My Tour Through the Asylum
A Southern Integrationist's Memoir
Dufford's efforts in Sumter in the late 1960s garnered national attention, including coverage in the New York Times and the opportunity to take a delegation of his black and white students to Alabama to model successful practices in integration. Dufford credits the evolution of his mindset from segregationist to integrationist to the good influence of two experiences: his service in the U.S. Navy in the 1940s opening his eyes to a larger worldview and his later doctoral training at the University of Florida under nationally recognized professors introducing him to global perspectives of education.
In collaboration with writers Aïda Rogers and Sallie McInerney, Dufford recounts the possibilities that unfold when people work through their differences toward a common good. His story is also a cautionary tale of how progress can be forestalled or undone by those in power when antiquated policies and politics are placed above humanistic principles of fairness and social justice. Drawing the book title and themes from nineteenth-century statesman James Louis Petigru's infamous assessment that South Carolina was "too small to be a republic and too big to be an insane asylum," Dufford offers an insightful, pragmatic, and ultimately hopeful tour through his lived experiences in the courageous, committed service of education and enlightenment.
"Good men vanish, but the good they accomplish often endures. This is a book about place and time and about a man who believed in fairness—a man who hungered for decency and labored to make South Carolina a better place for all people. In part the book is a Sermon from the Lowlands, not a sermon dozy with platitudes but a sermon rich with the treasures of the earth, those things that moth and rust corrupt—classrooms, people, football teams, mill towns, and green hills—those evanescent things that enrich our short lastings and make us love this bruised world."—Sam Pickering, University of Connecticut
"There are some among us who see a need and quickly responds. Bill Dufford is one who stood up to wrongs, whose maturing awareness of racial inequality led him to find solutions where he found unfairness. This book is testament to his journey toward South Carolina's—not only desegregation of schools—but full integration and voice for African American students, a path he had taken for numerous white students throughout his varied career in education. This narrative demonstrates how he inspired, influenced, and blustered his way, realizing a fully integrated, educated student body with fundamental rights and privileges of American society led to cooperation and a more perfect union."—Libby Bernardin, author of The Book of Myth and Layers of Song
"Bill Dufford was born into South Carolina's highly segregated society in 1925 but its arbitrary, unfair, and painful divisions never made sense to him. He turned those doubts inside out, becoming one of the state's most influential educators and leaders of his generation in a time of great change. In turn, Doc transformed many lives of colleagues, teachers, and students who discovered the same passion for fairness and human decency that has marked this good man's life. This is a story of redemption and a heroic journey."—Bud Ferillo, South Carolina Collaborative for Race and Reconciliation, University of South Carolina
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