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Diversity in American Education Before 1960 Essay

The diversity in terms of the student population in American education before 1960 was largely dependent upon the issue of racial equality. The push for racial equality in the United States got a boost from the demands placed on all facets of society during World War II. The mobilization effort relied on the black race to win the war and once it was over, there was no turning back. Furthermore, the ideals of freedom and equality, which were the backbone of the Allied war cry and the foundation for the anti-communist Western movement, did not sit well alongside Jim Crow laws and public acts of racial discrimination.

The Jim Crow System is also called “segregation”. It is a process in and through which Southerners may be said to legitimize their racial supremacy over the Blacks or Negroes. It is a system in and through which the central idea is “differentiation”. The aforementioned differentiation is done on the basis of ethnicity or race. It is therefore not difficult to see that such a system will encounter numerous criticisms due to the implications that result from it. Differentiation entails the recognition that races are different and as such, it creates a political setting that “separates” races such as the Whites from the Blacks.

In addition to this, it also separates and ultimately, limits or confines races such as the Blacks to a social sphere with corresponding social functions that are imposed on them. In line with this, this paper will focus on the manifestations and effects of racial segregation on the American public educational system before 1960. It will do so since the end of racial segregation within the American public school system was largely determined by the effects of the Civil Rights movement as can be seen in the discussion of the Supreme Court Cases on educational and racial equality before 1960.

The following cases will show the effects of racial inequality on the diversity of the population in the American public educational system prior to the aforementioned period. In 1954, the United States of America’s Supreme Court decided a landmark case concerning educational and racial equality. In Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, 347 U. S. 483 (1954), the Court’s ruling is grounded on the principle that the doctrine of “separate but equal” [this doctrine is referring to the segregation policy, more specifically, the segregation policy in the schools in the U.

S. ] will not and cannot provide Black Americans with the same standards and quality of education available for White Americans. The court thus, outlawed the “racial segregation of public education facilities” for the aforementioned reason. On May 17, 1954 the Warren Court handed down a 9-0 decision which stated, in clear and certain terms, that “separate educational facilities are inherently unequal”. Chief Justice Warren writes: Today, education is perhaps the most important function of state and local governments.

Compulsory school attendance laws and the great expenditures for education both demonstrate our recognition of the importance of education to our democratic society. It is required in the performance of our most basic public responsibilities, even service in the armed forces. It is the very foundation of good citizenship. Today it is a principal instrument in awakening the child to cultural values, in preparing him for later professional training, and in helping him to adjust normally to his environment. In these days, it is doubtful that any child may reasonably be expected to succeed in life if he is denied the opportunity of an education.

Such an opportunity, where the state has undertaken to provide it, is a right which must be made available to all on equal terms. (1954, np) Moreover, racial segregation, as the court sees it, is against the pronouncements of the Constitution; the segregation of students on the basis of race or ethnicity and the legalization of a segregated public school education through the enactment of certain statutes serving to legitimize the creation and operation of schools that are exclusively for Whites or for Blacks, is clearly, not justified.

The Supreme Court’s ruling in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka remains and is still considered as a turning point in the determination of racial diversity in the educational institutions within the United States. The second case involves an implication of the Brown Cases [Brown Cases since there are Brown I, II and III cases].

Due to the Supreme Court’s verdict that segregation is “unconstitutional” and of course, due to the increasing rallies, boycotts and protests conducted by the advocates of the Civil Rights Movement, issues regarding “busing” as an appropriate means by which school administrators may comply with the then seemingly constitutional requirement of “desegregation”. Swann v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education, 402 U. S. 1 (1971) was an important United States Supreme Court case which deals with the busing of students to promote integration in the public school system.

After the first trial’s decision in favor of the Board of Education, the Court held that “busing” was the appropriate solution to address the existing racial imbalance among schools at the time, even where the imbalance resulted from the selection of students based on geographic proximity to the school rather than from deliberate assignment based on race. Busing was done as in the cases of two Northern cities; Boston and New York to ensure that schools would be properly integrated and that all students would receive equal educational opportunities regardless of their ethnicity or race Milliken vs. Bradley 418 U. S.

717 (1974), just like the Swann n. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education case is also another case concerning “busing”. Specifically, the Milliken vs. Bradley case deals with the “planned forced busing” of public school students across district lines among 53 school districts in Detroit. Hence, the case is also a consequence of the Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka case. The Court held that “[w]ith no showing of significant violation by the 53 outlying school districts and no evidence of any interdistrict violation or effect”, the district court’s remedy was “wholly impermissible” and not justified by Brown v.

Board of Education (Milliken vs. Bradley 418 U. S. 717, 1974, np). The following statement by Friedman echoes the ramifications of the Milliken v. Bradley case The world was made safe for white flight. White suburbs were secure in their grassy enclaves…. Official, legal segregation indeed was dead; but what replaced it was a deeper, more profound segregation … Tens of thousands of black children attend schools that are all black, schools where they never see a white face; and they live massed in ghettos which are also entirely black. (Friedman, 2004, p. 296)

Another case set during 1974 shows the conditions of diversity in the American public school system prior to 1960. Morgan v. Hennigan is a class action suit on behalf of fifteen Black parents and 43 children which found the Boston School Committee guilty of maintaining a dual, that is, segregated school system. In a court order issued by Garrity, imposed or forced busing will be done on the city of Boston in order to achieve racial balance in public schools. The aforementioned court order was based on a complex system of racial parity and ignored previous busing solutions.

The Boston School Committee, according to the ruling of the court, through various means and capacities violated the constitutional rights of the plaintiffs by imposing segregation in terms assigning students to other areas, segregating residential patterns, transportation and grade system policies, to name a few. The School Committee thus, violated the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution because instead of ensuring that Black children be given equal protection under the law, the segregation policies instead placed the Black children in an unfair disadvantage.

The proper course of action that schools should take according to the court is to enact policies that will eliminate racial discrimination and not its converse. We will now discuss Boston Busing in the light of Ronald Formisano’s Boston Against Busing: Race, Class, and Ethnicity in the 1960s and 1970s. Formisano’s conclusion regarding busing was that it is a failure. The main aims of desegregation are supposedly, educational equality and racial equality. Both aims however, were never achieved.

The desegregation and affirmative action policies were results of the Civil Rights Movement and the Supreme Court rulings on the cases discussed earlier. History reveals that the expedited implementation of these policies was not beneficial to the American society since it involves an overhaul of large areas of American civil society and political culture. This construal may be strengthened by the “White Backlash Movements” in Boston. Formisano sees the White Backlash [as in the case of Boston] as a reaction to the implemented “forced busing”.

He further defines the White’s reaction as a “reactionary populism” involving the middle, working class moved by a sense of “threat” regarding the policies implemented during the time and the escalating number of White v. Black incidents in the community and schools. It is also interesting to note that the White Backlash, like the Civil Rights Movement of the Blacks lacked a unified reaction and stand on the issue. Whites responded differently, so to speak, on the issue of forced busing. Formisano’s analysis that the White Backlash is moved by a sense of threat is indeed a plausible idea.

Other Whites actually support the anti-racial discrimination campaigns but the expedited implementation of desegregation, forced busing and affirmative action threatened their sense of security and their sense of community. In other words, it went too far. Given the aforementioned cases, diversity in American public education before 1960 was largely determined by racial stratification. This however was largely affected by the Civil Rights movement since the movement questioned the main assumption regarding the treatment of individuals with different racial backgrounds.


Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, 347 U. S. 483 (1954). Friedman, L. (2002). American Law in the Twentieth Century. New Haven: Yale University Press. Formisano, R. (2004). Boston Against Busing: Race, Class, and Ethnicity in the 1960s and 1970s. Carolina: University of Carolina Press. Milliken vs. Bradley 418 U. S. 717 (1974). Morgan v. Hennigan, 379 F. Supp. 410 (1974). Swann v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education, 402 U. S. 1 (1971). Warren in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, 347 U. S. 483 (1954).

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