November 28, 2005

Education of "Fences"

Gina brought up a really good point about the education during the era of "Fences." I know it's a little off topic, but I was curious about the background, so I did a little digging.

Before 1940, only about half of the people in the U.S. had completed at least eight years of school, especially in rural communities. After the war education became more important in rural communities as well as urban ones. Millions of soldiers (G.I.s) had a chance to go to college. The GI Bill provided tuition and living assistance and many took advantage of the law. The men who joined the military as teenagers came home after the war as adults. Many had been places and seen things beyond what they ever could have imagined. The nation wanted to thank them for their service. One way Congress decided to do that became known as the G.I. Bill of Rights.

The law gave the following benefits to U.S. soldiers coming home from World War II:
~education and training opportunities
~loan guarantees for a home, farm, or business
~job-finding assistance
~unemployment pay of $20 per week for up to 52 weeks if the veteran couldn't find a job
~priority for building materials for Veterans Administration Hospitals.

For most, the educational opportunities were the most important part of the law. WWII veterans were entitled to one year of full-time training plus time equal to their military service, up to 48 months. The Veterans Administration paid the university, trade school, or employer up to $500 per year for tuition, books, fees and other training costs. Veterans also received a small living allowance while they were in school.

Thousands of veterans used the GI Bill to go to school. Veterans made up 49 percent of U.S. college enrollment in 1947. Nationally, 7.8 million veterans trained at colleges, trade schools and in business and agriculture training programs. Later, the law was changed, in 1952, to help veterans of the Korean War and, in 1966, veterans of the Vietnam War. Although the program ended in 1989, there are similar government programs to help today's military personnel pay for educational expenses and buy a home. In 1949, three times as many college degrees were conferred as in 1940. College became available to the capable rather than the privileged few.

During the fifties, American education underwent dramatic and, for some, world shattering changes. Until 1954, an official policy of "separate but equal" educational opportunities for blacks had been determined to be the correct method to insure that all children in America received an adequate and equal education in the public schools. In 1954, Chief Justice Earl Warren and other members of the Supreme Court wrote in Brown v. the Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas that separate facilities for blacks did not make those facilities equal according to the Constitution. Integration was begun across the nation. In 1956, Autherine J. Lucy successfully enrolled in the University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa. In 1957, Elizabeth Eckford was the first black teenager to enter then all-white Little Rock Central High School, Little Rock, Arkansas. Although integration took place quietly in most towns, the conflict at Central High School in Little Rock was the first of many confrontations in Arkansas which showed that public opinion on this issue was divided.

Posted by KatherineLambert at November 28, 2005 03:06 PM
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