Although the Supreme Court had ruled back in 1954 that racial segregation was unconstitutional in public schools, segregation was still accepted as the common policy. People wanted blacks to have equal opportunity in education as whites, but the schools' busing system was actually used by white officials to enforce segregation. As policies gradually changed in favor of integration, many white citizens fought back.
April 1971 - Swann v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Case
Vera and Darius Swann sued the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school district because the closest school would not let their colored son attend. The Supreme Court agreed to conditions that were "administratively awkward, inconvenient, and even bizarre" to allow colored children to integrate into white schools. Integration was not as complicated in the South because blacks and whites already lived close to each other within school districts. In the North, however, the two groups were settled in separate neighborhoods, so white buses had to go completely out of their way in order to pick up black children. This angered many white families immensely. Swann's plan was ultimately successful in achieving integration, but encountered much violence along the way.
June 1974 - Judge W. Arthur Garrity "found that the School Committee had used covert techniques to segregate the system, and had done so with 'segregative intent.'"
September 1974 - The school board intoduced a new segregation plan. Students from a black ghetto in Roxbury, Massachusettes needed to be transported into South Boston, but the white citizens there struck back. One woman recalls, "When the kids came, everybody just broke out in tears and started crying. The kids were crying. They had glass in their hair. They were scared. And they were shivering and crying. Talking about they wanted to go home. We tried to gently usher them into the auditorium. And wipe off the little bit of bruises that they had. Small bruises and the dirt. Picked the glass out of their hair." Even at school, the children were still not safe. Violence and intimidation occurred inside the schools as well. Children were segregated on opposite sides of the classroom, and fights happened all the time.
December 1974 - On December 11th, black parents had to send decoy buses to retrieve their children from school safely.
It is actually difficult to say who was protesting during this time. Blacks were passively protesting unconstitutional segregation and unfair treatment, while whites were vehemently protesting integration which they were worried might drag down the quality of education for their own children. Although intimidation techniques used by the whites succeeded in temporarily scaring innocent schoolchildren and making life difficult for everyone, integration ultimately won. After a long and painful process, white and colored children can finally attend school together, live in the same neighborhoods, and ride the same buses.
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