Yet this was the very period when the benefits of integration were becoming most apparent. By 1988, a year after Faraji and I entered middle school, school integration in the United States had reached its peak and the achievement gap between black and white students was at its lowest point since the government began collecting data. The difference in black and white reading scores according to data from the National Center for Education Statistics. (As schools have since resegregated, the test-score gap has only grown.) The improvements for black children did not come at the cost of white children. As black test scores rose, so did white ones.
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Clark’s words shamed proudly progressive white New Yorkers and embarrassed those overseeing the nation’s largest school system. The New York City Board of Education released a forceful statement promising to integrate its schools: “Segregated, racially homogeneous schools damage the personality of minority-group children. These schools decrease their motivation and thus impair their ability to learn. White children are also damaged. Public education in a racially homogeneous setting is socially unrealistic and blocks the attainment of the goals of democratic education, whether this segregation occurs by law or by fact.” The head of the Board of Education undertook an investigation in 1955 that confirmed the widespread separation of black and Puerto Rican children in dilapidated buildings with the least-experienced and least-qualified teachers. Their schools were so overcrowded that some black children went to school for only part of the day to give others a turn.
Segregated Prom: Wilcox County, Ga. High School …
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In what would be an extremely rare and fleeting moment in American history, all three branches of the federal government aligned on the issue. Congress passed pushed by President Lyndon B. Johnson, which prohibited segregated lunch counters, buses and parks and allowed the Department of Justice for the first time to sue school districts to force integration. It also gave the government the power to withhold federal funds if the districts did not comply. 91 percent of black children in the former Confederate and border states attended school with white children.
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For many white Americans, millions of black and Latino children attending segregated schools may seem like a throwback to another era, a problem we solved long ago. And legally, we did. In 1954, its landmark Brown v. Board of Education ruling, striking down laws that forced black and white children to attend separate schools. But while Brown v. Board targeted segregation by state law, we have proved largely unwilling to address segregation that is maintained by other means, resulting from the nation’s long and racist history.
Columbia University Has Segregated Graduation | The …
In New York City, home to the largest black population in the country, the decision was celebrated by many liberals as the final strike against school segregation in the “backward” South. But Kenneth Clark, the first black person to earn a doctorate in psychology at Columbia University and to hold a permanent professorship at City College of New York, was quick to dismiss Northern righteousness on race matters. At a meeting of the Urban League around the time of the decision, he charged that though New York had no law requiring segregation, it intentionally separated its students by assigning them to schools based on their race or building schools deep in segregated neighborhoods. In many cases, Clark said, black children were attending schools that were worse than those attended by their black counterparts in the South.