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After "Brown"

After "Brown": The Rise and Retreat of School Desegregation

Charles T. Clotfelter
Copyright Date: 2004
Pages: 216
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  • Book Info
    After "Brown"
    Book Description:

    The United States Supreme Court's 1954 landmark decision,Brown v. Board of Education, set into motion a process of desegregation that would eventually transform American public schools. This book provides a comprehensive and up-to-date assessment of howBrown's most visible effect--contact between students of different racial groups--has changed over the fifty years since the decision.

    Using both published and unpublished data on school enrollments from across the country, Charles Clotfelter uses measures of interracial contact, racial isolation, and segregation to chronicle the changes. He goes beyond previous studies by drawing on heretofore unanalyzed enrollment data covering the first decade afterBrown, calculating segregation for metropolitan areas rather than just school districts, accounting for private schools, presenting recent information on segregation within schools, and measuring segregation in college enrollment.

    Two main conclusions emerge. First, interracial contact in American schools and colleges increased markedly over the period, with the most dramatic changes occurring in the previously segregated South. Second, despite this change, four main factors prevented even larger increases: white reluctance to accept racially mixed schools, the multiplicity of options for avoiding such schools, the willingness of local officials to accommodate the wishes of reluctant whites, and the eventual loss of will on the part of those who had been the strongest protagonists in the push for desegregation. Thus decreases in segregation within districts were partially offset by growing disparities between districts and by selected increases in private school enrollment.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-4133-2
    Subjects: Education

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. List of Tables
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  5. Preface
    (pp. xv-xviii)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. 1-12)

    The changes wrought by school desegregation since the 1954Brown v. Board of Educationdecision have been at times dramatic, uneven, and subject to reversal. As illustration, consider two school districts in the formerly segregated South.

    The first is Taylor County, Georgia, situated between Macon and Columbus, some ninety miles south of Atlanta. A news item that appeared on the national wires in the spring of 2003 reported on a practice there that seemed to bespeak a bygone era: racially segregated proms. Following the desegregation of the county’s public schools in the fall of 1971, school officials at Taylor County...

  7. CHAPTER ONE Walls Came Tumbling Down
    (pp. 13-43)

    The decision that Chief Justice Earl Warren read aloud in a hushed Supreme Court on May 17, 1954, is justly celebrated as one of the signal events of American legal history. In its wake, the public schools of a region would be transformed. The decision challenged one of the linchpins of Southern custom and law, the separation of the races in public schools. Unlike many events whose implications become evident only with the passage of time, most of the likely consequences ofBrown v. Board of Educationwere appreciated immediately. The front pages of Southern newspapers featured defiant statements by...

  8. CHAPTER TWO The Legacies of Brown and Milliken
    (pp. 44-74)

    This book’s primary objective is to document changes in interracial contact over the five decades since theBrowndecision. It will quickly become clear that nothing like a complete accounting is possible, owing to the lack of enrollment data covering all schools over the entire period. The best that can be done under the circumstances, then, is to describe the trends and patterns using available data. To that end, this chapter presents evidence of four kinds to document changes in interracial contact in schools. First, it summarizes information on interracial contact gleaned from two national surveys, one of black Americans...

  9. CHAPTER THREE Residential Segregation and “White Flight”
    (pp. 75-99)

    By order of a federal district court, the public schools of Louisville and its surrounding county were merged in July 1975, and then, in September, desegregated. The desegregation plan ordered by the court called for some eleven thousand black students to be transported from majority-black Louisville to schools in suburban Jefferson County and a like number of whites to be sent in the opposite direction, making this one of the nation’s most extensive applications of “massive crosstown busing.” Following two years of legal orders, appeals, and postponements, the plan’s eventual implementation was accompanied by protest rallies, a boycott by whites,...

  10. CHAPTER FOUR The Private School Option
    (pp. 100-125)

    Private schools in America are a heterogeneous lot, as any close examination will demonstrate. As illustration, consider just three private schools. Derby Academy, a school in the Boston suburb of Hingham that was founded in 1784, enrolls students from prekindergarten to ninth grade. It describes itself as “a structured environment and a joyful place. Classrooms are well-ordered and teachers are nurturing. Expectations are clearly articulated and age-appropriate. Values are consistently upheld.” Located on a twenty-seven-acre campus on the South Shore, the school completed a $5.1 million capital campaign in 2002, funding among other things a new theater and an endowment...

  11. CHAPTER FIVE Inside Schools: Classrooms and School Activities
    (pp. 126-147)

    Even a cursory observation of most public schools will make clear that a school’s overall racial composition does not necessarily determine the racial composition of the students in an individual classroom, a table in the cafeteria, or a sports team. Consider the case of a middle school in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. In the fall of 2000, 80 percent of the students in this school’s seventh-grade English classes were white, but its individual seventh-grade English classes varied in racial composition from 63 percent to 100 percent white. In another middle school in the same district, where whites comprised only 41 percent...

  12. CHAPTER SIX Higher Learning and the Color Line
    (pp. 148-177)

    Brown v. Board of Educationaddressed the racial segregation of grade schools and high schools in places like Topeka, Kansas, and Summerton, South Carolina. Except for references to legal precedents, that decision contained no mention of colleges, and certainly not colleges in places like Ann Arbor, Michigan, or Cambridge, Massachusetts, where legal segregation was not practiced. Yet the logic of theBrowndecision, together with other powerful social forces, would bring about a transformation of college student bodies that in some ways was even more pervasive than that experienced by the nation’s public elementary and secondary schools.

    This transformation is...

  13. CHAPTER SEVEN So What?
    (pp. 178-200)

    The primary purpose of this book is to document how interracial contact changed over the first half-century afterBrown v. Board of Education. The book’s historical perspective seems justified by the generally agreed-upon status of the decision as a landmark in both U.S. constitutional law and social policy. The book’s focus on interracial contact, particularly its emphasis on measurable aspects of that contact, may be somewhat more debatable. My reason for adopting this approach lies largely in my own comparative advantage as an economist. But I was also motivated by a belief that contact is a truly important aspect of...

  14. Methodological Appendix
    (pp. 201-216)
  15. Notes
    (pp. 217-244)
  16. References
    (pp. 245-262)
  17. Index
    (pp. 263-278)