“A better understanding between the races”: Southern educational initiatives to improve race relations between World War I and World War II
Lipson, Steven Jay
From the 1920s to the 1940s, 350 colleges and more than 2,000 public schools throughout the South were using in their courses curricular materials designed to stress African-American achievements and point out the many injustices Southern blacks still endured. These efforts were initiated by the Commission on Interracial Cooperation (CIC), the dominant mouthpiece for white Southern liberal sentiment, and its Educational Director Robert Burns Eleazer. In contrast to those scholars who took a narrow view of the CIC’s mission and effectiveness, this paper will argue that the far-reaching educational work of the Commission demonstrates that the CIC undertook an ambitious campaign to fundamentally reshape Southern society. Through thorough but judicious marshalling of the latest scientific evidence on race relations, Eleazer produced curricular materials whose wide circulation in public schools and colleges across the South appeared to result in real and positive advancements in racial understanding among Southern students from the 1920s through at least the 1940s.