1965 and situates Edwards within the larger framework of secondary schooling for African-Americans in Texas. Although more than two hundred high schools for African-Americans existed in Texas for some period by 1947, little is known about these institutions, especially those located in small towns. Schooling for African-Americans following the Civil War was irregular and normally consisted only of elementary grades. As more schools became available, black students received an inequitable share of resources for their education and they did not share in the groundswell of high schools available to white students. Many of the high schools that became available to African-Americans during the first part of the twentieth century were located in urban areas. Little is known of the secondary institutions for African-Americans in the small towns of Texas. This study serves to recount the story of one such school. The study pays particular attention to the students, teachers, and curriculum of Edwards High School, focusing on the years between 1935 and 1965, the year the school closed due to desegregation. Archival materials provided information on student demographics, enrollment and attendance patterns, as well as student participation in activities. Oral history interviews offered a glimpse into the lived experience of those who attended Edwards High. Teachers’ certification records and salary data informed an understanding of Edwards High School’s faculty. The study sheds light on the relationship between teachers and students and between faculty and the larger African-American community in Gonzales. The curriculum of Edwards High changed over time. Changing state classification and accreditation standards provided the impetus for these changes. This examination of Edwards High School informs a greater understanding of secondary education for African-Americans in Texas.