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Letter from Student in Topeka, Kansas to Mayor Kevin H. White

A letter from a student who believes that having students who have been through intergration talk to the students of Boston will ease the tension and promote understanding. 

The controversy over forced busing in Boston received national media attention.  Boston's Phase I or the "Short Term Plan to Reduce Racial Imbalance in the Boston Public Schools" was one of the most drastic plans of integration the country had yet to see.  The plan required transporting 14,000 students from the first grade trough the twelfth.   

On Monday, September 9, 1974, three days before schools opened, 10,000 protestors against the court rallied on City Hall Plaza to express their disdain and outrage against the desegregation plan.  Tensions continued to mount and on Thursday South Boston citizens held extremely racist signs such as "Kill Niggers," "Go back to Africa," "KKK," and much worse. A city once the center of abolition, now immersed it self in what some would call "Southern Racism."

Americans from all races and classes across the country and even the world took notice as the events were broadcasted on local and national news channels.  Newspapers filled the country's streets with headlines that read, "Kennedy Jeered on Boston Busing," "Violence Mars Busing in Boston," and " Boston School Busses Stoned a 2nd Day" alerting people to the violent actions of Bostonians against forced busing.

As the media swarmed, people began sending letters to City Officials expressing concern, support, and criticism.  Some of the most surprising of these responses came from students who had either experienced a similar situation, or felt very sympathetic to Boston's students involved in forced busing. 

 

 

Sources: Joseph Marr Cronin Reforming Boston Schools, 1930-2006: Overcoming Corruption and Racial Segregation (New York: Palgrave and Macmillian, 2008); Ronald P. Formisano, Boston Against Busing: Race, Class, and Ethnicity in the 1960s and 1970s (North Carolina: University Press, 2004); New York Times (ProQuest Historical Newspapers).

 

 

 

Letter from Student in Louisville, Kentucky to Mayor Kevin H. White

A letter from a high school student who praises Mayor Kevin White for his "treatment of the busing situation."   

Louisville, Kentucky

Far ahead of most places, Louisville, Kentucky integrated its public schools in 1959, but not through forced busing.  The author of this letter, a student from Seneca High, recalls his/her experience as calm, and states that his/her anxiety of transferring from a parochial school to an integrated public school came mostly from fear.  However, this letter was written in September of 1974, a year before the United States Supreme Court ordered Judge James F. Gordon to further desegregate Louisville and Jefferson County public schools.  In 1975, a year after Boston's busing began; Louisville implemented its busing policy.  According to historian Tracy E. K'Myer, the fist day went smoother than ever anticipated.  The subsequent days and weeks however, proved more violent and racially driven than what had transpired in Boston.  Extremist groups like the Ku Klux Klan, not seen in the region since the nineteenth century, made Kentucky a battleground of racism.  One reason for this, K'Myer explains, is that Kentucky served as a "middle ground" between the north and south. 

As the violence escalated, so too did the death toll.  A place once praised for its liberal whites and lack of Jim Crow laws now embodied the nightmare of racism.  The National Guard was called in not only to protect the students, but to protect the proponents white and black, of integration.  Several Kentuckian newspapers blame forced busing for being the catalyst which created the violence. 

 

Sources: Alana Samuels, "The City that Believed in Intergration," The Atlantic (Louisville, Kentucky), Mrch 27, 2015; Tracy E. K'Myer, Civil Rights in the Gateway to the South: Louisville, kentucky, 1945-1980 (University Press: Kentucky, 2009). 

Letter from Students in Cleveland, Ohio to Mayor Kevin H. White

A letter from an eleventh grade class who suggest Mayor Kevin White ask what the opinions of both black and white students to better understand why they feel the way they do about busing. 

Letter from Students in Cleveland, Ohio to Mayor Kevin H. White

Cleveland, Ohio

Cleveland divided its public schools by regions. Lincoln West High taught students in the western region, and according to this letter, students held no particular prejudice against one another.  The implication is that this school was integrated, but by 1970 standards, it fell under defacto segregation.  For Clevelanders, the fight to desegregate schools spanned many decades and reached its first climax during the 1963-1964 school year.  A yearlong protest to end defacto segregation and other discriminatory policies within the Cleveland public schools transpired and achieved moderate reforms.  Unfortunately, it failed in its ultimate goal of racial integration. 

The Cleveland School Board announced in 1963 that a small population of non-white students would be bussed to ease the overcrowding of schools in the black neighborhoods.  Since, equality of education, not integration was the board's goal, students were segregated on the buses and within the schools.  It would be another fifteen years before "court ordered busing" for racial integration would take place.

In 1979, Cleveland began cross-city busing, transporting over 30,000 students of various races and nationalities.  Aside from a few teacher strikes and minor demonstrations, Cleveland escaped the horror of mob violence that occurred in other cities when implementing forced busing.  Considering that Cleveland was the first major American city to elect a black mayor in 1968, its story of busing is both surprising and understandable. 

 

 Sources: The Clevelend Memory Project; Edward M. Miggins, "Cleveland Public Schools," Enclyclopedia of Cleveland.

Letter to Mayor Kevin White from two students in South Carolina

A letter form two students in South Carolina who explain their experiences and offer "Rules for a 'Together School.'" 

Walterboro, South Carolina

Integration in Walterboro, Colleton County, South Carolina began at the beginning of the 1970-1971 school year.  According to these two students the process was peaceful and parents and students remained calm and positive.  They state that busing was not the problem, racial tensions was.  At the time, their school integrated these two students were in the sixth grade, perhaps making for a smoother transaction than that of the older students.

Colleton County is only a small region in the southern part of the state.  Story of integration throughout the state varies by location.  Prior to desegregation, many South Carolina officials advocated for "Equalization."  The state expended millions of dollars to create separate but "truly" equal school systems for whites and blacks.  This process continued after Brown v. Board of Education (1954) and ended only with token black students chosen to integrate in 1963.  

Between 1963 and 1975 almost 200 private schools were created in South Carolina known as "Segregation Academies" and enrolled 90% of the state's white students.  Small counties like Colleton, who today has only 11 schools in the district including private, had little choice but to integrate when the Supreme Court ordered so in 1970.  

The 1970-1971 school year proved anything but peaceful in places like Greenville and Darlington Counties.  These counties witnessed a resurgence of the Ku Klux Klan, which then provoked violence and protests among community members.  Three thousand white students boycotted public schools in Darlington County.  In the town of Lamar, 200 white adults attacked and overturned a school bus full of black students.  While this did not make the national headlines that Boston's desegregation did, it is important to notice the similar violence and resistance.

 

Sources: William Bagwell, School Desegregation in the Carolinas: Two Case Studies (Columbia, South Carolina: University Press, 1972); Rebekah Debrasko, "After Equalization," South Carolina's Equalization Schools 1951-1960.

 

Letter to Mayor Kevin White from student in Naples, Florida

A letter from a student in Florida who emphasizes that everyone came from one person to live together in this world peacefully. 

Naples, Florida

The state of Florida faced many challenges during their process of desegregating public schools.  Northern counties met more resistance, particularly along the Alabama border.  Counties in the south, like this student from Naples, Collier County claims that his/her school integrated peacefully. 

Until 1960, black students living in Naples were bussed to Dunbar High in Fort Myers, nearly an hour away.  In 1960, the Carver school, a school for blacks in Naples, announced that it would expand from first through sixth grade to twelfth grade to alleviate the overcrowding at Dunbar.  By 1965, the federal government had began to apply pressure on southern schools to complete integration.  In 1965, the Carver School closed due to its dilapidated structure and the Dunbar High School followed in 1969 forcing integration on the southwest Florida.  

According to a student from Dunbar High, integration did not go smoothly. Greta Campbell, then an 11th grader states, "You can't legislate compassion. You can't legislate people do the right thing." These words would have served as a good reminder to the people of Boston who lost all compassion for the children forced to integrate and ridiculed for following the new rules. 

 

Sources: Victoria Macchi, "Graduates of Naples's Segregated Carver High Reminisce at Rare Reunion," Naples Daily News October 20, 2012.;"Lee Lagged on Integration," News-Press.com.

 

 

California

The history of desegregation in California’s schools is extremely complex and varied from county to county.  By the early 20th century, California was a web of racial tensions.  Not only did they segregate the whites and blacks, but the Asians, and Latinos, as well. Between 1900 and 1950, the state's majority population shifted from overwhelmingly white to Latino.   

Seven years before Brown, Mendez v. Westminster School District of Orange County ruled intentional segregation illegal, and the schools in the county began a process of desegregation.  Other small cities and towns across the state followed suit, but a significant number remained segregated.  Two months after the U.S, District Courts ruling, Governor Earl Warren signed a bill ending school segregation, making it the first state to officially desegregate its public schools. Even though segregation was outlawed, segregation practices remained deeply entrenched.  Californians refused to admit a segregation problem existed and since the ruling primarily affected southern states, California continued in its ignorance.

The 1960s brought an onslaught of black and Latino civil rights activists to the forefront whose platforms included desegregating public schools.  However, not until 1973 did the United States Supreme Court recognize the segregation issues of Latinos.  

In 1976, the California Superior Court ordered Los Angles to end segregated school systems.  After a lengthy process of appeals, Los Angeles became the country's first city to abandon a court-ordered desegregation plan.  At that time, the city contained the nation's second largest school district and served the nation's largest Latino population and largest black community in the west.  

Today, California remains one of the most diverse and most segregated states in the country. 

Each of the student letters below represents a different part of California and their reactions to Mayor Kevin White's treatment of the desegregation of Boston’s public schools.  Each letter is reflective of the different experiences among California’s students.  Unfortunately, there are not enough letters in existence to adequately illustrate the experiences of such a racially diverse state. 

Sources: Gary Orfield and Jongyeon Ee, “Segregating California’s Future: Inequality and its Alternative 60 Years after Brown v. Board of Education,” part of The Civil Rights Project, May 2014; “Background-Mendez v. Westminster re-Enactment,” United States Courts.

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