Camping Apart: A Case Study of African American Boy Scouts in Northeast Texas

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



Date of Award

Fall 2016


The Boy Scouts of America, a Progressive organization, intended to train young men for leadership roles, organized in 1910 and within two years, excluded African American men and boys from joining the youth organization in the South due to legal racial segregation or Jim Crow laws. By the 1930s, the BSA opened membership to African Americans but only according to the local council’s discretion, which the region’s local school segregation plans often determined. In Texas, the NeTseO Trails Council of Paris, Texas, maintained segregation until 1970. African American scoutmasters led segregated troops, which African American donations funded. In the 1960s, scouting in these cities remained segregated, then legal desegregation via an official non-discrimination policy ended de jure segregation in scouting. Yet rather than integrate with white troops, many African Americans abandoned the organization. This thesis evaluates the organization of black scouting, black scouting leadership, and the expansion of black scouting and the development of space for black scouts from 1930 to 1970 in Paris, Texas. This study aims to examine the rise and decline of African American scouting. Scouting membership primarily falls within the middle class. Responsibility for the rise of scout troops in the 1930s fell on the activism of the black middle class and the desire for trained youth leadership. Once the Civil Rights Act of 1964 overhauled federal law to make public discrimination illegal, scouting steadily declined among African Americans. This study analyzes the Boy Scouts of America’s endeavors to build and maintain black scout troops and the decrease of membership due to the changes to American society, which include methods of school desegregation and the migration of the African American middle class out of segregated neighborhoods.


Jessica Wranosky

Subject Categories

Arts and Humanities | History