Adam Fairclough’s recent volume A Class of Their Own: Black Teachers in the Segregated South, is a near-definitive treatment of the ambiguities of black teachers under Jim Crow But for some African American parents in New York City during the age of segregation, the Jim Crow schools of the South were preferable to the public schools of New York City.
"Some Negroes Here Send Their Children to Schools in South” headlined an article in the New York Times some 48 years ago, on Aug 30, 1959. The reason? “They are sending their children to segregated schools in the South because of dissatisfaction with school conditions in the city," which included overcrowding, school violence, and the reality that schools in New York City were “virtually segregated.” The numbers of black children living in New York City, going to southern schools was a matter of debate. Some said it was as many as 2,000. Roy Wilkins, executive secretary of the NAACP said it was all bushwa, and doubted there were as fifty children in that category.
Whatever the numbers, the phenomena evidently was real enough. One reason children were sent South was the availability of a network of southern parents, grandparents, and relatives maintained by African Americans in the city in the 1950s. Another reason, not mentioned in the article, is the likelihood that in southern schools, black pupils would have black teachers, which would generally not have been the case in NYC, where the percentage of black teachers in the late 1950s would have been under 5%, and far fewer supervisory personnel. At least in the South, segregated schools were run by blacks. In NYC, so the argument increasingly ran, segregated schools were run by indifferent whites. In any event, the fact that the phenomena of black parents sending children South for education was being discussed, and made its way into the Times in 1959 is a remarkable vote of no-confidence by African Americans in the prospects for integrated education in NYC.