On February 14, 1972, Augusta's Richmond
County School District implemented a desegregation policy
handed down by U.S. District Court Judge Alexander A. Lawrence.
The ruling mandated that the city bus students to various
schools throughout the district in order to attain a 60-40 ratio
of white to black students in each school—a ratio mirroring the
demographics of Richmond
County. On the first day of this new initiative,
members of “Citizens for Neighborhood Schools” as well as many
other white parents staged a boycott of Richmond County schools,
which kept over half of the student population at home.
WSB-TV report features a bus unloading African American students followed by the opinions of two Augusta mothers.
The black woman favors busing while the white
mother opposes the plan. A white speaker uses a bullhorn to
address a large crowd of protesting adults. The group members
argue that the forced busing plan has violated their rights to
make choices about their children's educations. The report concludes
with an interview of the principal of a private school opened
specifically to accommodate white students whose parents oppose
Roy Rollins, superintendent of the Richmond County School District
at the time of the policy's implementation, described himself to
a New York
Times reporter as a staunch segregationist.
While many parents pointed to the inconvenience and discomfort
that traveling across town caused their children
as the motivation for their opposition,
Rollins admitted that for many adults the desire not to mix with
black communities actually spurred their hostility to the busing
measure. He argued that he had received no complaints toward the
forced busing plans that sent white students across town to another
white school because of overcrowding.
Nor did all black leaders favor forced busing.
In fact, the Congress
of Racial Equality (CORE), considered a moderate group,
preferred to argue for better accommodations in black schools
rather than forced busing. CORE pressured school systems
to live up to the "separate
but equal" creed, by proposing to route some suburban taxes
toward inner city schools. Although almost
twenty years had passed since the courts had mandated school integration,
many regarded forced busing as a last resort.
As a result of forced busing, many parents enrolled their children
in all-white private schools rather than patronizing the public
system. In the nine months following the implementation
of forced busing, more than three thousand white students left the
Richmond County School System, to attend newly formed
private schools. At Lucy
C. Laney High School, one
of Augusta’s public schools, the registered number of white
students dropped from 381 to 85 in the years directly following
the implementation of forced busing. The black student
population, on the other hand, jumped from 668 to 888.
In hindsight, many have questioned the effectiveness of busing
and other integration attempts. Jonathan
Kozol’s book, The
Shame of the Nation (2005),
exposes the presence of segregated education in school
systems across the United States. Kozol discusses the large percentages
of schools in the North and the South whose racial demographics
no longer reflect the progress of civil rights activism. According
to his book, during the 1990s, the proportion
of black students at majority white schools decreased to a level
lower than in any year since 1968. He also notes that almost
seventy-five percent of black and Latino students attend predominately
minority schools. Often underfunded, these schools are often
located in poor areas where the tax base insufficiently compensates
for the students needs.
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1. What effect did the movement of white students
from public to newly formed private schools have on the desegregation
effort? Why do some parents enroll their children in private
2. Because of zoning, the racial and socioeconomic composition
of neighborhoods affects school populations. What
other methods could communities devise to diversify or integrate
3. Do you think integrated schools are a good idea? Is this viable
for today's schools? Consider whether separation based on race,
gender, or aptitude might make a difference in how students learn.
4. Many public officials supported the school
boycott in Augusta. What does this demonstrate about the influence
of the Civil
Rights Movement in 1972?
Take it to the Streets!
WSB-TV report asks us to question the utility of forced busing,
which was implemented in order to provide children of all races
with equal educational opportunities. The black mother in the
clip provides the most compelling argument, perhaps, in defense
of integrated schools. She states, “Well, as I can understand
it...some material has been handed out in the
white schools that we don’t even know anything about. So if they
are together, now they will know together.”
In light of this mother's comments, examine your own
community. Has school resegregation occurred in your
town? Brainstorm solutions to today’s resegregation problem. Make
a list of possible solutions on a local and national level. Write
a letter to a political leader in your area addressing and providing
possible solutions to school resegregation.
Writers: Bonnie Claxton, Morgan Copper, Anna Hasty, Grace Lee,
and Kathleen Yapp in Professor Barbara McCaskill's ENGL 4860 (The
Civil Rights Movement in American Literature), Fall 2007.
Editors and Researchers: Kamille Bostick, Christina L. Davis, and
Professor Barbara McCaskill
Web Site Designer: William Weems
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