Make Haste Slowly
Moderates, Conservatives, and School Desegregation in Houston
African American Studies - Texas History
6.125 x 9.25, 248 pp.
12 b&w photos.
Pub Date: 02/01/1999
Centennial Series of the Association of Former Students, Texas A&M University
  cloth
Price:        $38.95 s

978-0-89096-818-5

Published by Texas A&M University Press

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Make Haste Slowly

Moderates, Conservatives, and School Desegregation in Houston

By William Henry Kellar

When faced by the Court-ordered “all deliberate speed” time frame for school desegregation, a fearful Houston school board member urged the city to “make haste slowly,” in order for the school system to receive decisions based on sound judgment and discretion.

Houston, Texas, had what may have been the largest racially segregated “Jim Crow” public school system in the United States when the Supreme Court declared the practice unconstitutional in 1954. Ultimately, helped by members of its business community, Houston did desegregate its public schools and did so peacefully, without making the city a battleground of racial violence.

In Make Haste Slowly, William Henry Kellar provides the first extensive examination of the development of Houston’s racially segregated public school system, the long fight for school desegregation, and the roles played by various community groups, including the HISD Board of Education, in one of the most significant stories of the civil rights era.

Drawing on archival records, HISD School Board minutes, interviews with participants in the process, the oral history collection of the Houston Metropolitan Research Center, and a variety of other sources, Kellar constructs a detailed account of the development of Houston’s segregated public school system and the struggle of Houston’s African American community against the Number Eighty:The Centennial Series of the Association of Former Students, Texas A&M University

oppression of racial discrimination in the city.

Kellar shows that, while Houston desegregated its public school system peacefully, the limited integration that originally occurred served only to delay equal access to HISD schools. Houstonians shifted from a strategy “massive resistance” to one of “massive retreat.” White flight and resegregation transformed both the community and its public schools.

Kellar concludes that forty years after the Brown decision, many of the aspirations that landmark ruling inspired have proven elusive, but the impact of the ruling on Houston has changed the face of that city and the nature of its public education dramatically and in unanticipated ways.

Make Haste Slowly fills a longtime void in the literature on the civil rights era in Texas. Those interested in Texas history and African American history will find this book essential to understanding one of the most reactionary periods in American history.

William Henry Kellar is a professional historian and writer in Houston, who also holds positions as a visiting assistant professor of history and director of the Scholars’ Community Program at the University of Houston.

What Readers Are Saying:

“Historians have published a significant number of books examining the process fo school desegregation in local communities. Texas cities, however have received less attention than have cities in many other southern states. William Henry Kellar’s book helps to find this gap by providing us with our best understanding to date of school desegregation in Houston, home to the country’s largest de jure segregated school system in the 1950s.” --American Historical Review

“. . . well-written and detailed analysis of this facet of the history of the Civil Rights era in Texas, the book will appeal to those interested in Texas history and African American history, and will prove useful in any effort to understand the dynamics of change in American society. . . .” --JASAT

Make Haste Slowly is a valuable account of the schoolboard debates and demographic trends in Houston.” --Journal of American History

“His thorough study of HISD records as well as the reports fo the local press clearly detail the desegregation debate in HISD and, in the process, provides valuable insight into the struggle for civil rights in Texas’ largest city.” --East Texas Historical Association

“Kellar’s treatment of certain issues . . . is presented convincingly.” --History of Education Quarterly

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