It’s been more than 50 years since the U.S. Supreme Court’s Brown vs. Board of Education ruling desegregated public schools. But today, studies show that segregation is once again on the rise. The Southern Education Foundation reports more than half of the schools in the South are majority non-white and low-income. These students have some of the lowest national performance in areas such as graduation, test scores and advancement to higher education.
As part of an in-depth examination of this trend, the Southern Education Desk examines the re-segregation of Southern schools.
We visit the small Tennessee town that was the first in the South to desegregate to find out how things are a half-century later. We examine the growth of “segregation academies,” private schools established by whites, often under the pretense of religious education, to sidestep integration. We visit one community that chose to re-segregate its two high schools and as states and school districts grapple with the onset of re-segregation, we look at potential options for recreating racial balance in southern schools.
“We’re a growing school system. We have to build new schools, being very thoughtful about where we locate new schools; how we provide services there; how we locate a school so that it doesn’t create a single-race school somewhere else and so that it’s not a single-race school. It has to do with program, quality of program and many other decisions that we make.”
“We have to get past the deseg and the segregation issues, and get back to putting our public schools back together.”The thing to think about, and this is a broad social question that we all should think about, is how much we value racial, ethnic and socioeconomic diversity in schools and in our children’s lives?”
“I don’t think we’ve come nowhere. I think that the people whose mindsets have changed by the desegregation of schools have moved away from here! Bring back the white kids, because if you don’t bring back the white kids, we aren’t going to get an education here.”
“We have to get past the deseg and the segregation issues, and get back to putting our public schools back together.”
“We’re going to have certain schools that will end up having to take everybody that comes through the door. And everybody else is going to get the best we can offer, because they’ll pay for it, either through higher taxes or tuition.”
“When people start talking about things that have happened in civil rights, they talk about Little Rock and other areas and for some unknown reason they have not spoken about Clinton.”
“People sometimes argue that really all the racial separation that we see is just the result of income differences and what people can afford. And the evidence indicates that that’s really not the case. If people were spread around neighborhoods in metropolitan areas based entirely on what they can afford, we would see far less racial separation than we do. So we still really have patterns of considerable patterns of racial separation in neighborhoods that are different than our patterns of income and wealth separation.”
University of Alabama at Birmingham Historian Robert Corley On Civil Rights, Race, School Segregation And More (Audio)
“Whites began to look at ways to have their own schools – locate them in a church; locate them in some sort of community facility and get the education dollars from the state to support those schools even though they would be private.”
“Since the 1980s…school integration in the South has eroded as black students and the growing population of Latino students become more isolated from white students. In many states that had achieved rapid integration, the reversal was commensurately rapid. Varying degrees of actual or de facto segregation remain.”
“The American South long has been the poor cousin to the northern states. And the legacy of slavery and racial inequality in the region has hampered African-American efforts to become full partners in sharing the benefits that accrue to being citizens of the largest single-nation economy in the world.”
As reported in the first story in our series, in August, 1956, twelve students in Clinton, Tennessee made history by becoming the first to African-Americans to attend a state-supported high school in the south. The students became known as the “Clinton 12.” Here is a look at this piece of unique history through the ‘eyes of the time’ in this 1956 documentary from the legendary team of Edward R. Murrow and Fred Friendly at CBS-TV