Jefferson Negro School (Location Key)


In Faulkner's Yoknapatawpha, education, like most aspects of social life, was rigidly segregated - although that racial reality is seldom explicitly acknowledged or described. When Isom talks about what he "learnt in school" in "There Was a Queen" (732), there is no further description of the school he went to. In "Pantaloon in Black" Rider's lynched body is found hanging in a "negro schoolhouse" in the county (252, 147), and curiously, in Intruder in the Dust it is again the idea of a lynching that occasions one of the rare moments in the fictions that make the fact of segregated education explicit: when Gavin Stevens mentions how the threat of a lynch mob has closed the schools in Jefferson, he refers directly to both the "Negro school" in Jefferson that Aleck Sanders attends and the "white school" that Chick Mallison goes to (126). Chick's school is mentioned two other times in that novel, as "the High School" (26) and "the high school" (121), which reminds us that ordinarily there's no need to add the word 'white' - that's the default assumption of the fiction. The only the only time a fiction takes us inside Jefferson's Negro school is in The Mansion, when the white Linda Snopes Kohl returns from her experiences in Greenwich Village and the Spanish Civil War to challenge the Yoknapatawpha's Jim Crow system by going "without invitation or warning, into the Negro grammar and high school" to talk to the students about a plan to improve their education (246). The episode is described at some length. At least, how unhappy her actions make everyone else, including the school's Negro principal, is described, but not the school itself. There is one other mention of this school later in the novel: when the narrative reaches the mid-1940s, the narrator states that "the Negroes now had a newer and better high school building in Jefferson than the white folks had" (385), one reason why the quixotic Linda has "nothing to tilt against now in Jefferson" (385) - this again according to the narrator, although the idea that there's no reason to be concerned about Negro education is a fairly amazing assertion to make in a novel published in 1959, after the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in Brown v Board of Education and at the very time the Jim Crow system throughout the South, including the segregated school system, was under attack from the Civil Rights Movement.

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Jefferson Negro School