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The Pursuit of Racial and Ethnic Equality in American Public Schools

The Pursuit of Racial and Ethnic Equality in American Public Schools: Mendez, Brown, and Beyond

Edited by Kristi L. Bowman
with a foreword by JAMES E. RYAN
Copyright Date: 2015
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  • Book Info
    The Pursuit of Racial and Ethnic Equality in American Public Schools
    Book Description:

    In 1954 the Supreme Court decidedBrown v. Board of Education; ten years later, Congress enacted the Civil Rights Act. These monumental changes in American law dramatically expanded educational opportunities for racial and ethnic minority children across the country. They also changed the experiences of white children, who have learned in increasingly diverse classrooms. The authors of this commemorative volume include leading scholars in law, education, and public policy, as well as important historical figures. Taken together, the chapters trace the narrative arc of school desegregation in the United States, beginning in California in the 1940s, continuing throughBrown v. Board, the Civil Rights Act, and three important Supreme Court decisions about school desegregation and voluntary integration in 1974, 1995, and 2007. The authors also assess the status of racial and ethnic equality in education today and consider the viability of future legal and policy reform in pursuit of the goals ofBrown. This remarkable collection of voices in conversation with one another lays the groundwork for future discussions about the relationship between law and educational equality, and ultimately for the creation of new public policy. A valuable reference for scholars and students alike, this dynamic text is an important contribution to the literature by an outstanding group of authors.

    eISBN: 978-1-60917-467-5
    Subjects: Law, Education, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xii)
    Kristi L. Bowman
  4. Foreword
    (pp. xiii-xvi)

    In 2014, as our nation celebrated the 60th anniversary ofBrown v. Board of Education, I was asked—on a number of different occasions—to remark on the legacy of the decision. To be sure,Browngave us much worth celebrating. It overturnedPlessy v. Fergusonby asserting that separate educational facilities are inherently unequal; it put forth the idea that access to education was a fundamental right; and it delivered a heartening victory to the growing civil rights movement.

    But the legacy ofBrown(as well asMendez v. Westminster, which helped lay the groundwork for the landmark Supreme...

  5. Introduction
    (pp. xvii-xxvi)

    Anniversaries are often cause for reflection and 2014—the sixtieth anniversary ofBrown v. Board of Education¹ and the fiftieth of the federal Civil Rights Act²—was no different. As we looked back on those two momentous events in U.S. history, we celebrated, criticized, and argued about how far we have come and how far we have yet to go. Over the course of twenty-four chapters, the commentary in this volume captures many of those conversations. Taken together, the chapters trace the narrative arc of school desegregation.

    In some ways it is obvious that this volume is part of a...

  6. PART I. Mendez, Brown, and the Civil Rights Act

    • Mendez (1946)

      • Standing on the Shoulders of Mendez v. Westminster
        (pp. 5-8)

        In 2014 we celebrated the 60th anniversary ofBrown v. Board of Education,¹ undoubtedly the most important civil rights case of the last century. Chief Justice Earl Warren, writing for a unanimous United States Supreme Court in Brown, fervently stated that “separate educational facilities are inherently unequal,” eventually ordering that all public schools of our nation integrate their classrooms “with all deliberate speed.”² Over the last half century,Brown’ssound logic has been extended to housing, employment, voting rights, transportation, public accommodations, parks and recreations, and it initiated a torrent of court decisions and legislation that expanded and protected individual...

      • Our Children Are Americans: Mendez v. Westminster and Mexican American Rights
        (pp. 9-30)

        Gonzalo Méndez and his wife Felícitas Méndez were running a café in the small southern California city of Santa Ana when World War II began. The two had met as farm workers in nearby Westminster, in the heart of citrus-growing country. The café was thriving but Gonzalo had long dreamed of running a farm of his own. When the Munemitsus, the Japanese American owners of a farm in Westminster, were sent to a relocation camp and worried about what would happen to the farm during their absence, the Méndezes leased it until the Munemitsus could return. That is why the...

      • Pursuing Equity at the Intersection of School Desegregation, English-Language Instruction, and Immigration
        (pp. 31-54)

        In 1946, a federal district court held that Latino and Latina (Latino/a) students could not be segregated from “other” white students in public schools. This holding, the outcome ofMendez v. Westminster,¹ is one of the earliest victories in school desegregation, and a crucial part of the story of Latinos/as’ struggles for equality in the United States. Unfortunately, the story ofMendez, and in fact the story of Latinos/as’ pursuit of educational equity in general, is not one we often tell. In part this can be explained by demographics: until relatively recently, the Latino/a population was small in number throughout...

    • Brown (1954)

      • The Rest of the Story of Brown v. Board of Education
        (pp. 57-60)

        In the 1940s and 1950s, my family lived in an integrated neighborhood along First Street in Topeka, Kansas. Every morning, the African American children who lived there would head off to school in one direction, and the white children living next door would head off to school in another. Like the white schools, the African American schools were good schools. The facilities were built by the same person, so the African American schools were not substandard buildings with leaky roofs and outhouses, as in the South. The teachers were well-trained; many of them had advanced degrees, so the African-American children...

      • Brown v. Board of Education: An Axe in the Frozen Sea of Racism
        (pp. 61-82)

        In the early 2000s, I visited Budapest, Sofia, and small towns in Bulgaria to work with Columbia Law School’s Public Interest Law Initiative (PILI), lawyers, and nongovernmental organizations on integrating Roma (gypsy) children into the public schools. While it had not been the purpose, the experience turned out to be much like learning a foreign language, a process through which one understands one’s own language better.Brown v. Board of Education¹ took on new meaning for me.

        A year earlier, Bulgaria had integrated 2,400 Roma schoolchildren into the majority school population.² This first step in a program that will cover...

      • Integrating an All-White High School in the Segregated South: Memories, Challenges, and Lessons Learned
        (pp. 83-96)

        I am an African American who grew up in the segregated Deep South, in Albany, Georgia, a midsized community. Growing up, I often wondered why black people were so disliked and treated like second-class citizens. My family could not check into hotels or eat in restaurants, and I remember the signs over water fountains, bathrooms, bus stations, and doctors’ offices that said “white only” or “colored only.” This was the environmental print of my early literacy.¹ I could not understand why there was only one swimming pool in the city of Albany for black children. I did not understand why...

      • Brownʹs 60th Anniversary: A Story of Judicial Isolation
        (pp. 97-118)

        Sixty years ago the Supreme Court announced, “In the field of public education, the doctrine of ‘separate but equal’ has no place.”¹ In 1954, no one doubted the significance of that command, even among those who actively resisted it.

        Brown v. Board of Education² has now outlastedPlessy v. Ferguson,³ which for 58 years sanctioned “separate but equal.” Does that necessarily mean, however, thatBrownhas eclipsedPlessyin significance? Has the power ofBrowninstead waned in its advancing age? Granted, few publically decreePlessyas the best guide to race relations in the twenty-first century; yet, our schools...

    • The Civil Rights Act (1964)

      • Massive Resistance before the Civil Rights Act: The Integration of Little Rock Central High School
        (pp. 121-126)

        At two o’clock in the morning of August 2, 1957, I received a telephone call from the New Orleans FBI office. The night superintendent advised me that he had just finished talking to the SAC (Agent in Charge) of the office and that I was to be sent on a special undercover assignment.

        I was not to tell my wife or anybody where I was going. I should plan on being gone for at least two months. I was to take a good car and leave immediately for Little Rock, Arkansas. I was not to go near the Little Rock...

      • Equity in Education: The Present and Future of the Civil Rights Act of 1964
        (pp. 127-142)

        The Civil Rights Act of 1964¹ is alive, though not nearly as well as it once was. Recently, especially under the Obama Administration, the federal agencies charged with enforcement of the Act have done so with a vigor that harkens back to the days of the Act’s passage when the executive branch of the federal government came together with civil rights advocates and youth, lobbyists, legislators, clergy, and business leaders in unified fashion to craft and support the Act. I begin this chapter with a brief overview of how the Civil Rights Act’s education provisions came into being in order...

      • Defining Discrimination: Intent, Impact, and the Future of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964
        (pp. 143-166)
        DEREK W. BLACK

        The Civil Rights Act of 1964 has had the largest impact on racial equality of any legislation passed. Although the Supreme Court had declared school segregation unconstitutional a decade earlier inBrown v. Board of Education,¹ no significant school desegregation occurred prior to the Act. In fact, a mere 2% of African American children in the South attended schools with white majorities in 1964.² With the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, things changed quickly. School desegregation began occurring at a rapid pace, and those titles of the Act aimed at employment and public accommodations, likewise, began to...

  7. PART II. Desegregation Unfolds

    • Milliken (1974)

      • Milliken v. Bradley: A Judicial Betrayal of Brown
        (pp. 171-176)

        While I was serving as counsel to the Kerner Commission in 1968, and shortly after I became the general counsel of the NAACP in 1969, the extent of the spread of Northern school segregation was becoming increasingly apparent. In particular, the officers of the Detroit branch of the NAACP were concerned by these patterns. I met with these officers, at their request, during the 1970 NAACP annual national convention to discuss developments in that city.

        They informed me about recently signed legislation in Michigan (Act 48¹), signed into law by Governor William Milliken, which virtually enjoined the Detroit school board...

      • School Desegregation in Metropolitan Detroit: Struggling for Justice in a Divided and Troubled Community
        (pp. 177-194)
        JOYCE A. BAUGH

        Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. uttered these words to a large crowd gathered in Detroit, Michigan on June 23, 1963, two months before his famous “I Have a Dream” speech at the March on Washington. Dr. King, along with Mayor Jerome Cavanagh, had just led a march of 125,000 strong up Woodward Avenue to a rally at Cobo Hall. But why was Dr. King leading a civil rights march in Detroit, a Northern city; and what led him to make these remarks?

        Despite the fact that Jim Crow laws (dejure segregation) that existed in the South were not present in...

      • Milliken and the Prospects for Racial Diversity in U.S. Public Schools
        (pp. 195-212)

        “Impeach Earl Warren” signs appeared in the South in angry reaction to the Supreme Court’s historic 1954 decision inBrown. But the era of muscular Court decisions attacking school segregation turned out to be a relatively brief interlude, lasting only two decades. WhereasSwann v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education(1971)¹ might be considered the high water mark for judicial endorsement of proactive racial balance in public schools, the Court’s decision inMilliken v. Bradley(1974)² marked the end of this era, and the beginning of judicial retreat.

        InMillikenthe Court drew a bright line, limiting subsequent segregation remedies, for...

    • Jenkins (1995)

      • Missouri v. Jenkins: A Remedy without Objective Limitation
        (pp. 215-220)
        JOHN R. MUNICH

        Two years before the Supreme Court decidedMissouri v. Jenkins¹ in 1995 (Jenkins III) and began the process of closing what was likely the most ambitious and expensive school desegregation remedy in the nation’s history, I became the Chief Litigation Counsel in the Missouri Attorney General’s Office. When I began my position with the Office, the attorney general initially assigned two cases to me for my personal docket: the St. Louis (Liddell v. Board of Education²) and Kansas City (Jenkins v. Missouri) desegregation cases. At the time, I had absolutely no experience in such cases apart from studying them in...

      • Missed Opportunities, Enduring Legacies: School Segregation and Desegregation in Kansas City, Missouri
        (pp. 221-246)

        Over the last century, few issues have generated more controversy in U.S. metropolitan areas than school “desegregation.” “Busing,” “magnet schools,” and “controlled choice” have become familiar academic and popular vocabulary and reflect a long history of struggles to integrate schools and ameliorate racial inequalities. These issues are particularly significant in Kansas City, Missouri, the site of one of the nation’s most controversial and expansive desegregation orders during the 1980s and 1990s. Racial segregation in housing and schools have been defining features of the Kansas City metropolitan area for over a century. The Kansas City, Missouri, School District (KCMSD) was racially...

      • The Legal Legacy of Missouri v. Jenkins
        (pp. 247-270)

        The Supreme Court’s 1995 decision inMissouri v. Jenkinsis one of the many middle children of school desegregation jurisprudence. Born long after the celebrated civil rights victories inBrown v. Board of Education¹ andGreen v. County School Board of New Kent County,² and a generation beforeParents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School District No. 1³ and the higher education affirmative action cases brought by white plaintiffs,Jenkinshas merited comparatively little sustained scholarly attention in its own right.Jenkinshas not been forgotten, but most often it is mentioned in the literature merely as part of...

    • Parents Involved and Meredith (2007)

      • Meredith v. Jefferson County Board of Education: A Community Committed to Diverse Schools
        (pp. 273-278)
        BYRON E. LEET

        The morning of December 4, 2006, broke clear but cold in Washington, DC. The overnight low temperature had been 29 degrees, which made it a cold night to sleep outside the Supreme Court building, yet that is precisely where a number of people had spent the night in anticipation of arguments in the high court on the constitutionality of voluntary race-conscious student assignment plans in Louisville and Seattle. As we made our way past citizens crying out that morning for the Supreme Court to honor the promise ofBrown v. Board of Education¹ and affirm the lower courts’ rulings that...

      • Making Schools More Separate and Unequal: Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School District No. 1
        (pp. 279-290)

        American public schools are increasingly separate and unequal. By every measure public schools are becoming more racially segregated.¹ Historically, much less has been spent on education for African American and Latino students than for white students. The Supreme Court deserves a great deal of the blame for this. InSan Antonio Independent School District v. Rodriguez² the Court held that inequalities in school funding do not deny equal protection and the Court concluded that education is not a fundamental right under the Constitution. WhileRodriguezmeant that there would be unequal schools, another decision a year later,Milliken v. Bradley,i³....

      • Contesting White Accumulation in Seattle: Toward a Materialist Antiracist Analysis of School Desegregation
        (pp. 291-312)

        Seattle parent Kathleen Brose was outraged when her daughter was assigned to Franklin High School, rather than her first choice, the oversubscribed Ballard High School, which had recently undergone a $35 million renovation. For Brose, the school district’s use of race as a factor in school assignment, although intended to achieve racial balance, penalized her daughter for being white, and prevented her from enrolling at Ballard, the family’s local community high school. “She was told basically, ‘You have no value to us, except your skin color. We don’t care if it’s going to be a burden to have you get...

  8. PART III. Looking to the Future

    • After Unitary Status: Examining Voluntary Integration Strategies for Southern School Districts
      (pp. 315-338)

      In the years since the Supreme Court’s 2007 decision inParents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School District No. 1,¹ scholars have speculated on the long-term impact of the case.² The argument has been made thatParents Involvedwill have little practical effect on school districts because racial integration is off the agenda of most school districts.³ Others have predicted that the case will lead to fewer school districts utilizing race-conscious student assignment plans.⁴

      This chapter enters this debate and the larger conversation about the future of racially integrated public schools by providing empirical data on student assignment plans...

    • Voluntary Integration and School Board Leadership in Louisville, Kentucky
      (pp. 339-354)

      The role of school boards today is increasingly complex, as multiple stakeholders and interest groups have become more influential in the education policy-making process, including local and state actors with no formal jurisdiction over education policy. An added complication is that federal court decisions, most notablyPICS, have hamstrung local efforts to maintain or create racially and ethnically diverse schools. In the years sincePICS, Jefferson County Public Schools (JCPS), one of the districts involved in the case, has developed a new student assignment policy and already subsequently revised this policy; its process illustrates the considerable effort school boards must...

    • How Adequacy Litigation Fails to Fulfill the Promise of Brown (But How it Can Get Us Closer)
      (pp. 355-380)

      A quality education is often seen as the potential equalizer in the pursuit of the “American Dream” between the “haves” and the “have-nots.” There is nary a sane person who would say that he or she is against equal educational opportunities. Indeed, all 50 states have articles specifically addressing the states’ obligations to provide a public education.¹ Through school desegregation and school finance litigation, the quest for equal educational opportunities through court action has continued for well over a century.

      At the heart of early school desegregation cases was the legal, social, and educational lesson needed to be taught: Segregating...

    • Teacher Evaluation and Collective Bargaining: The New Frontier of Civil Rights
      (pp. 381-404)

      The 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act¹ and 60th anniversary ofBrown v. Board of Education² merit both celebration for how far we have come and critical evaluation of how far we have left to go. SinceBrownwas decided in 1954, the United States has engaged in a vast array of reforms undertaken at least partly in the name of educational equality.³ These reforms are often designed to address persistent problems in education, such as the achievement gap between white students and students of color and unequal access to educational opportunities. Desegregation, school finance reform, the education of...

    • Education and Civil Rights: Lessons of Six Decades and Challenges of a Changed Society
      (pp. 405-430)

      TheBrown v. Board of Education¹ decision created a new vision for American education. African American students who had been segregated by law in 17 states and Washington, DC, in schools that never were “separate but equal” were suddenly told that their schools were “inherently unequal” and promised that the courts would end segregation in their educations. The passage of six decades since means that we have had ample time to learn what actually happened, how it worked, and to observe the conditions under which we made major progress toward the goal of integrated schools and those that have pushed...

  9. Contributing Authors
    (pp. 431-438)
  10. Index
    (pp. 439-452)