From the Legislative Files

Congressman Moakley took office in January of 1973. Just two months later, well before busing was actually implemented in Boston as a result of Judge W. Arthur Garrity's 1974 decision in Morgan v. Hennigan, Moakley began what would become a years-long congressional crusade against forced busing as a means of desegregating schools. Featuring selected documents from the congressman's legislative files, the sampling of materials below creates a chronology that illuminates some of his key anti-busing efforts from 1973 through 1975.

Boston Globe accounts from the time period were instrumental in establishing this chronology.

Testimony of Joe Moakley at the Jaffe Hearings

Anti-busing testimony, March 1973

"I am 100% committed to integration: but I am also 100% against forced busing."

School desegregation plans for the Boston Public Schools were already in the works in the decade prior to Judge Garrity's decision as result of the passage of the Massachusetts Racial Imbalance Act in 1965. The law stated, in short, that schools that were found by the state's Board of Education to be racially imbalanced would be required to develop plans to eliminate the imbalance. The Boston Public Schools fell into this category, and when the Boston School Committee could not develop a desegregation plan that the Board of Education found to be satisfactory, the Board proposed a plan of its own. Developed by the director of Massachusetts’ Bureau of Equal Educational Opportunity, Charles Glenn, their plan called for forced busing, specifically in South Boston and Roxbury. Moakley gave the testimony shown here in opposition to the plan in March of 1973 at one of a series of hearings organized by Harvard Law School professor Louis Jaffe, at the request of the Board of Education, to elicit community feedback. In his testimony, Moakley describes the “seven grounds” on which he opposes the desegregation plan in question. He closes his testimony by stating, “I am 100% committed to integration: but I am also 100% against forced busing. And, believe it or not, that’s a perfectly consistent position.”

(Elliot Weinbaum's article "Looking for Leadership: Battles Over Busing in Boston," in Penn GSE's Perspectives on Urban Education, provides some excellent background information on the Racial Imbalance Law, the "Jaffe Hearings," and school desegregation in Boston in general.)

 

Press release: “Congress Votes Down Busing” Press release: “Busing Clash Looms in Boston”

Press releases, circa March/April 1974

 

 

"I am very hopeful..."

A year passed after the Jaffe hearings without any definitive action related to Charles Glenn’s busing plan.  In March of 1974, Moakley had the opportunity to make his anti-busing stance known at the federal level when he backed an amendment to an education aid bill that would ban forced busing as a means of desegregating public schools. Introduced by Conressman Marvin Esch, a Democrat from Michigan, the amendment was passed by the House of Representatives, but as these press releases show, the House was prepared for a fight with the Senate over the ultimate passage of the bill.

Memorandum from staff member Jack Dooling to Congressman John Joseph Moakley: “Bussing [sic] Record”

Busing voting record memo, 1974

 

 Anti-busing record = 100%

Unfortunately for Moakley and his like-minded colleagues in the House, the Senate did not pass the anti-busing amendment. His efforts did not stop, however, as this memo summarizing his voting record shows. Throughout 1974, as other anti-busing measures were introduced in the House, he continued to vote for them.  The House repeatedly passed these anti-busing measures, but newspaper accounts of the time indicate that the Senate repeatedly shut them down.

In addition to the anti-busing measures listed on this report, which were proposed as additions to various other pieces of legislation, Moakley also supported a proposed standalone amendment to the United States Constitution that would ban forced busing of any kind. This amendment was first introduced in early 1973 and also repeatedly passed in the House, but each time it was referred to the House Judiciary Committee for approval, it "died," meaning the Committee refused to take action. 

 

In June of 1974, in the midst of Moakley's efforts to secure a federal ban on forced busing, Judge Garrity issued his decision in Morgan v. Hennigan, ruling that that Boston School Committee had willfully segregated the Boston Public Schools and ordering that the school committee implement a desegregation plan for the upcoming school year, scheduled to begin in less than three months. Because of the short time frame, which did not allow for the development of any new desegregation plans, Judge Garrity ordered the implementation of the plan previously created by Charles Glenn and the Board of Education. With that, “Phase I” of busing began in Boston in September of 1974, with enormous impact on Moakey's home neighborhood of South Boston.

Congressman Moakley’s legislative files do not reveal much for the time period surrounding the implementation of busing in the fall of 1974. This section of the exhibit will continue with the trajectory of Moakley’s anti-busing efforts throughout 1975, but after perusing this section, please use the links on the right to view materials from the congressman’s correspondence files, which include materials that shed light on the reactions of both Moakley and others in his community, including other officials, during the fall of 1974 and beyond.

Testimony of Congressman John Joseph Moakley before the U.S. Senate Committee on Judiciary

Senate testimony, Oct. 29, 1975

 

"Look at what is really happening in America."

In the year following the implementation of the busing plan, the proposed constitutional amendment to ban forced busing came up for vote again and again. As it had in the past, it continued to gain approval in the House of Representatives, but still fell short in the Senate. In an effort to gain senatorial support, in October of 1975 Congressman Moakley testified before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, stating that in Boston, “busing to achieve racial balance has had an opposite effect.” He provides enrollment and population statistics to support his argument that forced busing is not working, and that the only solution “is to pass a constitutional amendment that will forbid busing our children to achieve racial balance.” 

Press release: “Democrats Slate First Constitutional Amendment Vote” Press release: “Congressman Joe Moakley’s (D-Mass.) reaction to the vote today before the House Democratic Caucus on a Constitutional Amendment to prohibit the forced busing of schoolchildren”

Caucus press releases, November 1975

 

 

"We have lost the battle but we have not lost the war."

Despite this fervent testimony, Moakley was unable to convince the Senate to approve an anti-busing amendment. His next efforts involved testifying again, this time before his peers in a conference of the House Democratic Caucus in November of 1975. A meeting of the caucus required a request by 50 caucus members, so Moakley and 49 of his fellow democrats in the House joined together to force a meeting on busing to take place. Because the anti-busing constitutional amendment always died in the House Judiciary Committee, at stake at the caucus meeting was a resolution that would have required the Comittee to act, meaning the amendment could not just die again. Despite previous victories in the House, though, Moakley and others who testified were unsuccessful in winning over their colleagues; the caucus voted to “kill,” or dismiss, the resolution without even voting on it. Contemporary newspaper accounts reveal that some Democrats, even those who had previously supported anti-busing legislation, felt that the measure at hand was too extreme. These two press releases show Moakley’s optimism before the caucus, and his disappointment after. 

“For Jimmy – busing” note

Anti-busing actions memo, circa November 1975

 

 

"This is not enough for us."

Repeated defeat did not dissuade Congressman Moakley from his anti-busing stance. This undated memo, probably from late November or early December 1975, summarizes Moakley’s efforts throughout the previous year or two, including those mentioned above, as well as actions related to discharge petitions, which are designed to speed up the process of bring votes to the House floor. Still undaunted, Moakley vowed to continue to fight for an amendment.

Press release: “Moakley Questions Garrity’s Decision”

Receivership press release, circa December 1975

 

 

"Judge Garrity is ruling in a dictatorial fashion."

On December 10, 1975, Moakley was faced with a new challenge in his fight against busing: an order of receivership over South Boston High School. After over a year of unrest, and sometimes violence, at that school in particular, Judge Garrity decided that the Boston School Committee could not effectively manage the school. He placed it under the control of Boston Public School Superintendent Marion Fahey and ordered that the school’s existing administrative staff, included its principal, William J. “Doc” Reid be transferred to other schools. This press release reports that Congressman Moakley has scheduled a meeting with the chairman of the House of Representatives Subcommittee on Courts, Robert Kastenmeier (D-Wisconsin), to discuss the ability of a federal judge to make this kind of decision. In it, Moakley “expresses dismay” over the orders.

 

By December of 1975, as these documents have shown, Moakley had acted over and over again in hopes of bringing a constitutional ban on forced busing to fruition, and expressed optimism that such an amendment would be passed. Boston Globe accounts indicate that he continued to vote against busing into the early 1980s. Conflicts between House and Senate, and between legislative and judiciary bodies, may have ultimately kept his efforts from being successful, but an account of these efforts does not end with unsuccessful legislation. Equally as important as his legislative actions, if not more so, are his interactions with people: constituents, community groups, and other politicians and federal officials.  With this section of the exhibit having provided an overview of Moakley’s stance on forced busing and a summary of the actions that he took against it, the next three sections of this exhibit will showcase the more human facets of his anti-busing fight, and of the anti-busing movement in general, through 1975 and beyond. 

From the Legislative Files