Last Updated 16 Jun 2020

Desegragation of Schools

Category School
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President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation freed the black people from the bondage of slavery. Shortly after Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, Congress passed three Constitutional amendments and four Civil Rights acts securing Negro rights. In 1896, Plessy v. Ferguson, the Supreme Court ruled that it was not wrong for a state to use discriminatory seating practices on public transportation and that each state may require segregation on public transportation. It sustained the transportation law that ordered separate but equal transportation facilities for blacks and whites.

The Supreme Court went on to make several other significant decisions sanctioning racial segregation in other circumstances and in other places. The Supreme Court subsequently ruled to authorize racially segregated schools. Prior to the Brown decision, there were significant Supreme Court decisions in this country in the 1930’s and the 1940’s through which blacks gained important civil rights. Blacks were admitted to white Law Schools. White Primaries were outlawed. Racially restrictive covenants in real estate sales were voided. In 1954, the renowned case, Brown v. Board of Education was decided.

The Supreme Court declared segregated schools were inherently unequal and therefore unconstitutional. It called for the elimination of discrimination in all public schools. Because the Supreme Court focused on the race issue in public schools, so did the nation. In 1955, Brown v. Board of Education II was decided. The court ruled that blacks need not be immediately admitted to pubic schools on a racially nondiscriminatory basis, but that school boards should eliminate segregation “with all deliberate speed. ” In the South, there was massive resistance to the desegregation of schools.

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For the next ten years after the Brown I and II decisions the Supreme Court took an inconspicuous position. In 1965-1966 Judge John Minor Wisdom from the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals made three decisions that transformed the face of school desegregation law. The three cases were Singleton v. Jackson I and II and U. S. v. Jefferson County Board of Education. The critical premise set forth in these decisions was that school boards had a positive duty to integrate, not merely to stop segregating. U. S. v. Jefferson County Board of Education was one of the most important school desegregation decisions.

It was a remedial decree which outlined in detail specifically how school districts were to equalize educational opportunity. This decision foretold of a level of judicial involvement in local education that would have been unimaginable at the time of the Brown decisions. In 1968, the U. S. Supreme Court decided in Green v. County School Board that the school board had the responsibility of affirmative action integration and that it must assume that responsibility immediately. The Court said that school boards would be judged on performance, not on promises or paper.

The performance of school boards was to rely on statistical evidence. In 1969, the issue of faculty assignments was addressed in the Supreme Court in U. S. v. Montgomery County (Alabama) Board of Education. The Court set forth a racial ratio of teachers in the school district using quantitative standards. This decision marked the first time the Supreme Court sanctioned the inclusion of affirmative numerical goals in a school desegregation remedy. It was an overdue attempt to give the lower courts and school boards positive guidance as to what faculty desegregation required.

Also in 1969, Alexander v. Holmes (Mississippi) Board of Education ordered school systems to integrate no later than February 1970. Eventually, this deadline was extended for years. In that same year the Court, in Carter v. West Feliciana Parish School Board, scolded the school board for delaying student desegregation. In 1970, the Supreme Court decided Swann v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg (Virginia) Board of Education. This was the first decision made by the Supreme Court during the Nixon administration with the two new Chief Justices who were Nixon appointees.

In this first decision, written by Chief Justice Warren E. Burger, one of President Nixon’s nominees, the court found Charlotte-Mecklenburg out of compliance with Green. The Court adopted the Finger Plan, a plan proposed by Dr. John Finger, an expert witness in the case selected by the Court. The Finger Plan was to result in schools throughout the system ranging, ideally, between nine and thirty eight percent black enrollment. These percentages were not an absolute, but a goal. It involved busing an additional thirteen thousand students and buying over one hundred new school buses.

Start up costs to implement this plan were over one million dollars, with annual operating expenses of over one half of a million dollars. Swann v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg laid the framework for all future court decisions involving busing. It also implemented the Green decision. Basically, it said that if a school district is found to be in constitutional violation, an appropriate remedy must be implemented. In 1974, the Swann case was closed, leaving the constitutional operation of the schools to the Board of Education.

In 1970, Senator John Stennis of Mississippi and other Southern Senators proposed that new federal desegregation guidelines be enforced uniformly across the country. The Stennis amendment was adopted by the Senate. During the 1960’s, urban schools in the North and the South were untouched by the Courts. The Courts had been concentrating on the rural South. The 1960’s had seen a great migration of rural Southern blacks to Northern cities. In the early 1960’s, three fourths of all blacks in the United States lived in urban areas. The north had its own way of distancing blacks, ghettos.

In the South, there was de jure segregation of schools, which is segregation of schools required by law. In the North, there was defacto segregation of schools, which is segregation of schools due to residential segregation. In 1972, the Supreme Court heard its first northern and western case, Keyes v. School District No. 1 (Denver, Colorado). The court found the school district guilty of subtle racism. The remedy that the Court implemented was the busing of six thousand more students. Many elementary school students went one half day to a segregated school and one half day to an integrated school.

In 1974, Federal District Court Judge Garrity found that the Boston, Massachusetts School Committee was implementing a systematic program of segregation affecting all students, teachers and schools. The Court imposed the remedy of mandatory busing. This order created chaos and social upheaval in the city of Boston. In 1974, Milliken v. Bradley posed a question of remedy to the Supreme Court. The Federal District Court had found that the city of Detroit, Michigan was obstructing integration. The question before the Court was could the Court use suburban students to desegregate inner city schools.

The Court’s decision was that suburban students could not be used to desegregate inner city schools. It was a decision that gave priority to educational democracy over school integration. This decision upheld the right of the middle and upper classes, which are predominantly white, to flee the inner city to the suburbs and to educate their children in suburban schools. The segregation that occurred in Detroit’s urban school system was the result of segregated housing practices. This was the first major defeat of the pro-integrationist forces in the Supreme Court.

It was the beginning of a continuing trend in the Supreme Court. School desegregation is unfinished business. The desegregation of schools has not significantly improved black students’ achievements, nor has it eliminated segregation in American society as a whole. Racism and prejudice continue to be a major problem in our country. Many problems with our current methods of desegregation of schools have become apparent. However, the United States is relatively inexperienced at the business of racial equality, since the desegregation of schools began just thirty four years ago with the Supreme Court’s decision in Brown v.

Board of Education. There are many points that need to be refined. Desegregated schools send a message of victory to the black community, that of equal protection under the law. However, community support of school desegregation as well as the attitudinal makeup of the individual and the influence of his family and peers are important factors that influence whether or not a child feels a sense of power. A child’s self esteem can be affected either positively or adversely by attendance at a desegregated school.

A child’s self esteem depends on his social interactions and reflects others perceptions of him and of the organizations with which he is affiliated. A child’s self esteem is not effectively raised by attendance at a racially mixed school with a poor reputation, nor is it raised by attendance at a high status school where the child is looked down upon. Schools that are racially mixed and are located in naturally desegregated neighborhoods foster and heighten a child’s self esteem. A person’s sense of powerlessness is closely related to their comparison of their own deprivation as compared to others.

A segregated black child has less awareness of his family’s low status in the mainstream of society than in a desegregated school where the student will become aware of how deprived he is in comparison to other students. The expectations of parents, teachers and friends also motivate the child. A child sees his performance through their eyes. He is also motivated by their expectations for him. In the ghetto school expectations are low. In a desegregated school, expectations are much higher, but not necessarily for the black, or bused, students.

Higher teacher expectations can motivate students in any school. Assimilation of middle class ideas and values depends on how much a child is exposed to them. This is more an integration of the social classes than of race. The climate of the integrated group is an important factor in the assimilation of new values. A desegregated school does provide for exposure to different value systems. Attendance at a desegregated school not only exposes a child to different value systems but also changes his attitudes towards other races and classes. This is a process that takes time.

Contact with other social classes of people and races of people and the knowledge of and familiarity with one another is the basis for overcoming prejudice. Prejudice is the pre-judgement, positive or negative, of another person on the basis of that person’s appearance, sex, race, ethnic background or any particular belief. As well as acquainting students with the history of school desegregation, I also wish to educate students as to the extreme prejudice and discrimination that blacks in the United States have been subjected to throughout our history. I want the students to have a knowledge of the segregation laws, also called Jim Crow Laws.

This is a very painful part of our heritage that is omitted from history textbooks. I feel our inner city students should be educated about the history of their ancestors and about the continuing journey of blacks from slavery to equality. Segregation is the method of physically separating people by race. It was developed by whites after slavery was abolished with the purpose of confining and controlling blacks. In the North, slavery was abolished by the 1830’s. The free northern blacks could not be bought or sold. They could not be separated from their families. They couldn’t be legally made to work without compensation.

However, the blacks were by no means equal to the whites. The doctrine of White Supremacy was universally accepted. Northerners made sure blacks understood their status. One of the major ways the blacks were confined was through segregation laws. In the South, the first place segregation emerged was in the cities. The institution of slavery in Southern cities found blacks and whites living in the same house, divided only by a wall. This was unlike the rural South, where slaves lived in separate houses from their masters. The purpose of segregation was the convenience of the masters and the control of the slaves.

After the Civil War, Lincoln declared in his Emancipation Proclamation that all slaves were freed. Immediately afterwards, blacks and whites established physical and social distance between themselves. After the Emancipation, the states instituted the Black Codes, which imposed restrictive conditions on blacks that virtually reinslaved them. The Jim Crow Laws were instituted on the railroads. These Black Codes remained in effect until the First Reconstruction, a period of black Civil Rights. The First Reconstruction was ushered in by the Civil Rights Act of 1866, the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution and the Reconstruction Act of 1867.

By the mid-1870’s public attitude had undergone a gradual change. There was a resumption of the policies of White Supremacy. The Redemption was the return of old Southern attitudes. The black peoples’ stigma from slavery stopped them from fighting for their civil rights, if they were not given to them. During this period, the platform of the Southern upper class white conservatives was that blacks were inferior but that they should not be subject to segregation or humiliation. Squeamishness about contact with blacks was thought to be a lower class white, or “cracker”, attitude.

During this period, racism was expressed in the United States Supreme Court decisions. Between 1873 and 1898, three cases drastically limited black privileges and immunities. These cases were the Slaughterhouse Cases of 1873, U. S. v. Reese and U. S. v. Cruikshank. The Civil Rights Cases of 1883 held that the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution gave Congress the power to restrain states but not individuals from acts of racial discrimination and segregation. In 1896, in Plessy v. Ferguson, the court decided that the separate but equal doctrine was justification for segregation.

The turn of the century was a new era of racism, spurred on by recent Supreme Court decisions. There was a renewal of the White Supremacy doctrine. When the United States acquired the Phillipines, Cuba and Hawaii we had under our jurisdiction eight million people of a dark race. Attitudes of racism against these dark-skinned people included American blacks. This period of history was marked by severe segregation laws and discriminatory practices. One such practice was the disfranchisement of the Negro. The standard procedure for disfranchisement of blacks was to set up barriers for voting through which only white men could squeeze.

A voter was required to meet property and literacy qualifications. There were loopholes for underprivileged whites, such as the understanding clause, the grandfather clause and the good character clause. Before a citizen could vote, he was also required to pay a poll tax, which was a very reliable means of defranchising blacks and objectionable whites. At this time, the White Primary democratized nominations and party control. The White Primary excluded minorities and became a white man’s club. At this time, propaganda about negro crimes, such as arrogance, surly manners and impertinence was spread. Race relations deteriorated.

White mobs committed ruthless acts of aggression against blacks. They set fires, wounded, lynched and murdered blacks. Many Jim Crow Laws were enacted in the years between 1900 and 1920. Up until 1900, the only Jim Crow Law on the books in most Southern states was the law segregating first class railroad cars. This law was expanded to include street cars, steamboats and second class railroad cars. In Southern states , signs were erected that read “Whites Only” and “Colored Only”. These signs were at the entrances and exits to public buildings, theaters, boarding houses, toilets, drinking fountains, waiting rooms and ticket windows.

The South Carolina Code of 1915 prohibited textile factories from permitting laborers of different races to work in the same room, or use the same entrance, pay windows, exits, doors, lavatories, drinking water, pails, cups or glasses. There was Jim Crow Unionism which excluded blacks from jobs. State institutions, such as hospitals, had segregation laws. Only negro nurses were allowed to care for negro patients. Prisons were also segregated, as were homes for the aged, the indigent and the blind. Blacks were prohibited from public parks by the Separate Park Laws of Georgia, 1905.

In Louisiana,a law was passed in 1914 segregating blacks and whites at circus and tent shows. In Birmingham, Alabama a law was passed decreeing that the races must be distinctly separated and must be at least twenty five feet apart from one another in any room, hall, theater, picture house, auditorium, yard, crowd, ballpark or any other outdoor place. In 1910, five patterns of residential segregation had emerged in the South. The first was in Baltimore, Maryland. It designated all white and all negro blocks. This pattern was copied in Atlanta, Georgia.

The second pattern of residential segregation was in the Chesapeake Bay area cities of Roanoke and Portsmouth, Virginia. The city council was authorized to divide territories into segregated districts and to prohibit either race from living in the other’s district. A third pattern emerged in Richmond, Virginia. Blocks throughout the city were designated black or white, according to the majority of residents. Persons were forbidden to live in any block where residents are occupied by those with whom the person is forbidden to intermarry. The fourth pattern, in Norfolk, Virginia applied to both mixed and unmixed blocks.

It fixed the color status by ownership as well as occupancy. The fifth pattern of residential segregation emerged in New Orleans, Louisiana. The law required persons of either race to secure consent of the majority of persons living in an area before establishing residence there. In 1917, these patterns of residential segregation were declared unlawful by the Supreme Court. The most successful attempt to circumvent the Court’s decision was the policy of Restrictive Covenant which was a private contract limiting the sale of property in an area to purchasers of the favored race.

The most prevalent and widespread segregation was the consequence of the blacks’ economic status. This was the black ghetto, or slum in every Southern city. Smaller towns excluded black residents completely by making it known that their presence would not be tolerated. On the other hand, thirty towns in the South were inhabited exclusively by blacks. Other Jim Crow Laws regulating a variety of negro activities were enacted during this period in history. In 1909 in Mobile, Alabama, a curfew law required blacks to be off the streets by 10 p. m.

In 1915, the Oklahoma State Legislature required the telephone company to maintain separate booths for blacks and whites. In North Carolina and Florida, public schools were required to keep the textbooks of one race separate from those used by the other. Florida specified separation even while school books were in storage. South Carolina segregated schools into a third caste, with separate schools for mulatto children. In Atlanta, Georgia Jim Crow bibles were provided for negro witnesses in court. There were also Jim Crow elevators for negroes in buildings.

The prevalent belief in our country at this time, during this Redemption, was that segregation was inflexible and innate. It was also believed that legislation could not change mores. The Jim Crow Laws of this period didn’t assign blacks a fixed status. They were aggressive and destructive laws that pushed the negro further down. With World War 1, the blacks had new hope for a restoration of their rights. Many blacks joined the armed forces. Many blacks moved North where high wages were being paid in the war industry. The blacks’ participation in the war for democracy raised the demand for mor democracy for them on the home front.

However, the post-War Era saw the racial policies of the South imitated in the North. White laborers did not like competition from blacks. They excluded blacks from unions and pushed blacks from the more desirable jobs in industry, federal employment and crafts. In the gid-1920’s the membership of the Ku Klux Klan reached five million. In the 1920’s and the 1930’s, more Jim Crow Laws were passed. In 1926 in Atlanta, Georgia, a law was passed that forbade barbers to serve women or children under age fourteen. At that time, All barbers were black.

Four states, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama and Georgia had laws requiring Jim Crow taxis. White passengers were only driven by white taxi drivers. Black passengers were only to be driven by black taxi drivers. In 1944, the Virginia Legislature passed a law requiring separate waiting rooms and other facilities at airports. In 1932, a law was passed in Atlanta, Georgia prohibiting amateur baseball clubs of different races from playing within two blocks of each other. In 1933, Texas prohibited blacks and whites from boxing with each other. In 1937, the state of Arkansas segregated race tracks and gaming establishments.

In 1935, Oklahoma segregated both races while fishing and boating. In 1930, a law in Birmingham, Alabama made it unlawful for black and whites to play together or keep company with one another. In the 1930’s, racial tensions lessened. A new liberal administration was making a sincere attempt to improve the lot of blacks and whites. In the early 1940’s, the North was exerting pressure on the South to abolish segregation. The Supreme Court became a leader in reversing the trends of segregation that it had endorsed during the First Reconstruction.

The most monumental Supreme Court decision of this century in civil rights was Brown v. Board of Education. It reversed a constitutional trend that began in the late 1800’s. It marked the beginning of the end of Jim Crow. Presently, blacks are enjoying equal civil rights under the law. All kinds of segregation and discrimination have been declared unconstitutional. The underlying prejudices and subtle racism are slower to die. It is these prejudices that make it difficult for true integration to occur presently in our society.

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