Walter C. Stern

Position title: Race, Ethnicity, and Indigeneity Fellow (2023-2024)

Pronouns: He/him

Vilas Associate Professor, Educational Policy Studies; Affiliate, Department of History, UW–Madison

This is a headshot of a man standing in front of trees and water.

A Legal Lynching in Louisiana: Gary Tyler and The Criminalization of Black Students during Desegregation

African Americans southerners premised their campaigns against segregated schooling on the notion that the state must safeguard their children’s rights and safety. Yet Black children’s vulnerability increased as southern districts implemented desegregation during the 1960s and 1970s. Notably, Black students experienced racially disparate discipline that resulted in high rates of suspensions and school-based arrests. This book project explores how and why this occurred and its consequences for Black youth. It does so through the experiences of Gary Tyler, a Black teenager who was imprisoned for nearly 42 years after being wrongfully convicted of fatally shooting a white student at their desegregating Louisiana high school in 1974.

Walter C. Stern is Vilas Associate Professor of Educational Policy Studies and History at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. His research examines intersections between racism, state action, and ordinary people’s lives in the nineteenth- and twentieth-century United States, with a focus on public schools and the metropolitan South. He is the author of Race & Education in New Orleans: Creating the Segregated City, 1764-1960, which received the 2018 Williams Prize for the best book on Louisiana history. His articles and essays have appeared in the Journal of Southern History, Journal of African American History, Journal of Urban History, and Teachers College Record.