Struggling for voice in a black and white world: Lumbee Indians' segregated educational experience in North Carolina

Heather Kimberly Dial
College of Education, North Caroline State University
July, 2006


This study investigates the North Carolina Lumbee Indians' segregated educational experience in North Carolina from 1885 to 1970. This oral history documents the experiences of the Lumbee Indians in the segregated Indian schools and adds their voices to the general discourse about Indian schools in our nation and to the history of education. The sample for this research included six members of the Lumbee community who experienced education in the segregated Indian schools in Hoke and Robeson Counties of southern North Carolina. My oral history research involved interviews with individuals who experienced the role of teachers, students, and administrators. A network selection sampling procedure was used to select participants. The main data sources were the participants' oral educational histories. Limited archival research (e.g., board of education minutes) supports the final analysis. An analysis method for categorizing and classifying data was employed. The analysis method is similar to the constant comparative method of data analysis.
Major findings show that the Lumbee students not only experienced a culturally supportive education, but also experienced a resource poor environment in the segregated Indian schools. Conversely, desegregation provided increased equity in educational resources and educational opportunities for the Lumbee students which unfortunately resulted in a loss of community, identity, and diminished teacher-student connection. Findings indicate the participants were aware of the role of segregation in the larger societal context. Participants emphasized that their teachers in the Indian schools stressed academic success as a key to elevating students out of poverty, however, my research quest led me to question the quality of learning that the Lumbee received. Currently, Lumbee students not only have low scores on major tests of achievement, but also have high dropout rates. Educators in the schools can use this research to critically examine their curriculum, instruction, practices, and policies.