Although the psychology of race in America has been the subject of significant research, psychological science in the principal region of racial interaction before Brown v. Board of Education-the South-has received little attention. This article argues that the introduction of psychological ideas about children by means of school reform in the South during the half-century before the Brown decision established a cultural foundation for both Black resistance to segregated schools and White determination to preserve them. In 1900, southern children and their schools were an afterthought in a culture more committed to tradition and racial stability than innovation and individual achievement. The advent of northern philanthropy, however, brought with it a new psychology of childhood. Although the reformers did not intend to subvert segregation, their premises downplayed natural endowment, including racial inheritance, and favored concepts highlighting nurture: that personality is developmental, childhood foundational, and adversity detrimental. Decades of discussion of children in their learning environment gave southern Blacks a rationale for protest and Whites a logical defense for conservative reaction.
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