Desegregation in Schools

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Desegregation is the process of ending race-based separation or segregation. Although the North was thought to do this faster than the South, there were still areas that dragged their feet even after desegregation became the law. Desegregation was officially ordered by the Supreme Court in 1954. Since there was no concrete timeline as to when schools had to be desegregated, most schools took that as a chance to delay the desegregation.

Desegregation attempts began after Brown vs. Board of Education of Topeka. This case, which was based on the segregation of public schools, was handled by Thurgood Marshall and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. When the Brown vs. Board of Education of Topeka case was brought to the United States District Court, the judges ruled in favor of the school board. Unsatisfied with this decision, the plaintiff appealed to the United States Supreme Court. Thurgood Marshall argued segregated schools made black children feel inferior to white children and that segregated schools should not be permissible by law. The United States Supreme Court ruled that segregated schools were in fact unconstitutional. Due to the backlash the United States Supreme Court knew it would face, it decided to delay the release of a concrete plan and timeline on the desegregation of schools. Southern schools obviously fought this the hardest as most southerners did not want integrated schools. The South continued to keep their schools segregated without much pressure until the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

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The Civil Rights Act of 1964 ended segregation in public areas, to include schools, and placed a ban on employment discrimination. Applicants were no longer allowed to be rejected from a job position based on their race, color, religion, sex or national origin. This act was proposed by John F. Kennedy and was signed into law by Lyndon B. Johnson. In regard to school systems, this was the beginning of the pressure to desegregate schools. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 forbade federal funding to go towards any programs that were discriminatory. As each year passed, the Supreme Court dialed up the heat on the areas that chose to avoid the desegregation of schools.

In 1971, the Swann vs. Charlotte-Meckleburg Board of Education case was presented to the United States Supreme Court. The United States Supreme Court decided busing programs would aid in the desegregation of schools. This decision was not only criticized by whites, but also by African Americans. African Americans saw the busing plan as harmful to African American students because they had to endure long commutes to and from school. Despite criticism, the busing plan continued in some areas up until the 1990s. The busing plan did result in a white flight. White flight is a term described as the quick movement of white families away from the suburbs and the inner city when African Americans began to move to those areas.

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