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The Other Boston Busing Story

The Other Boston Busing Story: What`s Won and Lost Across the Boundary Line

Susan E. Eaton
Copyright Date: 2001
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 306
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  • Book Info
    The Other Boston Busing Story
    Book Description:

    METCO, America's longest-running voluntary school desegregation program, has for 34 years bused black children from Boston's city neighborhoods to predominantly white suburban schools. In contrast to the infamous violence and rage of forced school busing within the city in the 1970s, METCO has quietly and calmly promoted school integration. How has this program affected the lives of its graduates? Would they choose to participate if they had it to do over again? Would they place their own children on the bus to suburbia?Sixty-five METCO graduates vividly recall their own stories in this revealing book. Susan E. Eaton interviewed program participants who are now adults, asking them to assess the benefits and hardships of crossing racial and class lines on their way to school. Their answers poignantly show that this type of racial integration is not easy-they struggled to negotiate both black and white worlds, often feeling fully accepted in neither. Even so, nearly all the participants believe the long-term gains outweighed the costs and would choose a similar program for their own children-though not without conditions and apprehensions.Even as courts and policymakers today are forcing the abandonment of desegregation, educators warn that students are better prepared in schools that reflect our national diversity. This book offers an accessible and moving account of a rare program that, despite serious challenges, provides a practical remedy for the persistent inequalities in American education.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-14792-6
    Subjects: Education

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. 1 The Other Boston Busing Story
    (pp. 1-24)

    No horde of newspaper photographers showed up in the suburban town north of Boston to record Barbara Michaels’* small moment in history one summer day. In June 1975, Barbara was the town’s first student to graduate through a voluntary program called metco, which bused black students from Boston to public schools in white suburban communities. Barbara was asked to give a speech, and she had good things to say.

    Looking back that day on her years as one of a handful of black metco students in her school, Barbara was glad she had left her neighborhood school in Boston and...

  5. 2 Why They Went
    (pp. 25-42)

    Mae Rogers kept a map of metropolitan Boston in a kitchen drawer of her city apartment. A few years after her daughter Shirley was born in the 1960s, Mae took the map and began circling in red ink some of the rich towns ringing the city. Mae had learned about some of these towns when a few neighborhood children started going out to them for school every day through a new busing program. Mae didn’t need to know much more about this program except that it got black city kids into some of the “best” public schools in Massachusetts.


  6. 3 What Remains in Memory
    (pp. 43-116)

    Ask past metco students what they remember about their years in white suburbia, and their first responses usually have little to do with the weighty subjects of race, culture, and class. It’s the logistical aspects—5 a.m. wake ups and bus rides that went on for as long as two hours one way—that begin their conversations.

    Michelle Parker, a 1980s graduate, relives what she calls “the boring, tired, physical exhaustion part of metco” every time she sees or hears a yellow school bus rumbling around the streets. Her nephew goes to a metco school, about an hour outside the...

  7. 4 The Gains What Black Adults Say They Gained from Attending White Suburban Schools and How They Used What They Got
    (pp. 117-155)

    “A foot in each world.”

    “Straddling a fence between communities.”

    “Following two sets of rules.”


    “Moving back and forth.”

    “Having a double life.”


    These are some of the most common phrases black adults use to sum up their experiences as young African Americans in white suburbia. Years after high school, the adults use the same or similar phrases to describe their current lives. This bridging of two worlds and leading of double lives bring forth stories of lasting gains and losses. In this chapter, post-metco adults focus on the benefits of their movements between the black communities where...

  8. 5 The Resolutions The Costs and Confusion of Suburban Schooling and Making Up for What Was Lost
    (pp. 156-196)

    The young black students in metco learned to survive simultaneously in black and white worlds, but they often felt fully accepted in neither. Many of the former students who believe that living in both white and black worlds paid off over the long term nevertheless associate confusion, longing for a sense of community, and loneliness with their schooling in white suburbia.

    Adults recall these feelings vividly because much of the alienation and searching they link to metco experiences get re-ignited during ordinary life in white-dominated America. The painful searches for belonging that began in metco didn’t cease when the program...

  9. 6 What About Now Balancing the Gains, the Losses, and the Realities of American Society
    (pp. 197-217)

    Imagine a line. Now imagine sixty-five former metco students, each of them occupying one space on that line. The closer the students sit to the left, the more positive their metco memories. The closer they are to the middle, the more mixed their experience. Toward the end sit former students who characterize their metco days as entirely negative. As noted in chapter 3, about 20 percent of the respondents would occupy the spaces toward the left. Most—about 70 percent—crowd the middle. Fewer—the some 10 percent with solely negative experiences—scatter around the right-hand section of the line....

  10. 7 City Life and Suburban Schools What We Learn from the Grown-up Children Who Crossed Boston’s Race Boundary
    (pp. 218-258)

    One fall Kevin Tyler, then just twelve or thirteen years old, looked around the suburban neighborhood near his new school. He felt “sick.” Not disgusted, but “out of sorts, out of my element” with “everything feeling foreign, just weird.” He was only ten or twelve miles from home, but through Kevin’s Roxbury child’s eyes, suburbia looked like “another world.”

    The differences assaulted his senses. There were so many shockingly white faces. The sidewalks here didn’t seem made for walking. There weren’t any people out. The streets hummed steadily with cars, but the neighborhood seemed “so silent.” The quiet made him...

  11. APPENDIX I Next Steps for New Research
    (pp. 259-261)
  12. APPENDIX II Methodology
    (pp. 262-273)
  13. APPENDIX III Interview Guide
    (pp. 274-278)
  14. Bibliography
    (pp. 279-286)
  15. Index
    (pp. 287-293)