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Education and Civil Rights: School Desegregation in Boston

Education and Civil Rights: School Desegregation in Boston

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Published by: Facing History and Ourselves on Dec 18, 2008
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159
Facing History and Ourselves/Boston Public Schools Civil Rights Curriculum Collaborative
 
Documents for this curriculum can be found at
Education and Civil Rights: SchoolDesegregation in Boston
rationale
The civil rights movement is often taught as a Southern phenomenon. Yet, thestruggle for racial justice occurred all over the country, especially in Northerncities. In this unit, students learn about one episode in the civil rights move-ment in the North: the conflict over how to resolve racial segregation inBoston’s public schools in the 1960s and 1970s. These lessons focus on thecontext and decisions that resulted in court-ordered busing, rather than onthe violence and tension that followed busing. Investigating the years prior tocourt-ordered busing helps students better understand current debates aboutsegregation in public schools. Nearly 50 years later, the same conditions that ledto racially imbalanced schools in the 1960s and 1970s, namely residential seg-regation, exist in most American cities and suburbs. Furthermore, many of thestrategies suggested by educators, parents, and activists in the 1960s are being proposed today. The lessons in this unit also provide students with the oppor-tunity to reflect on their educational experiences and develop their opinionabout school segregation. As the United States becomes an increasingly racially diverse nation, it is particularly relevant for students to think about how peoplefrom different backgrounds build relationships based on mutual respect andshared understandings, and the role of schools in this endeavor.
unit outline: th     h fw f :lesson one:
•
 
e   c rh
—Students discuss the rela-tionship between education and civil rights as they begin to explorethe conditions that caused many in Boston’s black community toclaim that their civil rights were being violated by the Boston SchoolCommittee.
lesson tWo:
•
 
i h 1960, Wh W B’ Pb shr s?
—Students learn about the de facto causes of school segregation as they explore how Boston’s neighborhoods becamesegregated by race.
lesson tHree:
•
 
rp  r ib sh
Students study responses to segregated and unequal schools in order tomore deeply understand why Judge Garrity found the Boston SchoolCommittee guilty of de jure school segregation.
159
unIt 3/ IntroductIon
 
160
Facing History and Ourselves/Boston Public Schools Civil Rights Curriculum Collaborative
 
Documents for this curriculum can be found at
lesson Four:
•
 
d  h c
—Students watch a segment fromthe
Eyes on the Prize 
video series to learn about the power and limits of court ordersto remedy school segregation.
materials:
In addition to optional resources suggested with each lesson, the unitmainly draws from the following materials:
Eyes on the Prize 
•
, Volume 7, Episode 13, “Keys to the Kingdom.”Reporter’s Notebook. This collection of handouts accompanies the suggested final
•
assignment. We encourage teachers to adapt these materials to their own classroomuse.Digital Legacies Project student-produced film, “
•
unit learning goals:
The purpose of these lessons is to help students . . .
Review the relationship between education and civil rights.
•
Describe conditions in Boston’s public schools in the 1960s and explain how hous-
•
ing policies and practices contributed to these conditions.Distinguish between de jure and de facto segregation.
•
Identify responses in the Boston community to segregated and unequal schools.
•
 Analyze the use of court mandates as a remedy for school segregation.
•
Develop their own opinions about school desegregation
•
suggested Final assessments For tHis unitnwpp a:
The lessons in this unit are designed to help students write a newspa-per article chronicling attempts to create more racially balanced schools in Boston in the1960s. During each lesson, students record what they have learned in “fieldnotes.” At theend of the unit, students will develop a “better ending” to this story—an alternate scenariothat represents their beliefs about school desegregation. The purpose of this assignmentis twofold: (1) Writing the article provides an engaging way for students to demonstratetheir understanding of this history, and (2) developing their own ending gives students theopportunity to connect this history to their own beliefs and experiences related to schooldesegregation. Although the lesson plans refer to this assignment and the fieldnotes in the Reporter’sNotebook you can also teach this material without this assignment. The questions andcharts in the Reporter’s Notebook can easily be adapted for your classroom use.
e q:
Studies show that many school systems are becoming more segregated by race.
•
Given what you have learned about Boston’s experience with school desegregationin the 1960s and 1970s, what advice would you give to a community that is trying to figure out how to desegregate its school system?Commenting on the court-ordered desegregation in Boston Public Schools, Jean
•
McGuire, director of the METCO program
1
and civil rights activist, said, “I feltthat what took place absolutely had to happen. It may not have had to happen that way. . . .” To what extent do you agree or disagree with Ms. McGuire’s commentthat busing had to happen, but that it could have happened in a different way?
160
*For a transcript of this episode, follow this link: www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/eyesontheprize/about/pt_106.html.
 
161
Facing History and Ourselves/Boston Public Schools Civil Rights Curriculum Collaborative
 
Documents for this curriculum can be found at
Describe “what took place” (what happened) in Boston in 1974. Why did this hap-
•
pen?Do you agree with Jean McGuire that this “absolutely had to happen”? Why or
•
 why not?Describe the way that members of the Boston community responded.
•
 What might Bostonians have done differently to result in a more peaceful and pro-
•
ductive response to school desegregation?
P:
Students could work in groups or individually to create an exhibit that tells the
•
story of Boston’s struggle to achieve desegregated schools. Members of the schooland local community might be invited to tour the exhibit.Boston’s Civil Rights Oral History Project: Following the example of students in
•
theDigital Legacies Project, students could select a local community member wholived in Boston before and after Judge Garrity’s ruling in
 Morgan v. Hennigan
. TheLibrary of Congress websiteprovides helpful information about how to organizean oral history project ( www.memory.loc.gov/learn/lessons/oralhist/ohguide.html).(Refer to Lessons Two and Three for detailed information about events in Bostonpreceding and immediately after Judge Garrity’s ruling in
 Morgan v. Hennigan
.)
161

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