Integrated Division: Resistance, Responses, and Filtered Portrayals in Phase II

On June 21, 1974, Judge Arthur W. Garrity deemed Boston’s school system “unconstitutionally segregated.” Garrity’s solution to this issue called on the Boston School Committee to submit a viable plan for desegregation in order to balance the racial profiles of the public schools to more accurately represent the city’s student population as a whole. While waiting on this proposal, Garrity would implement the State Board of Education’s plan for addressing the racial imbalance.[1] This three-phase plan was carried out between 1974 and 1977. Unfortunately, it not only failed in the eyes of much of the public, but it created further social and racial tension throughout the city.

This decision to integrate public schools through busing initiated a storm of resistance that manifested in protests and violence. Despite the intention to balance racial dynamics within the school system, the busing of students based on both race and location created new levels of social segregation, conflict, and division. Protest and violence inside and outside the classroom increased as implementation expanded. In Phase I, begun in 1974, the initial exchange between Roxbury and South Boston garnered a large amount of attention, and ‘Southie’ became seen as the epicenter for resistance with incidents of riots, student walkouts, the stoning of buses, as well as student on student and student on teacher violence. However, as Phase II was enacted and more outlying schools and neighborhoods such as Brighton, Charlestown, and Hyde Park were incorporated, resistance was far from decreasing.

 Phase II, or “The Master’s Plan,” began in September 1975. Now a year into the implementation of Garrity’s decision, reactions remained passionate and letters of both praise and concern continued to pour in to Mayor Kevin White as those on both sides of the issue fought to have their voices heard. Phase II expanded the plan’s impact to all districts except East Boston with further redrawing of attendance zones, adjustments of grade structures, opening new schools while closing old buildings to create city-wide magnet schools for out of district students, and the introduction of university-sponsored programs into certain schools.[2] However, despite being another critical addition to the plan, an increase in police enforcement and a strategic presence of the U.S. Marshals was less explicit in the media. Despite many claims that continued to insinuate peaceful cooperation and an optimistic outlook for successful integration, conflict and violence permeated Phase II and added measures were therefore taken to address this potential. While Phase II is only one chapter within the full implementation of Boston’s desegregation, it provides a snapshot of the continued passionate response among students, the public, law enforcement, and other members of the greater Boston community.

[1] “Busing in Boston: A Research Guide,” Moakley Archive and Institute, 2015,, 1-2.

[2] U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. School Desegregation in Boston. Washington, DC. June, 1975. CR1.2:Sch6/18., p 87. 


Content for this exhibit was written by Cheyenne Dunham, a graduate student in Public History at UMass Boston. Exhibited items appear courtesy of Boston City Archives, the National Archives, Boston, and the Moakley Archive and Institute at Suffolk University.