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Welcome to After the Dream, which examines the social, economic, and political implications of events in America’s South following the civil rights movement of the mid 1960s, and the ongoing struggle for black equality.
In part six Timothy Minchin and Professor Emeritus John Salmond will discuss the effects of the Civil Rights Movement on education in the south. We'll start with Professor Minchin.
- Professor Timothy Minchin:
The battle to desegregate education was a very hard fought battle. Of course in the area of school and people's feelings were heavily involved. White parents had a lot of fears of integration that this would lower educational standards, that it would harm the education of their children and of course as parents, care deeply about their children. Even today the results are very mixed although the legal segregation of schools ended, a lot of the whites reacted by moving away from integrated schools, the so-called phenomenon of ‘white flight’ occurred, which meant that ah, whites moved into suburbs or country areas and put their children into private schools or into public schools where there were very few blacks enrolled.
So today, particularly in urban areas you see the public schools have resegregated and the urban districts are usually heavily minority in composition of the students both African-American and also increasing Hispanic today as well. So this is an area where the progress is sort of mixed and it's not as easy to say the success occurred.
Education, a lot of the stories are just related to the courts. Certainly in the early period after 1964 the courts supported efforts to desegregate the schools and and really help to drive the change forward particularly under the presidency of Richard Nixon, who actually of course was uncomfortable with a lot of school integration and partly because he'd been supported heavily by southern whites and was being lobbied by them to try and slow it down. And it was the courts that really pushed the whole thing forward and this remained true through the early 1970s and that was the period when the greatest progress occurred.
Over time the Supreme Court became more conservative and actually started to turn its back on some of the techniques that had earlier been used to produce real change in school desegregation particularly of course this controversial method of busing. Busing being of course the transporting of students across neighbourhood boundaries. It usually meant sending black children into previously white schools, which was particularly controversial and feared by a lot of whites.
And also sometimes sending white children into previously black schools, which was even more opposed by the white community. And particularly by the late 70s and into the 1980s, the courts turned against busing and started to issue decisions that restricted the ability to use it and this sort of encouraged the backtracking and the resegregation.
- John Salmond
Without busing given the residential patterns that prevail in the American south, it's very, very hard to maintain through the integrated school. People do want to send their kids to the school that's closest to their place of residence. And increasingly black parents are saying that as well. That busing if it means sending your kid to school 30 miles away as it's still down in that of the rurals. It is plain unfair on the kids and what they need is more money spent in their own schools that black kids don't have to be sitting next to white kids in order to progress.
So there has been a resegregation of southern public schools. They're still the most integrated in the nation. This is particularly true in the rural areas but nevertheless there has been a resegregation and it's partly because the techniques that we used to bring integration have been abandoned or have been uhm, circumscribed by Supreme Court action.
04:09 In one area though I think that one would have to accept is higher education. By and large, the higher education systems were again through court action, some of which in Mississippi for example, consisted riding to the lake in 1990s. Access to higher education is pretty much completely integrated level. Although again, there has been a backlash and much more so within the black community because quite often the integration of higher education was leading to the closing, the diminution of historically black schools, black colleges and universities that had maintained black education for much of the century. Schools with the graduates and the community generally were proud. And they said, "Hold on. We've lost their high schools. We don't want to lose our historic black colleges as well."
05:07 But I would think that in terms of higher education, the successful integration of higher education in the Americans here could be counted along with public accommodation is one of the success stories.
- Timothy Minchin:
One thing I found was that the integration was very much carried out on white terms that it usually meant the closing of black schools, the dismissal of black teachers. The loss of black role models particularly the teachers and the principals and the transferring of the black students to white schools where they were often disciplined more harshly, expelled more easily, placed in lower grade classes because of obviously stereotypes the white administrator still held about them.
So there were some, you know, heavy cuffs that they wore but I think, yes, it's certainly true that it, it did lead to progress overall. And of course that tertiary progress has been crucial and lead to an increased black middle class, a sizable black middle that you have now particularly in southern cities like Atlanta and Charlotte where there's a sizable black middle class working in the professions. And if come through that tertiary system largely because of the Civil Rights Movement.
- 06:18 John Salmond:
And the black political class. Most of the major southern cities now have black mayors for example. They often preside over diminishing budgets and declining facilities and so on but there is a real connection between the black political class and accessibility to higher education. It's a complex story, ah, how much it involves also to think such as football. You know once you start recruiting African-Americans into your college football and basketball teams, once, one school that does it. Everyone has to.
- Matt Smith:
And that was Professor John Salmond. The book they co-authored is called After the Dream Black and White Southerners Since 1965. It is published by the University Press of Kentucky and is available from all good bookstores.
07:04 Listen in next week when Tim and John will discuss Martin Luther King and his dream. If you have any questions, comments, or feedback, you can send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org