Tag Archive for 'education'

Remembering Ruby Bridges

On November 14, 1960—52 years ago today—Ruby Bridges became the first African American child to attend an all-white elementary school in the South, when court-ordered integration in New Orleans, Louisiana, allowed her to enroll at William Frantz Elementary School. On the same day, three other African American students together integrated another previously all-white elementary school in New Orleans.

It had been more than six years since the Supreme Court in Brown v. Board of Education declared segregated public schools unconstitutional, but school districts across the South still resisted integration.

During the spring of 1960, Bridges’ parents had responded to requests from the NAACP for children to participate in the integration of the New Orleans Schools. After a test, six children were chosen to integrate the schools; two decided to remain in their old schools and three were transferred to integrate another school, McDonough No. 19. This left Bridges the sole African American student assigned to William Frantz Elementary. November 14 was set as the date when the four students would integrate the two schools.

That day, U.S. Marshals escorted six-year-old Bridges to her new school amid a large and loud crowd surrounded by police officers on horseback. It certainly was not a smooth transition at either school; white parents pulled their children out of school, and a new teacher had to be hired to teach only Bridges once all the other teachers refused. Bridges, at only six years old, endured constant hostility and threats.

The trouble was not confined to the school; Bridges’ father lost his job, and her grandparents, both sharecroppers, were turned off their land. Friends and family, though, both white and African American, supported Bridges and her family, protecting them and helping her father find a new job.

Fortunately, Bridges’ experience with her teacher, Barbara Henry, was excellent. She was Henry’s sole pupil that year, and Henry provided her not only with an education but with support. Bridges stayed at William Frantz Elementary through the sixth grade, and each year more African American students joined her.

She eventually returned to the school as a volunteer parent liaison after she took over guardianship of her deceased brother’s children. Bridges continues to travel around the country and observe how the civil rights movement is taught in schools. In 1999, she founded the Ruby Bridges Foundation to promote tolerance and respect.

Over the years, Bridges has been portrayed in multiple forms of media, such as the 1998 made-for-television movie Ruby Bridges and Lori McKenna’s song “Ruby’s Shoes.” Her first day of school was portrayed by Norman Rockwell in his 1964 painting “The Problem We All Live With.”

Bridges’ courage is still remembered today, more than five decades later. In 2001, President Clinton included Bridges among 28 recipients of the Presidential Citizens Medal (also included in the list were Irene Morgan, Constance Baker Motley, and Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth). A school district later dedicated an elementary school to her, and Tulane University granted her an honorary degree earlier this year.

The school Bridges integrated eventually underwent significant demographic changes, becoming mostly African American. Bridges and others successfully had the school recognized on the National Register of Historic Places; however, just a few months later, the school closed after Hurricane Katrina damaged the building. Bridges wasn’t going to watch this important landmark disappear, though; the Recovery School District refurbished the school. Bridges remains active in the school, advocating the teaching of history and focusing on community service and social justice. (To learn more about this, check out this Washington Post article.)

Robert Coles, a child psychiatrist who volunteered to meet weekly with Bridges during her first year of school, later wrote a children’s book entitled The Story of Ruby Bridges.

To learn more, and to read Bridges’ memories, check out this article from CBS News and this PBS story. For newspaper coverage of that first day, check out this Associated Press article.

To learn more, check out Bridges’ children’s books, Through My Eyes (Scholastic 1999), Ruby Bridges Goes to School: My True Story (Scholastic 2009), and Let’s Read About . . . Ruby Bridges (Scholastic 2003).

In this 2010 Washington Post article, Bridges shares her memories of her first days of school.

To learn more about the integration of New Orleans’ public schools, check out this collection from the Civil Rights Digital Library.

In her children’s book, Remember: The Journey to School Integration (Houghton Mifflin 2004), which includes numerous archival photographs depicting school desegregation, Toni Morrison presented a fictional account of the dialogue and emotions of the children who lived during this era.

To learn about racial and economic school resegregation, check out John Boger and Gary Orfield’s edited volume School Resegregation: Must the South Turn Back? (UNC Press 2005).

To learn more about the fight for integration, check out Mark Tushnet’s The NAACP’s Legal Strategy against Segregated Education, 1925-1950 (UNC Press, 2005).

From the Civil Rights Project: Increased School Segregation and How to Combat It

The Civil Rights Project at the University of California, Los Angeles, recently released three reports analyzing segregation trends in public schools.

The first report (“E Pluribus … Separation: Deepening Double Segregation for More Students”), while acknowledging a rapid increase in minority enrollment, also shows a serious increase in segregation for Latino students, particularly in the west, as well as an increase in school segregation for African American students.

The second and third reports focus on the South and the West—areas which, although quite diverse, also show high levels of racial and economic segregation.

Addressing such issues as poverty and racial isolation, the reports suggest several ways to reverse resegregation trends and increase educational equality. To learn more, and to read the reports, check out the project’s website.

To learn more about racial and economic school resegregation, check out John Boger and Gary Orfield’s edited volume School Resegregation: Must the South Turn Back? (UNC Press 2005).

In 2009, the UNC School of Law’s Center for Civil Rights brought together hundreds of educators, civil rights advocates, scholars, and government officials to discuss efforts for integrated education. To learn more and to watch a video of the presentations, check out this page from the Center for Civil Rights.

From Online Colleges: 9 Signs Student Rights Are In Danger

Staff writers from Online Colleges, a company offering resources and articles about online education, recently published a story about threats to student rights. The company outlined nine educational policies which violate students’ rights—for example, mandatory drug testing and pregnancy testing, and institutional challenges to free speech. To learn more, check out the blog post.

On This Day: Claymont High School Integrates

On September 4, 1952—60 years ago today—eleven African American students attended their first day of school at Claymont High School in Delaware. They were the first African Americans to legally integrate a white public school within the then-segregated states.

Twenty months earlier, eight African American students had applied for admission to the school. As expected, their request was denied on the grounds of the “separate but equal” doctrine, but attorney Louis Redding brought suit in court—and won. And soon, on September 3, 1952, the Claymont School Board voted to admit a dozen students.

The first day of integrated education went smoothly and without incident. However, the next day, Delaware’s state attorney general requested that Superintendent Harvey Stahl send the students home, pending a U.S. Supreme Court ruling. Unwilling to back down, the students remained in school—with the backing of school officials and Stahl himself.

The desegregation efforts were successful—in fact, the case became an example of peaceful integration, and was included for argument in Brown v. Board of Education two years later—the same year that the first integrated class graduated from Claymont High School.

The fight for integration throughout the rest of the segregated states would last for years, but Claymont stood as a shining example of what could be achieved when discrimination and hostility were overcome in favor of equality and peace.

Today, the peaceful integration is commemorated by a historic marker placed outside Claymont High School.

To learn more, check out this page from Delaware’s state website.

For more on Delaware’s desegregation efforts, check out Brett Gadsden’s forthcoming book, Between North and South: Delaware, Desegregation, and the Myth of American Sectionalism (University of Pennsylvania Press, due out in October 2012).

To learn more about the case, check out this page from the Brown Foundation’s website. To view a photo of Louis Redding and Thurgood Marshall conferring during the Supreme Court trial, click here.

To read the April 1952 opinion ruling the separate facilities in Delaware unequal, check out this newspaper article.

To learn more about the Redding family’s influence on civil rights, check out Annette Woolard-Provine’s Integrating Delaware (University of Delaware Press 2003).

Desegregation efforts had been ongoing for many years. To learn more about the fight for integration, check out Mark Tushnet’s The NAACP’s Legal Strategy against Segregated Education, 1925-1950 (UNC Press, 2005).

Numerous books discuss the history of Brown v. Board of Education, including Waldo E. Martin’s Brown v. Board of Education: A Brief History with Documents (Bedford/St. Martin’s, 1998), Robert Cottrol, Raymond Diamond, and Leland Ware’s Brown v. Board of Education: Caste, Culture, and the Constitution (University Press of Kansas, 2003), and Richard Kluger’s Simple Justice: The History of Brown v. Board of Education and Black America’s Struggle for Equality (Vintage, 2004).

For discussions about racial integration and educational policy, check out Integrating Schools in a Changing Society: New Politics and Legal Options for a Multiracial Generation (UNC Press 2011, edited by Erica Frankenberg and Elizabeth DeBray).

On This Day: The Tuskegee Institute Opens Its Doors

On July 4, 1881—131 years ago today—Booker T. Washington opened the Tuskegee Institute—an educational institution which continues to thrive today as Tuskegee University.

Invited to start a school for African Americans, Washington arrived in Tuskegee, Alabama, to find only a one-room building with a leaky roof. But he also found many individuals eager to learn whatever he could teach them.

When he opened Tuskegee on July 4th, Washington was the sole teacher for a class of 30 students. Soon, though, other students and teachers arrived at the institute, and Washington’s talent for securing loans and credit allowed him to expand facilities. The school grew quickly, hosting 200 faculty members, 100 buildings, and 1,500 students by 1915.

Washington aimed to train students to become teachers themselves—to move to rural areas where they could teach children moral values, improve intellectual and religious life, and instill a belief in the importance of hard work. He became well known for advocating vocational training.

Washington remained principal of the school until his death in 1915, by which time Tuskegee had gained national prominence. It has, over the years, attracted some of the foremost African American figures, hosting teachers such as George Washington Carver and students like Ralph Ellison.

During World War II, the school hosted the Tuskegee Airmen flight training program, from which the first African American pilots graduated.

What began as a one-room, 30-student institution is now home to more than 3,000 students. It is also now a national historic site.

To learn more, check out this information from PBS, and also this summary on Tuskegee University’s website.

The National Park Service website also provides information, as well as discussions about Booker T. Washington, George Washington Carver, and the Tuskegee Airmen.

Click here to read Booker T. Washington’s The Educational Outlook in the South, in which he discusses education for African Americans. As Susan Reverby states in Examining Tuskegee, “The need to carefully gauge the appropriate balance of the needs of blacks and whites and meet the financing of the institute continually haunted Washington’s efforts.”

To learn more about African American education during this time period, check out James Anderson’s The Education of Blacks in the South, 1860-1935 (UNC Press, 1988).

To learn more about civil rights in this Southern town, check out Robert Norrell’s Reaping the Whirlwind: The Civil Rights Movement in Tuskegee (UNC Press, 1998).

To learn about Robert Moton, Washington’s successor at Tuskegee, check out William Hughes and Frederick Patterson’s Robert Russa Moton of Hampton and Tuskegee, available through UNC Press’s Enduring Editions collection.

Tuskegee, Alabama, is, however, infamous for its forty-year syphilis study, which involved hundreds of African American men and has today become known as a prime example of medical racism. To learn more, check out Susan Reverby’s Examining Tuskegee: The Infamous Syphilis Study and Its Legacy (UNC Press, 2009).

On This Day: Wallace’s Stand and Alabama’s Long-Awaited Integration

On June 11, 1963—49 years ago today—in one of the most strikingly racist political displays in the nation’s history, Alabama’s Governor George Wallace stood in the doorway of the University of Alabama’s Foster Auditorium, attempting to prevent the enrollment of two African American students.

James Hood and Vivian Malone arrived on campus to register for classes on June 11, 1963—more than nine years after the Supreme Court in Brown v. Board of Education ruled segregated public education unconstitutional. They met immediate resistance from Wallace, who vowed to physically block their enrollment.

Hood and Malone were not the first African Americans to attempt to integrate the University of Alabama. Seven years earlier, Autherine Lucy became the first African American student to attend the University. However, her time at the University was cut short after violence and threats against her ultimately gave the University an excuse to expel her.

Now, seven years later, Hood and Malone sought lasting integration—and Wallace was determined to prevent it.

Wallace’s speech that day was nothing short of hateful and discriminatory. Ironically, he used the rhetoric of constitutional rights to argue against integration—against a right which all American citizens were due. He argued, in part:

I stand here today, as Governor of this sovereign State, and refuse to willingly submit to illegal usurpation of power by the Central Government. I claim today for all the people of the State of Alabama those rights reserved to them under the Constitution of the United States. Among those powers so reserved and claimed is the right of state authority in the operation of the public schools, colleges, and Universities. . .

. . . It is the right of every citizen, however humble he may be, through his chosen officials of representative government to stand courageously against whatever he believes to be the exercise of power beyond the Constitutional rights conferred upon our Federal Government. It is this right which I assert for the people of Alabama by my presence here today.

In essence, Wallace argued that the constitution conferred on the states—not the federal government—authority over public schools. His anger over integration was certainly not a surprise; he had originally been elected to office as a segregationist, and had in his inauguration speech declared his support for “segregation today, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever.”

President Kennedy ordered Wallace to cease and desist—and still Wallace refused to move. It would be more than four hours until Brigadier General Henry Graham of the National Guard enforced the order, allowing Hood and Malone to register at long last and forever integrating the University. It was an historic moment in Alabama—one heavily reported in national and international media.

Hood and Malone’s enrollment paved the way for other African American students to attend the University; in fact, the next day, Dave Mack McGlathery was successfully registered at the Huntsville campus.

Malone, who became the first African American to graduate from the University of Alabama in 1965, later worked for the U.S. Department of Justice’s civil rights division. Hood withdrew soon after enrollment, but later returned and earned a doctorate degree. And, many years later, Autherine Lucy returned, receiving a master’s degree in 1992.

To learn more, click here. Also, check out NPR’s story about the event, complete with an audio excerpt from Wallace’s statement, an interview with Malone, and a video.

For more on the integration of the University of Alabama, click here and here.

To read Wallace’s speech, click here. Wallace later had a change of heart regarding race relations and segregation; however, his actions at the University that day would follow him for the rest of his life.

To learn more, check out E. Culpepper Clark’s The Schoolhouse Door: Segregation’s Last Stand at the University of Alabama (University of Alabama Press, 2007).

Remembering McLaurin v. Oklahoma State Regents

On June 5, 1950—62 years ago today—the Supreme Court, in one of two education desegregation decision that day, struck another blow to segregated education when it declared an Oklahoma statute unconstitutional, arguing that the differential treatment shown to an African American student was itself a violation of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.

George W. McLaurin was denied admission to the University of Oklahoma’s Doctorate in Education program, solely because of his race. A state statute declared it a misdemeanor to operate a school in which both whites and African American students were taught. McLaurin filed suit, and a three-judge panel in federal court struck down the law, ordering the University to admit McLaurin.

This wasn’t the end of McLaurin’s struggle, though. Although the University was required to admit him, he was separated from the other students on campus, forced to sit by himself in classrooms, libraries, and the cafeteria. The federal Court, although it had required his admission, upheld the University’s discriminatory measures.

The NAACP came to McLaurin’s aid, led by attorney Thurgood Marshall, who was, at the same time, arguing another desegregation case. The Supreme Court unanimously overturned the lower court’s decision, stating that the University’s treatment of McLaurin violated the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. The justices discussed McLaurin’s separation from other students, stating that:

The result is that the appellant is handicapped in his pursuit of effective graduate instruction. Such restrictions impair and inhibit his ability to study, to engage in discussions and exchange views with other students, and, in general, to learn his profession.

The ruling reached further, delineating the ways in which the University’s discrimination against McLaurin would affect others in the future:

Our society grows increasingly complex, and our need for trained leaders increases correspondingly. Appellant’s case represents, perhaps, the epitome of that need, for he is attempting to obtain an advanced degree in education, to become, by definition, a leader and trainer of others. Those who will come under his guidance and influence must be directly affected by the education he receives. Their own education and development will necessarily suffer to the extent that his training is unequal to that of his classmates. State-imposed restrictions which produce such inequalities cannot be sustained.

The decision, along with the Sweatt v. Painter ruling the same day—milestones in the fight for integration—foreshadowed continued legal action and ultimate success. Within the next few years, the Supreme Court would further dismantle segregated education through Brown v. Board of Education and Brown II.

Today, the University of Oklahoma’s Bizzell Library is a national historic landmark.

To read the full text of the decision, click here.

To learn more, click here.

The National Archives hosts online access to three images which illustrate McLaurin’s separation from his classmates: click here.

Click here to learn about Sipuel v. Board of Regents of University of Oklahoma, a precursor to McLaurin v. Oklahoma.

To learn about the three milestone cases decided on June 5, 1950, click here.

To learn more about the fight for integration, check out Mark Tushnet’s The NAACP’s Legal Strategy against Segregated Education, 1925-1950 (UNC Press, 2005).

On This Day: Brown v. Board of Education II

On May 31st, 1955—57 years ago today—the Supreme Court in a unanimous decision revisited its milestone decision from the previous year, submitting an important, though somewhat ambiguous, ruling regarding the time frame and steps necessary to achieve desegregation in public schools.

A year earlier, on May 17th, 1954, the Supreme Court in Brown v. Board of Education had ruled that segregated public schools were unconstitutional. Now, in Brown v. Board of Education II, the Court delegated responsibility to local school authorities and courts to implement the principles laid out in the original Brown decision—and to do so “with all deliberate speed.”

The decision read, in part:

Full implementation of these constitutional principles may require solution of varied local school problems. School authorities have the primary responsibility for elucidating, assessing, and solving these problems; courts will have to consider whether the action of school authorities constitutes good faith implementation of the governing constitutional principles…

While giving weight to these public and private considerations, the courts will require that the defendants make a prompt and reasonable start toward full compliance with our May 17, 1954, ruling. Once such a start has been made, the course may find that additional time is necessary to carry out the ruling in an effective manner. The burden rests upon the defendants to establish that such time is necessary in the public interest and is consistent with good faith compliance at the earliest practicable date.

Opinions and the ensuing results were mixed. Although the ruling was an important reminder by America’s highest court that segregation was unconstitutional, the ambiguous language was used by some Southern states and school districts to justify delaying or avoiding significant integration for quite some time. Some districts and individual whites found ways around the law, closing schools or sending white students to private schools.

Continue reading ‘On This Day: Brown v. Board of Education II’

On This Day: Brown v. Board of Education

On May 17, 1954—58 years ago today—the Supreme Court handed down one of its most famous decisions, declaring segregation of public schools unconstitutional and thus forever changing the face of education in the United States.

Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas, combined five cases into a battle against the “separate but equal” doctrine laid out 58 years earlier in Plessy v. Ferguson.

The cases originated in four different states—Kansas, South Carolina, Virginia, and Delaware—but all involved African Americans seeking the courts’ help in obtaining admission to schools which at the time were attended solely by white children. The NAACP, which represented the plaintiffs, argued that this segregation deprived African American children of the equal protection guaranteed to all citizens under the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.

In its unanimous decision, the Court stated:

We conclude that, in the field of public education, the doctrine of “separate but equal” has no place. Separate educational facilities are inherently unequal. Therefore, we hold that the plaintiffs and others similarly situated for whom the actions have been brought are, by reason of the segregation complained of, deprived of the equal protection of the laws guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment.

The battle was far from over. One year later, the Court would revisit integration when it handed down its May 31st, 1955, decision in Brown II, in which the Court detailed how school authorities were to implement the principles set out in Brown v. Board of Education and urged localities to more forward “with all deliberate speed.” Public schools would not fully integrate for several more years. However, Brown v. Board of Education marked a significant milestone in the fight for equality, galvanizing the civil rights movement.

For more information and to view pictures, documents, and audio files, check out the following sites:

The Brown Foundation for Educational Equity, Excellence and Research, established in 1988, pays tribute to Brown v. Board of Education. Click here to learn more about the Foundation’s programs, and to explore a rich array of related resources.

Numerous books discuss the history of Brown v. Board of Education, including Waldo E. Martin’s Brown v. Board of Education: A Brief History with Documents (Bedford/St. Martin’s, 1998) and Robert Cottrol, Raymond Diamond, and Leland Ware’s Brown v. Board of Education, Caste, Culture, and the Constitution (University Press of Kansas, 2003).

To read about how Brown played out in one county in Virginia, check out Jill Titus’s Brown’s Battleground: Students, Segregationists, and the Struggle for Justice in Prince Edward County, Virginia (UNC Press, 2011)

To learn more about the fight against segregation, check out Mark Tushnet’s The NAACP’s Legal Strategy against Segregated Education, 1925-1950 (UNC Press, 1987).

For discussions about racial integration and educational policy, check out Integrating Schools in a Changing Society: New Politics and Legal Options for a Multiracial Generation (UNC Press 2011, edited by Erica Frankenberg and Elizabeth DeBray).

On This Day: The Poor People’s Campaign

On May 12, 1968—44 years ago today, protesters began a movement that would soon involve thousands of Americans of all races and backgrounds in a multi-week protest and march against economic inequality and poverty.

Martin Luther King, Jr., and other civil rights leaders, had been preparing for the Poor People’s Campaign for several months. After King was assassinated on April 4th, his widow, Coretta Scott King, and a group of black ministers (including Ralph Abernathy and Jesse Jackson), decided to move forward with the plans.

Originally conceived of by Marian Wright Edelman of the NAACP, the campaign sought help from Congress and governmental agencies: jobs for the unemployed, health care, education, and a fair minimum wage.

For six weeks—until their land use permit expired on June 24—protesters camped out in tents and shacks on the National Mall, in an area they named Resurrection City.

Ultimately, as many as 50,000 people participated in the campaign. At the time, many thought the concessions the protesters secured were insufficient. However, the campaign was highly visible and increased consciousness of poverty across the nation—and it foreshadowed protests to come in the ensuing decades, including the current Occupy Movement.

For more information, check out this story from NPR.

To learn more, and to view a video and several news articles, click here.

To view a flyer announcing the movement, click here.

Gerald McKnight’s The Last Crusade: Martin Luther King, Jr., the FBI, and the Poor People’s Campaign (Basic Books, 1998) examines the demonstration and responses to it.

Thirty-six years before the Poor People’s Campaign, another group of protesters set up encampments in Washington, D.C. During the Great Depression, World War I veterans—left hungry and homeless after the government announced they would not receive their service compensation until 1945—launched a large-scale protest. The Bonus Army arrived in D.C. on May 25, 1932, and quickly drew thousands of veterans. To learn more, click here.