Doctoral Dissertations

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Major Professor

Barbara Thayer-Bacon

Committee Members

Allison D. Anders, Diana Moyer, Robert K. Kronick, Lynn Sacco


This Cultural Studies dissertation comes from extended research on three East Tennessee school districts as they attempted to integrate after the Supreme Court mandated an end to segregation in the United States. The study focuses on the experiences of former students of Austin High School, the segregated black school on the eastern edge of Knoxville, Tennessee. From looking at their schooling experiences in the context of the area's failed attempts to integrate, I address the myriad ways these participants and white citizens took up the term community to advance or block integration efforts. Community, I argue from this research, is a socially constructed discourse situated in a specific context of power that can simultaneously empower and oppress targeted groups in its creation. This study that centers on the stories of alumni of Austin High shows the negotiation of local power as defined through the efforts to maintain geographically separate spaces for each race in their schools and neighborhoods. In my research, I developed a methodology called historical ethnography to address these questions. By employing a historical ethnographic approach, I attempted to show that the history of education must take into account that schooling is not an experience lived and remembered, but one that is continually relived in every act of remembering. Therefore, it is not a standard historical account of a segregated school. It is an interdisciplinary exploration of how power can be recreated in schools through claims to community and how my participants engaged that power still in recounting their own school experiences.

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