University of Mississippi Visual Collections
John Elon Phay Collection

Donated in 1984, the John Elon Phay collection contains photographic images of the segregated Mississippi public school system taken during the 1940s and 1950s. These Kodachrome slides were taken as part of surveys performed in the mid-1950s by the Bureau of Educational Research at the University of Mississippi.

The 1953 Extraordinary Session of the Mississippi State Legislature was devoted primarily to rewriting the school laws. As part of this legislation, the State Legislature created the State Educational Finance Commission. Under this Commission, each county submitted a plan for reorganization or reconstitution of its school system. Prior to submitting this plan each school was required to have a survey of its schools.

As part of the evaluation process, the Bureau was required to take photographs of the schools. The survey staff took both black and white photographs and Kodachrome color slides. The slides in this exhibit were shown during public meetings held during the survey period.

The assumption during the creation of these surveys was that counties planned to maintain a segregated school system and to do so by legal means. Facilities and educational opportunities for both races would be equal.

The collection housed at the Department of Archives and Special Collections at the University of Mississippi includes over 2200 slides of approximately 550 schools in Benton, Clay, Grenada, Holmes, Jones, Panola, Prentiss, Quitman, Tallahatchie, Union, and Yalobusha counties.

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