Rice University Finds Slavery’s Legacy Impacts Today’s Racial Segregation in Schools

Rice-UniversityA new study by researchers at Rice University in Houston, Texas, finds that 150 years after the abolishment of slavery in the United States, its effects are still impacting school racial segregation in the South.

Researchers found a correlation between counties in the South that had the highest percentages of slaves in their population and those that now have the most racial segregation in schools. The main reason for the high levels of educational segregation in these counties is that after the Supreme Court called for the racial integration of public schools, Whites set up private schools in many counties so that their children would not have to attend school with Blacks.

Today, the researchers found that throughout the South the proportion of Black students in public schools in a partiular county is an average of 17 percent higher than the percentage of Whites enrolled in public schools. But in counties where slave populations were the greatest, the racial separation is even greater.

Heather O’Connell, a postdoctoral fellow at the Kinder Institute for Urban Research at Rice University and co-author of the study, said that “our results suggest the legacy of slavery contributes to Black-White education disparities through greater public-private racial segregation.”

Dr. O’Connell went on to say that “understanding the role of our slavery history provides insight into the structural foundations supporting this segregation, which might be valuable to efforts to reverse dangerous trends in school resegregation that have been increasing across the South over the last few decades.”

The article, “How the Legacy of Slavery and Racial Composition Shape Public School Enrollment in the American South,” was coauthored by Robert Reece, a doctoral student at Duke University. It was published on the website of the journal Sociology of Race and Ethnicity and may be accessed here.

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