A new study by John Rury, a professor of education at the University of Kansas, and Derrick Darby, a professor of philosophy at the University of Michigan, finds that the educational prospects for African Americans improved dramatically immediately after three major wars. The research found significant educational progress for African Americans after the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, and World War II. But in all three cases, a negative reaction against the educational gains of African Americans took place.
Professor Rury states that “there’s a curious thing about these periods of war. Conflicts in which all of society’s resources have to be mobilized to win, what we refer to as ‘total war,’ call for a heightened invocation of national ideals. There are three examples in American history. In such instances of total war, the idea that African-Americans don’t deserve equal rights begins to break down.”
Professors Darby and Rury conclude that “it remains to be seen if comparable progress in the struggle against racism and exploitation of African-Americans can make equally significant progress in the absence of conflict on the scale of total war.”
The research was presented recently at the conference of the International Standing Committee on the History of Education in London.