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Building a New Educational State

Foundations, Schools, and the American South

Building a New Educational State examines the dynamic process of black education reform during the Jim Crow era in North Carolina and Mississippi. Through extensive archival research, Joan Malczewski explores the initiatives of foundations and reformers at the top, the impact of their work at the state and local level, and the agency of southerners—including those in rural black communities—to demonstrate the importance of schooling to political development in the South. Along the way, Malczewski challenges us to reevaluate the relationships among political actors involved in education reform.
            Malczewski presents foundation leaders as self-conscious state builders and policy entrepreneurs who aimed to promote national ideals through a public system of education—efforts they believed were especially critical in the South. Black education was an important component of this national agenda. Through extensive efforts to create a more centralized and standard system of public education aimed at bringing isolated and rural black schools into the public system, schools became important places for expanding the capacity of state and local governance. Schooling provided opportunities to reorganize local communities and augment black agency in the process. When foundations realized they could not unilaterally impose their educational vision on the South, particularly in black communities, they began to collaborate with locals, thereby opening political opportunity in rural areas. Unfortunately, while foundations were effective at developing the institutional configurations necessary for education reform, they were less successful at implementing local programs consistently due to each state’s distinctive political and institutional context.

352 pages | 6 x 9 | © 2016

Education: Education--Economics, Law, Politics

History: American History

Political Science: Public Policy


“Anchored by richly detailed case studies of Mississippi and North Carolina, Malczewski’s Building a New Educational State uncovers the struggles of foundation officials, state and local policy makers, and black educators to deliver educational opportunities to rural blacks in the Jim Crow South. This engagingly written and powerful history makes a significant contribution to our understanding of the role of race, region, and education in American political development.”

Christopher P. Loss, Vanderbilt University

“What impact did foundations have on school reform and black communities in the South? In her impressively researched, compelling argued, and engagingly written book, Malczewski offers important new insights to this question by exploring the ways that foundations acted as state-builders and policy entrepreneurs in the region. In cultivating reform through diverse public officials and non-state actors, including black communities, foundations helped to expand the infrastructure and institutions of public education and empower new political spaces and actors in deliberate and unintended ways. Building a New Educational State offers important contributions to history of education, southern history, African American history, and American political development.”

Tracy L. Steffes, Brown University

“By focusing on the educational contributions made by African Americans and the voluntary sector, Malczewski links the history of education, African American history, and—more broadly—American political development. Her work will be read by scholars across these disciplines and appreciated for its synthetic quality, along with its impressive research and analysis.”

Brian Balogh, University of Virginia, cohost of Backstory with the American History Guys

“Malczewski is to be congratulated for showing us how to bring current interest in connections between the state and schooling to bear on southern school history, and the lessons that southern school history holds for contemporary foundations and policymakers.”

History of Education Quarterly

Table of Contents


1 “The Thrill of This State- Building Work”
2 “Organize in Every Community”
3 “There Are at Least Two Souths”
4 The “Splendid Support” of Private Interests
5 “Working with Them a Step at a Time”
6 Conclusion


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