Greater than Equal

African American Struggles for Schools and Citizenship in North Carolina, 1919-1965

By Sarah Caroline Thuesen

384 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 31 halftones, 1 maps, 10 tables, notes, bibl., index

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-1-4696-5529-1
    Published: May 2019
  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-0-8078-3930-0
    Published: August 2013
  • E-book EPUB ISBN: 978-1-4696-0970-6
    Published: August 2013
  • E-book PDF ISBN: 979-8-8908-8599-9
    Published: August 2013

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Awards & distinctions

North Caroliniana Book Award, North Caroliniana Society

2014 Ragan Old North State Award for Nonfiction, North Carolina Literary and Historical Association

During the half century preceding widespread school integration, black North Carolinians engaged in a dramatic struggle for equal educational opportunity as segregated schooling flourished. Drawing on archival records and oral histories, Sarah Thuesen gives voice to students, parents, teachers, school officials, and civic leaders to reconstruct this high-stakes drama. She explores how African Americans pressed for equality in curricula, higher education, teacher salaries, and school facilities; how white officials co-opted equalization as a means of forestalling integration; and, finally, how black activism for equality evolved into a fight for something "greater than equal"--integrated schools that served as models of civic inclusion.

These battles persisted into the Brown era, mobilized black communities, narrowed material disparities, fostered black school pride, and profoundly shaped the eventual movement for desegregation. Thuesen emphasizes that the remarkable achievements of this activism should not obscure the inherent limitations of a fight for equality in a segregated society. In fact, these unresolved struggles are emblematic of fault lines that developed across the South, and serve as an urgent reminder of the inextricable connections between educational equality, racial diversity, and the achievement of first-class citizenship.

About the Author

Sarah Thuesen teaches history at Guilford College in Greensboro, N.C.
For more information about Sarah Caroline Thuesen, visit the Author Page.


"Recommended. Upper-division undergraduates and above."--Choice

“Thuesen joins a rich and growing literature that embraces the idea of a ‘Long Civil Rights Movement.’”--Journal of Interdisciplinary History

“An outstanding work of scholarship that substantially increases our understanding of the history of education and the long black freedom struggle.”--The North Carolina Historical Review

“Thuesen’s nuanced analysis deepens our understanding of the history of education in North Carolina.”--Journal of American History

“This study of the African American struggle for educational equality is crucial reading for anyone interested in the long civil rights movement, educational reform, or the relationship between school and citizenship. Thuesen’s research is impeccable; her writing is clear; and her arguments are well-grounded in the facts.”--American Historical Review

“A precise and reasoned exploration of this rich and complex history, particularly attentive to a range of black efforts and opinions.”--Journal of Southern History

Multimedia & Links

Read: In a guest post, Thuesen discusses the history and impact of the North Carolina NAACP during an important anniversary. Read "The North Carolina NAACP: 80 Years at the Forefront of Struggles for Equality."

Read In another post, Thuesen explains how North Carolina used the creation and renovation of black schools to resist integration and warns against retreating too early from formal desegregation strategies. Read "Jim Crow’s Roots, Jim Crow’s Remedies."