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[Rachelle Powell]: Hello. Welcome to the Civil Rights Speaker Series.
I am Professor Rachelle Powell, Sociology Instructor at North Lake Campus.
[Rolanda Randle]: And I am Dr. Rolanda Randle, Government Faculty at Richland Campus.
[Rachelle Powell]: This presentation, "The Story Behind the Headlines, the Fight for Social Justice in Education during the Civil Rights Movement," will focus on some of the headlines that you've heard and seen throughout the Civil Rights period, but we're also going to talk a little bit about some of the lesser-known stories behind the headlines.
So, again, welcome to this series, and we hope that it provides you with a better outlook of some of the issues related to education during the Civil Rights Movement. Thank you.
[Rolanda Randle]: And as we move through the presentation, we've established a timeline for you to follow.
And as we talk about the different cases and the different events that occurred, we are going to spend a lot of time talking about the families' involvement because with the stories, you've heard the headlines, but we don't always know how it affected the family, so that is one of the focuses.
And as you see the timeline here, look for it throughout the presentation. We'll start in the 1800s to talk about how education for African Americans began and then lead through what's happening today. Next slide.
And for this particular slide, we're using "Separate but equal," and we'll talk about what that term actually means. I want to start out with the history of the Freedmen's Bureau.
It was established after the Civil War during Reconstruction to help integrate the newly-freed slaves into society and also to help those White families who lost land or were left without a home because of the Civil War, and one of the major functions of the Freedmen's Bureau was to help establish an education system for African Americans and to protect the teachers who were part of that school system.
So, it was established in 1865. It was temporary through the federal government, and it ended in 1972.
Through the Freedmen's Bureau, there were over 1000 schools established for Blacks and loans made to some of the historically Black colleges and universities that exist today to help them get up and running.
And so, after the Freedmen's Bureau and after African Americans were freed from slavery, we move into Plessy v. Ferguson. It's a seminal case in our history.
And in that case, the Supreme Court at the time basically upheld the constitutionality of separating the races, and they established the doctrine "Separate but equal," stating that if African Americans and Caucasians were separate, as long as the facilities were equal, then that was constitutional. Next slide.
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[Video audio, woman speaking]: It sort of -- it was the -- the bubbling up that was coming to the early '60s and the events that led up to Rosa Parks sitting on the bus, you know, to the March on Washington.
[Video audio, man speaking]: We were proud to do what we know we needed to do.
[Video audio, man speaking]: They were a direct forerunner of trying to move the nation into a different direction.
[Video audio, man speaking]: The history of the walkout at Adkin High School in Kinston is a marvelous and very encouraging story. And to be honest, I'd never heard about it.
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[Rachelle Powell]: Now, in that brief -- this brief video clip you heard about Adkin High School and the walkout from 1951. So, I'm going to go into a little bit more detail.
And the fight -- fighting for equal education was well underway when the Supreme Court ruled in Brown v. Board of Education, but one of the lesser known fights that happened was with the Adkin High School walkout in 1951, and Adkin High School is located in Kinston, North Carolina.
One day in 1951, an announcement was made over the loudspeaker, and the announcement was, "Carolyn Coefield has lost a red pocketbook."
Those words were the signal that triggered the walkout of 720 Black students. The students, not wanting to cause troubles for their parents or teachers, told no one about their plan, which was executed perfectly.
Prior to the walkout, five students spoke with the school board, demanding better facilities and materials similar to what the White students had at their high school.
The school board did not waiver and chose not to make any improvements to the building or supplies at the Black-only school.
That prompted the students to devise and implement their walkout plan. They marched with signs that read, "Freedom, Equal Rights, and Education."
This walkout illustrates how aware Black students were of the fact that their education was not the same as their White counterparts.
The walkout received widespread attention with the media wanting to see if the students had actually done that.
Within one year of the walkout, although still segregated, the Adkin High School received a new swimming pool, a new gym, new classroom, and new vocational building.
And this was all done before the Brown v. Board of Education's lawsuit. And so, this just shows you that the fight for civil rights, it did not begin with Brown v. Board of Education.
Most often when we talk about civil rights in education, we always focus on Brown v. Board of Education. And although that was a pivotal point in civil rights regarding education, we just want to stress that the fight for equal education and racial justice within education was a fight long held before the Brown v. Board of Education decision came through.
We've provided more information about this in our resource section of this presentation, so I encourage you to look at that when you have an opportunity. Thank you. Next slide.
[Rolanda Randle]: Now, as Professor Powell mentioned, Brown v. Board of Education is another seminal case in social justice in education. So, when we talked about Plessy v. Ferguson and "Separate but equal," that doctrine lasted for 58 years. Brown v. Board of Education was the case that finally overturned that.
And by applying the Equal Protection Clause from the Fourteenth Amendment to African Americans and in public facilities and in this case specifically in public education, stating that there's no such thing basically as "Separate but equal," and one of the cases that tested the ruling from Brown was the Little Rock Nine.
After Brown, there was a call from the federal government to integrate schools, public education, and one of the first cases that gained a lot of notoriety was the Little Rock Nine.
With the Little Rock Nine, there was a group of nine African American students who were going to integrate the high school in Little Rock, and it was a major media event because the National Guard had to be called in to walk with those students to class because there was so much protest about integrating the schools and everything that happened in Arkansas, eventually with the schools being -- all schools being closed down.
Governors started to take the same action and close down schools all across the United States.
The clip that is -- that accompanies this particular story is just the story of one of the students who was from the Little Rock Nine talking about how she felt after that first year of trying to integrate the school and also with having security with her almost 24/7, but she speaks of -- they couldn't be with them everywhere because she was a female.
[Video audio, woman speaking]: By the time school had ended, I had sort of settled into myself, and I could have gone on for the next five years. It didn't matter anymore. I was past feeling.
I was -- I was into just that kind of numb pain where you say, "Hey, I can make it. Do whatever you'd like," and it just doesn't matter anymore.
But I came home, and by myself, I walked to the backyard, and I burned my books. I burned everything that I could burn.
And I just stood there crying, looking into the fire, and wondering whether I would go back, but not wanting to go back.
[Video audio, man speaking]: Melba Pattillo didn't have to face that decision. The next year, Governor Faubus closed down all of Little Rock's high schools to halt integration.
[Video audio, woman speaking]: The troops were wonderful. You know, there was some fear that they were dating the girls in high school, and I don't care what they were doing.
They were wonderful. But they couldn't be with us everywhere. They couldn't be with us, for example, in the ladies bathroom.
They couldn't be with us in gym. You'd be walking out to the volleyball court, and someone would break a bottle and trip you on the ball. I have scars on my right knee from that.
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[Rachelle Powell]: Okay. In this brief video clip, you're going to hear about the Prince Edward County School and their response to the Brown v. Board of Education ruling.
[Video audio, woman speaking]: I missed the whole four years out of school. And I think I lost a lot of education because now some of the things we have in school, I have missed it, and I have a hard, you know, time trying to get there.
[Video audio, man speaking]: I knew that the whole thing was wrong. The most important thing was, "Why was it wrong?" There was nothing else I could say but, "It was wrong, it was wrong, it was wrong."
[Video audio, woman speaking]: After I got old enough, they closed school. And well, I guess I was more hurt than anything else because -- well, I had to leave home, and I've always loved it here, and I just felt bitter.
I don't know why. It was just because I guess that's -- well, they just closed the schools and shut the door.
[Music; Video audio, man speaking]: Prince Edward County, Virginia, the only county in America that closed its public schools rather than integrate them. Where Negro and White fought over the interpretation of the Constitution for 10 bitter years.
Where every resident had to decide for himself where the law lay. In court decrees? Or in his own personal attitudes and beliefs?
[Video audio, male minister speaking]: These children are members of a lost generation. I'm Reverend Griffin, minister of their church, and I know.
Sometimes, I look at them, and I wonder if the whole struggle was worth it because in a sense, what we did to them is undeniable. We sacrificed them to prove they were equal.
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[Video audio, woman speaking]: Well, I'm not about to sacrifice my children. I mean, I want them to get a good education, but I really believe they can't get a good education in an integrated school at least not in the South. It just won't work in the South.
[Rachelle Powell]: Now with this brief video clip, you heard about the Prince Edward County school closure. So, I'm going to go into a little bit more detail about that.
Now, this was, of course, after the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision, so you would think that since the Supreme Court had ruled that segregation was unconstitutional with regard to schools and they were required to integrate, that that would be -- would have been the end of the story.
But, in fact, it was not. And so, while there have been many cases and many instances where integration improved the lives of African American students, there are cases that shows where it did not help Black students during that period.
And one such case is with the Prince Edward County schools. And in this school district, the county chose to close the school district, the entire school district, rather than integrate, although that was the law of the land.
And you might be thinking, "Well, if they close the schools that would impact the White students, as well as the Black students." Well, it did.
And the county had an answer for that. They understood and they created a plan to address the issue.
What they decided to do was to open up private academies for White -- for the White students in the county, so they were still able to receive an education while all the schools that were supposed to integrate were closed to the Black students.
The state also, recognizing that these private schools charge tuition, the state offered scholarships and grants to cover tuition.
But of course, the tuition -- the grants and the scholarships were only available to the White students in the county. So, Black students were not allowed to attend any of those private schools.
Now, some Black families may have sent their children to live in other counties and other cities and perhaps even in other states to receive an education in an integrated school, but many families could not do that for a variety of reasons.
Some churches decided to hold classes in their basements. But again, that was limited in terms of what they could offer the students.
And what it ended up doing was most of the Black children in Prince Edward County simply did not attend school.
So, there were lawsuits back and forth through the courts for a period of 10 years or so where they were determining whether it was constitutional for, number one, the school district to close entirely, but also with opening the private schools and with providing tuition and grant and scholarships for the students.
The cases were finally settled. And in 1964, the school district finally reopened, and the students were allowed to go back to school.
But when you look at that video, you've heard about the students who say that they lost four or five years of education that they were never able to get back because the schools were closing.
So, again, I encourage you to watch the video clip in its entirety, and there's more information about this school closure in the resource page of this presentation.
[Rolanda Randle]: Okay. So, I'm sure most of you have seen the depiction of Ruby Bridges.
On the original, it's showing her being escorted by federal officers from the school building. And then, Norman Rockwell did a picture in 1964 depicting this particular event because it moved him so much.
But Ruby Bridges -- when we're talking about how it affected the family, the reason that Ruby Bridges was -- caught media attention, first, it was because she was only six years old, but she was the first Black student to integrate an elementary school in the South.
And so, to talk about what happened with her family, she and her mother had to be escorted every day by four officers to the school and back home every day, and it had a really negative effect on her family.
Her father lost his job. The local grocery store stopped selling groceries to her mother.
And her grandparents, who were sharecroppers, they were evicted from the farm that they'd lived on for a quarter of a century, just because the parents chose to allow Ruby to integrate the schools.
So, in 1974, there was a major ruling that stated that Boston had still refused to integrate its schools. And so, there was a ruling that stated that the Boston schools needed to integrate, and it ended up being a lot like the Little Rock Nine in that the National Guard had to be called in to ensure that schools were being integrated.
And the clip that you will see from this will be of a mother who is upset that her child was bussed to the school that was in the White neighborhood, primarily an Irish Catholic neighborhood, and they did not bring her back.
So, she was over there alone in a neighborhood where there was extreme violence going on because the neighborhood and the citizens that lived in South Boston were angry about integration.
On the first day, they attacked the school buses with eggs and bricks because they were so angry. But the clip just depicts how a family was affected by her child being bussed to a location and being left.
[Video audio, mother speaking]: They are not going until they get some Black cops and some Black drivers. They did not pick my kid up at school. He left her over there.
[Video audio, woman speaking]: He left her in South Boston?
[Video audio, mother speaking]: He left her in South Boston. No, they left her over there.
All those -- All those people out there are Irish. They left her out there. And they refused to go get her.
[Rolanda Randle]: As we move into 1970 -- the 1970s and 1980s, we start talking about the concept of affirmative action.
The term was first used by President Kennedy when he issued an executive order that required federal government to take affirmative action to employ African Americans who had been systemically excluded from government contracts.
That term was then expanded to other areas such as education. So, one of the major cases that happened related to affirmative action was Regents of California v. Bakke.
Allan Bakke, who was a White male in his 30s, applied to 12 medical schools. UC Davis, he applied to twice.
He did not get in either of those, and he eventually sued UC Davis, saying that he did not get in because of their affirmative action program and because they had let in a Black student who he knew or he thought he knew that his grades were better.
The video that's depicted actually shows the student, the Black student, who was let in at that time because of affirmative action, and she will talk about how she had graduated from an Ivy League in three years versus four and how her scores, MCAT scores and her GPA, were much higher than many of the White students -- excuse me, many of the White students who had applied to medical school.
And so, she talks about her experience, not knowing that she was an affirmative action admission, but finding out after the fact that she was and knowing that her grades were far superior to other students who had been admitted.
So, it's a very interesting case and it set the standard because the court in this case stated that an education system could not use quotas, meaning that they couldn't set aside seats for African Americans or other minorities, that that was unconstitutional.
But in subsequent cases and in this one, they said that race could be a factor to be considered.
[Video audio, man speaking]: Black progress was facing a challenge. Allan Bakke was an engineer in his 30s when he decided to become a doctor.
He was turned down by 12 medical schools, twice by the one at the University of California at Davis. Bakke sued Davis.
He alleged its affirmative action program unfairly limited his chances of admission.
But Toni Johnson was admitted to Davis Medical School, the first in her family to attend college.
She had gone to Stanford University on an academic scholarship and graduated in three years.
[Video audio, Toni Johnson-Chavis]: When I was selected for UC Davis and went into Davis, it was not until well into my first year that I had any idea that I had been selected through affirmative action.
Certainly, I had met all the criteria for regular entrance. Certainly, there were other students, White students, who did not even meet the same criteria.
Their GPA was far less than mine. Their MCAT scores were far less than mine. So, I had no idea that I had even come in through affirmative action.
I heard about Allan Bakke the very first year I was in medical school, but there was not much said, other than there was a guy who wanted to get into our class, and he was really angry that he didn't get into the class, so he was going to sue.
[Rolanda Randle]: Magnet schools. So, we move into 1980 to 1990. So, we're trying to, in this discussion, trying to show how bussing and integration is still pretty much happening in the United States.
And Sheff v. O'Neill, the families -- several families sued because they said that in their particular school district, that the state and the local government, they were expending more funds in the White neighborhoods versus those neighborhoods that were primarily Black and primarily Hispanic.
And so, they sued. One of the remedies in the suit was to establish magnet schools.
There was a federal order that established magnet schools for the purpose of integrating and also for giving -- giving a way for African Americans and other students to improve their educational skills.
So, when this case happened, it was still not until 2020 where they had to go back to the courts and state that -- the court said that the magnet schools should be established and that African Americans should have access to it, and Hispanic students should have access to it, but it still had not happened.
So, they had to go back to court as soon as January of 2020 to enforce this particular order. Next.
[Rachelle Powell]: All right. In this video, please pay close attention because it's closed captioned only.
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[Rachelle Powell]: Now in the midst of the fight for racial equality in education, the focus was on public education, of course, and that was the whole premise behind the Brown v. Board of Education.
But unbeknownst to most people, there was a secondary level of inequality happening specifically within the deaf community.
And as you've seen in this -- saw in the video clip, this person talked about Black American Sign Language, and that was something that was actually new to me.
And of course, I've heard of American Sign Language, but I never knew about this other sign language that was used in the Black community.
And the reason that it was -- this Black American Sign Language came about was because, although the first deaf school opened in 1817, Black students were not allowed to enroll until 1952.
So, for over 135 years, people who were deaf in the Black community had no way of learning a language, had no way of communicating.
So, they had to come up with their own language. They had to come up with their own signs to communicate within their families and within their communities.
And this language is still being used today because oftentimes -- not in every case, of course -- but many times, the -- deaf runs through generations in various families.
And so, that language is passed down from generation to generation.
And so -- but this resulted in this sign language being used in communities and used by multiple generations, and this was something that wasn't addressed as part of Brown v. Board of Education, but segregation, of course, existed for people with disabilities and specifically for the deaf community.
But I encourage you to learn -- to go out and learn a little bit more about Black American Sign Language. It's really fascinating.
[Rolanda Randle]: Okay. And as we come to modern day from 1990s and into the 2000s, we see an era of resegregation, and that has occurred primarily because of redistricting, the way lines are drawn, zoning, and because people tend to want to live in communities where they feel safe and they feel comfortable, so a lot of people move into communities with other people who look like them.
And so, you see bussing has ended for the most part. So, you see a lot of schools being resegregated, and this is a study from Harvard, and they were talking about, in this particular study, looking from 1990s to 2000, looking at the percentage of schools that are resegregated.
Again, meaning that schools are now primarily consisting of one particular race again. And from the numbers, you see that the numbers look the same from 1970 before bussing to 2000.
And also, when they say percentage of Black students in intensely segregated schools, it is even larger than it was in 1970.
So, we are seeing again of the whole issue coming up with state expenditures for schools and low-income neighborhoods or even middle-income neighborhoods because in Texas, for instance, paying for education is based on property taxes.
So, if you live in a single family home in a nice neighborhood, then you're probably going to pay more taxes, which means that the schools in your area will get more funding from the state.
If you live in an area where it is primarily multi-family housing, which are apartments, then that tax base will be less, and the amount of money that schools are getting will be less.
And therefore, you have an inequality of schools based on funding and location.
[Rachelle Powell]: Now, as we close out of our presentation, we just wanted to direct your attention to some more recent headlines and to let you know that the fight for racial equality within schools still exists.
Take, for example, Noah Harris. He became the first Black man elected Student Body President at Harvard University in their 384-year history.
So, for 384 years, that school never had a Black person, male or female, that was Student Body President. And that happened in 2020.
And also, there's -- you know, we've heard of different stories, you know, where a valedictorian had to share the honor with a White student.
We have seen the story of, you know, students still having segregated proms because of laws and particularly in Southern states like Georgia.
[Rolanda Randle]: And as we close out the presentation, again, just to reiterate that the fight for social justice in education continues the last video clip that you will see is of one woman who was arrested and actually served prison time because she used her father's address to enroll her son in the school in his neighborhood because that school was better, and she was eventually arrested and charged with larceny, and there's been several cases like that since 2011, 2015, in different areas, most of them in the Northeast, but they are using the address of someone else who lives in a better neighborhood so that their children can get a better education, and the response to them doing that has been severe.
And they've been arrested, they're being charged with felonies, and they're being asked to pay back hundreds of thousands of dollars.
And so, as we go out, just remember that the fight does still continue.
[Video audio, news anchor speaking]: Okay, we've telling you about Tanya McDowell. She's the single homeless mother who stands accused of stealing her son's public education.
[Video audio, woman speaking]: Tanya McDowell is a Connecticut mother jailed for what authorities call, "stealing an education."
That is, for registering her son, A.J., at an address not in the school district where she last lived before becoming homeless.
In April of 2011, Connecticut police arrested McDowell and charged her with first-degree larceny for allegedly stealing an education for her son, A.J.
[Rachelle Powell]: All right. Thank you guys for viewing our presentation.
And here are resources that are available to you for some of the stories you heard throughout this presentation, and we encourage you to take a look at these when you have an opportunity.
But we, again, wanted to let you know that the fight for racial equality in education, has been going on well before Brown v. Board of Education, and it still is going on today.
And so, your part in, you know, looking at the Civil Rights Movement and the Civil Rights Tours, you know, sponsored by Dallas College, is a step that certainly you can take to become more aware of what's going on regarding civil rights in education.
And thank you for viewing our presentation.
[Rolanda Randle]: Thank you.