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Notes on the Concept of Integration
Black Scholar (2012)
  • Ernest Allen, Jr., University of Massachusetts Amherst

Integration was one of those enigmatic notions that crept into the vocabulary of the African American liberation struggle of the twentieth century, which then seemingly turned into a palimpsest, blotting out any trace of its historical origins. A term that "everyone" apparently understood but which most failed to interrogate, integration was commonly perceived as the "inverse" of segregation--which was only true insofar one was willing to reduce each term to a spatial metaphor, with segregation indicating societal "exclusion" and integration signifying "inclusion." This makeshift conceptual simplification was frequently patched over by the drafting of desegregation as an intermediate term standing for the inversion of segregation, with integration now elevated to a more or less utopian concept of how a society sans racial distinctions ought to appear. The purpose of this essay is to trace the Great Depression origins of integration nomenclature, review the sharpening of its parameters in a long-forgotten "integration versus separation" debate, and provide a baseline argument for a more extensive set of questions and answers to come.

  • W. E. B. Du Bois
Publication Date
Spring 2012
Citation Information
Ernest Allen. "Notes on the Concept of Integration" Black Scholar Vol. 42 Iss. 1 (2012)
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