This Is AuburnElectronic Theses and Dissertations

School Desegregation: Participant Perceptions of a Freedom of Choice Initiative in the South




Herring, Cristen Medora Pratt

Type of Degree



Education Foundation, Leadership, and Technology


This study investigated one school system’s implementation of a Freedom of Choice plan to desegregate its public schools prior to being mandated to do so. The research examined the process to implement a Freedom of Choice plan, the advocates and positive aspects of Freedom of Choice, as well as the hindrances and negative aspects of a Freedom of Choice plan. This historical case study allows the story of public school desegregation to be told from the perspective of nine participants who were actively involved as either a student, a teacher, or as an administrator in a Freedom of Choice initiative during the 1960’s in one southern town. Previous research captures the resistance, and often times violent reactions, of many communities from the southern United States as efforts were made to desegregate public schools. This study sought to provide significant information to the body of work related to public school integration and to outline efforts made in one community to desegregate schools with little controversy. The findings of this research indicated that a Freedom of Choice plan was successfully implemented in the community of this study. While some negativity surrounding the Freedom of Choice implementation did exist, the overall effort was successfully facilitated by strong leadership, collaboration, and community support. The research allows for a previously untold story to be recorded. This story provided implications for future practice and recommendations for further research.