|Nothing will stop us: the climax of racial segregation in the Boston public schools, 1963-1974|
Howard John Chislett
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Pockets: Gottesman Libraries Archive, Historical Dissertations
Tags: Boston, Massachusetts, schools, Segregation in education
˘NOTHING WILL STOP US÷: THE CLIMAX OF RACIAL SEGREGATION IN THE BOSTON PUBLIC SCHOOLS, 1963-1974
Howard John Chislett
This study deals with the issue of racial segregation in the public schools of Boston. Although its emphasis was on the issue of segregation from 1963 to 1974, a review was made of its beginnings from 1789.
The study outlined how the blacks of Boston petitioned the General Court in 1789 for the establishment of a separate black school. The petition was denied. The blacks, however, succeeded in establishing a black school before the beginning of the 19th century.
During the 19th century, the study revealed that BostonĂs public schools were criticized by blacks and whites because black children were excluded from the public schools because of their color. The struggle for equal school rights led to a legal decision in the Massachusetts Supreme Court in 1849. The case of Roberts vs. the City of Boston held that blacks were receiving an equal education in the separate schools, and, therefore, the existence of separate, black schools did not violate the stateĂs constitution. This ruling became the basis of the doctrine of ˘separate but equal.÷ The eventual resolution of this issue of racially segregated schools occurred in 1855 when the General Court abolished separate schools throughout the state.
The years between 1855 and 1974 saw the emergence of the city as a metropolis; political power devolved from Yankee Bostonians to Irish-American Bostonians; the isolation of neighborhoods into ethnic and racial enclaves; and the eventual resegregation of the public schools because of neighborhood and racial isolation.
During the decade of the 1960Ăs, the issue of de facto segregation emerged as one of the major civil rights issues in the city of Boston. The decade witnessed the School Committee emerge as the protagonist in the segregation issue; and the black community and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) as the antagonists. As the protagonist in the struggle, the School Committee maintained a stance which refused to acquiesce to the blacksĂ demand that the Committee concede that the schools were racially segregated. The state eventually stepped in and passed the controversial ˘Racial Imbalance Act of 1965.÷ The ˘ActĂs÷ aim was to withhold state educational aid from school districts which did not provide the State Board of Education with acceptable plans to alleviate racially imbalanced schools. Black, parents and lay educational groups mounted busing programs such as Operation Exodus and METCO in an effort to provide black children with a better education in BostonĂs suburbs, and to force the School Committee to desegregate the schools. Eventually segregation, in the 1970Ăs, was brought before the federal court in a class action suit by the NAACP. The court ruled that the School Committee was in violation of the ConstitutionĂs 14th Amendment, and the schools of Boston were ordered to open, in 1974, on a desegregated basis.
The court order known as Phase I and the use of busing to desegregate the schools was met with massive resistance on the part of whites in at least two of the cityĂs high schools and with sporadic resistance at several other schools. The violent resistance at one high school, South Boston, led to the closing of that school after a white student was stabbed in a scuffle with a black student, and the bused black students were held as virtual captives by an insensed white mob. Just as South Boston was the symbol of violent resistance to desegregation, it appears that in the majority of BostonĂs schools, desegregation progressed with little or no incident.