The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 102, July 1998 - April, 1999 Page: 116
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116 Southwestern Historical Quarterly July
South and the sources themselves. In spite of these limitations, New Raiments of
Self not only examines a neglected and fascinating topic of Southern history, it
compels all historians--not just social historians--to heed the material culture
of the societies which are being studied. Material culture provides opportunities
to investigate aspects of human behavior and attitudes that are not adequately
addressed through other types of sources.
Ogden, Utah Jodella K. Dyreson
The Empty Schoolhouse: Memories of One-Room Texas Schools. Edited by Luther Bryan
Clegg. (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1997. Pp. xxiii+222.
Illustrations, preface, introduction, epilogue, bibliography, index. ISBN o-
89096-749-0o. $24.95, cloth).
Luther Bryan Clegg's social history of West Texas rural education offers insid-
ers' perspectives on the one- and two-room schools of the era before Gilmer-
Akin. These were the county schools of the now largely defunct "common school
districts," which educated most rural Texans until the "independent school dis-
tricts" expanded their empires after 1950.
In telling his story of the lost world of the early-twentieth-century Texas coun-
tryside, Clegg effectively uses the voices of the former natives. He organizes The
Empty Schoolhouse by topical chapters, which deal with the physical circumstances
of the schools, student transportation, teachers, discipline, methods of class-
room instruction, recreation, and other matters. After a brief introduction to
each chapter, Clegg allows his informants to take center stage in a long
sequence of brief oral histories, which form the bulk of the topical chapter,
much in the manner of oral historian and journalist Studs Terkel.
Rather often, the memoirists have similar things to report about the country
schools they attended or taught in, but they speak in diverse voices, and the
details of their telling are never boring. In the process of sifting through what
the various persons have to say about a certain topic, the reader sometimes goes
beyond Clegg's generalizations to arrive at generalizations of his or her own.
This is one form of historiography that lends itself to creative second-guessing of
The personal accounts in The Empty Schoolhouse are concrete, colorful, de-
tailed, poignant, and memorable, and they describe the lost world of the coun-
tryside as much as they do the rural school. As Clegg well realizes, it could hardly
be otherwise. The rural school served as the epicenter of rural life before the
great exodus to town after World War II. Schools were community centers,
recreation halls, voting places, and many other things for rural Texans, who
once proclaimed that "when the school dies, the community dies."
In truth, the rural communities described by the voices in The Empty School-
house have largely passed away, but-for a while yet-oral historians like Clegg
can still record this time of coal oil lamps, cotton culture, mule-powered agricul-
ture, and the one-room school. Clegg's book is a useful addition to the short list
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 102, July 1998 - April, 1999, periodical, 1999; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101219/m1/141/: accessed May 25, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.