Butler Center for Arkansas Studies 100 Rock Street Little Rock, Arkansas, 72201 (501) 320-5700
Butler Center for Arkansas Studies
Shelton, William T., 1920-
William T. Shelton Desegregation Materials
5.0 Linear feet
The collection includes journalistic material associated with the reportage of desegregation of public schools in the South.
The materials are organized chronologically within their grouping.
Scope and Contents
Shelton's desegregation materials include an item of correspondence, an oral history, a transcript, SERS reports, typescripts, and Southern School News newspapers covering the time period of September 1954 to June 1968. The reports, for the most part, provide a timely state-by-state statistical analysis of the segregation-desegregation condition. Shelton's typescripts are his, thus Arkansas's, contribution to the
Southern School News. Shelton's coverage, like the newspaper's, begins with a monthly summary of desegregation events in general, then is broken into categories such as: School Boards and Schoolmen, Legal Action, Community Action, Legislative Action, Political Action, What They Say (excerpts from national papers on state events and actions concerning desegregation), and In The Colleges.
The Southern Regional Council (SRC) stated in 1949 that, during the previous decade, newspapers nationwide had matured in their coverage of racial news. Regardless, the SRC recognized that the Southern press, in general, lagged in this aspect. Although the Southern newspapers no longer engaged in the race baiting of previous decades, their journalistic vogue of black coverage became the blind eye. Southern journalists largely ignored blacks unless the Negro in question committed a crime against whites, was executed, or became a fugitive. Ira B. Harkey, editor and publisher of the Pascagoula Chronicle (MS), said succinctly "the only time a black man ever got into the paper was if he were in trouble." At best, in most of the South, mainstream newspapers gave cursory acknowledgement to black news under the headings such as "Negro News." Jim Crow lived in and prospered in the American press. The Brown v. Board of Education decision of 1954 stating that segregation in schools was unconstitutional and must change "with all deliberate speed" was an apocalyptic moment to many across the country; ways of life would have to change. To many others this decision heralded a legal promise of justice and equality. David R. Davies, in his dissertation, The Press and Civil Rights, asserts that "race relations and school desegregation (transformed) into one of the most important running news stories of the postwar years." A group of Southern newspaper editors realized that most newspapers were unprepared to cover racial issues dispassionately and substantially.
With the support of the Ford Foundation, these editors created the Southern Education Reporting Service (SERS), based in Nashville, Tennessee. Top newspapermen and women of the District of Columbia and 17 southern and Border States became correspondents to the SERS newspaper,
Southern School News. C. A. McKnight, Executive Director, asserts in the first issue of the
Southern School News that their goal is "to tell the story, factually and objectively, of what happens to education" as a result of the
Brown v. Board of Education decision. William T. Shelton, city editor of the
Arkansas Gazette, served as Arkansas's correspondent to the SERS paper.
Born in Jonesboro, Arkansas, in 1920, Shelton began his newspaper career in the Depression years of the 1930s. He states, "By the time I was in the eleventh grade, I was writing up high school news and stuff like that for the
Jonesboro Daily Tribune." After serving as a pilot in the Army Air Corps in World War II, Shelton studied journalism at the University of Arkansas, then at Columbia Graduate School of Journalism. Soon he began working for the
Arkansas Gazette; he was the city editor of the paper from 1952 until 1985.
This record series is indexed under the following controlled access subject terms.
School integration -- Arkansas.
Segregation and the press.
Shelton, William T., 1920-
Southern Education Reporting Service.
Restrictions on Access
Unrestricted access, except when noted.
Restrictions on Use
Non-circulating, in-house use only.
William T. Shelton Desegregation Materials, MSS 97-03, Butler Center for Arkansas Studies, Arkansas Studies Institute