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Boston changed forever 50 years ago today

On June 21, 1974, US District Court Judge W. Arthur Garrity issued his ruling in the case of Morgan v. Hennigan, which changed the city forever, concluding the Boston School Committee had created a segregated school system and that it was past time for a change:

The court concludes that the defendants have knowingly carried out a systematic program of segregation affecting all of the city's students, teachers and school facilities and have intentionally brought about and maintained a dual school system. Therefore the entire school system of Boston is unconstitutionally segregated.

His ruling - which relied on busing in Boston, rather than incorporating suburban school systems as judges in other states had done - led to years of violence and strife, echoes of which continue to this day:

In October, 1974, after busing began, violence broke out - a Haitian-American man who found himself in South Boston was nearly beaten to death (read more in the Boston Phoenix of Oct. 15):

Account of the beating of Yvon Jean-Louis in South Boston

The beating stopped only when a Boston police officer spotted it and fired his gun over the heads of the attackers.

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Comments

One thing you hear to this day is how BPS should go back to neighborhood schools and everything would be so, so much better. So it was interesting to read Garrity's description of neighborhood schools in a system that was completely twisted in knots to keep the races from mixing:

The elementary schools generally cannot be fairly characterized as neighborhood schools. District lines require some students to travel many blocks to a school when there is another school much closer, but on the other side of that district line. In multi-school districts, students at least when enrolling for the first time have a complete option as to which school to attend and often walk past one en route to another.

So sometimes the good old days weren't really that good.

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He could have just readjusted the neighborhood school district boundaries to remove those problems.

Instead he ordered the most punitive and disruptive remedy, which ended up getting people killed and fracturing neighborhood solidarity across all neighborhoods and races. It also made the BPS much more segregated than they were in 1974, because he couldn't order people where to live or send their kids to school.

I hope you're nice and warm, W. Arthur.

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The Glob's on a tear now with a series of articles about the busing debacle.

https://apps.bostonglobe.com/metro/2024/06/busing-in-boston/busing-garri...

"THEY SUED BOSTON’S PUBLIC SCHOOLS FOR BETTER EDUCATION FOR BLACK CHILDREN. INSTEAD, THEY GOT BUSING."

What a headline. The article goes into how many of the families involved in the suit were disappointed by Garrity's lousy decision.

Pruitt was disappointed. The plan — to bus white students into predominantly Black schools, and Black students into predominantly white ones — contained no mention of improved curriculum, not a word about new textbooks or smaller class sizes or more experienced teachers. Nothing to suggest that her younger children would receive their choice of honors classes, in an environment that would both challenge and encourage. The future the plaintiffs had yearned for, a guarantee of high-quality education, had once again eluded Black families in Boston.

Garrity's failure led several of the families to give up on Boston entirely.

The solution the families asked for was simple: make the schools the Black kids went to as good as the schools the white kids went to. Instead, Garrity unleashed pandemonium and improved nothing. Generations later, BPS is still stained by his failure.

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Garrity's failure led several of the families to give up on Boston entirely.

It's possible that "failure" is doing a lot of work here. If the "failure" was to keep Black kids out of white schools, and that's a dealbreaker for you, well...that's one reason why "several of the families" might "give up on Boston entirely".

The solution the families asked for was simple: make the schools the Black kids went to as good as the schools the white kids went to.

I'm curious about who "the families" were and how they articulated this request. Who were they, and what were their specific words?

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If you want to know more about the families who carried out the fight for better schools before the 1974 litigation, PBS did an excellent in-depth series on this called Bussing Battleground. You can google it. It’s a multi part series. The 1974 lawsuit was only the culmination of a long struggle in Boston that began with a simple, and just, request by black families in Boston that the school board provide adequate resources for what were at the time “black schools”, or at least resources equal to what were provided for “white schools.” Those terms had literal meaning then, because the school board (as the court later detailed in its decision) had created schools where attendance was based on race in order to keep black children and white children from going to school together based on overt racism and bigotry. When the request for equal treatment was rejected by the school board, on the false claim that there wasn’t any inequality in the schools (which they knew to be false when they made it), parents supported by the NAACP sued to forcibly desegregate the schools based on Brown. This resulted in bussing because Boston was then (as it largely is now) a racially segregated city in-fact, if not, back then, in-law as a result of redlining at the federal, state and local levels. I hope that to those who did not grown up here in the 1970s and 80s this is an unbelievable narrative. It boggles my mind to remember what this city was like then - it wasn’t better. There is an argument to be made that had the school board not based its school assignment system on race, and had they equally resourced the schools across the city, bussing may never have happened. Given the current state of Boston public schools, and the segregation in-fact of Boston neighborhoods by race, there is also a discussion to be had about whether to provide well resourced schools for all children the City should focus less on race and more on well funded neighborhood schools.

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Garrity's failure was the failure to improve the schools the children of the Black plaintiffs attended, to the level of other local mostly-white schools (bear in mind that there were no all-black public schools in Boston, and the most segregated of the schools was already less segregated than many BPS schools today). That was the disparity they wanted addressed. Shuffling the kids about in buses, so that some of them were then going to different schools, some of which were better than their neighborhood schools, failed to accomplish that.

I'm curious about who "the families" were and how they articulated this request. Who were they, and what were their specific words?

The article in the Globe answers your questions very well: 14 parents were plaintiffs in Morgan vs. Henderson. If you cared about those answers, you could read the articles. Specific words from them include, for example:

“It’s never what I wanted for them,” she said. “I wanted them to be able to just walk up the street and go to school and get the education [white kids] were getting out there.”

Those are the words of Earline Pruitt, one of the 14 plaintiffs.

Again, you could read her words. Or you could just make up your own to put in her mouth, like so many people seem to prefer.

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We all know that worked so well that the Supreme Court threw it out in 1954.

That was 20 years before Garrity was forced by racist city leaders to implement busing.

You might start examining your internal attitudes with a review of that timeline.

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The last thing we Bostonians need is another white suburbanite telling us how to run our schools.

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I'll be blunt: you need to examine the facts and fucking learn some history.

Telling you to examine the reasons this happened is not telling you how to run your schools, toots.

Garrity told Boston how to run their schools because BPS and the city administration had twenty fucking years to notice that other cities weren't getting away with the fundamentally entrenched racist bullshit they were pulling.

They copped your same pathetic attitude about local control and blah blah fart blah fart (nwords) as a justification for that racism, as if "wahhhh don't tell us what to dooooo" is ever a justification for the kind of racist trampling of civil rights that characterized that system.

Maybe DeSantis' Florida is more your jam if you are mentally limited to such bullshit automated talking points/knee jerk retorts when questioned about your absolute failure to comprehend what happened here and WHY this was a FEDERAL case? Under FEDERAL jurisdiction?

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Most dollars per student in the US and absolutely abysmal results. Thank god for busing! Keep screaming racism from your mostly white suburb though.

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This is your typical pattern. Every time someone disagrees with you you break down and start screaming insults. You go beyond your competence, get called out, and freak out. You are the very model of how not to behave as an adult.

Liberal paternalism like you espouse did about as much good for poor Black families as overt racism did. All these families wanted was to be treated equally, and they got treated like pawns instead. The solution of equal funding was right there, but Garrity wanted to punish, not to fix. We are all reaping the consequences half a century later.

You don't understand Boston, you don't understand policy, and you should go away.

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You know, that case was about parents who wanted their daughter to attend the school in their neighborhood rather than being bused across town.

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what other legal outcomes could have occurred from the specific case? I’m no lawyer, and I don’t know how to fix current or past issues with the school system in Boston, but if Garrity ruled that the school system was unconstitutionally segregated, what constitutional ruling could have been made to preserve unconstitutional segregation while enacting some sort of mandated improvement to the non-white schools? Not getting the outcome you wanted does not mean that the person making the decision was wrong.

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Could include level funding, for example. Garrity could have required the majority-minority schools to be funded at the same level as the majority-white schools.

Again, remember that there were no all-Black schools in Boston at the time. The most heavily non-white schools had more white students than many do in Boston today. Increased segregation was a result of Garrity's bad decision.

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It's been said elsewhere in this thread, but there's a reason why the ruling of Brown v. Board of Education went the way it did. They had over 50 years to try it the Plessy v. Ferguson way -- if they didn't get it right in 50 years, shouldn't that tell us something?

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The students in Boston weren't assigned on the basis of race, but the basis of neighborhood. The neighborhoods were unevenly populated, and the catchments were drawn purposefully to match the red lines. But a white kid who happened to live in a heavily Black neighborhood wasn't bused across town until they found him a white school. He just went to the neighborhood school. The "Black schools" all had white kids - more than they do today. Brown was relevant to a system (Topeka) where students were assigned solely on the basis of race, not on proximity, just like Plessy was relevant to a system (New Orleans) where people were legally separated by race. Boston had no such system.

The problem of segregation (in this case, partial residential segregation leading to partial school segregation) wasn't the principal problem parents were trying to address in Morgan. It was equality of access to quality education. And Garrity refused them that, instead instituting a stupid shell game that decimated the city.

On June 21, 1974, Judge Garrity resolved Morgan v. Hennigan by ordering that students be bused to schools outside of their neighborhoods to reach racial parity and end de facto segregation and racial discrimination in the school system.

Pruitt was disappointed. The plan — to bus white students into predominantly Black schools, and Black students into predominantly white ones — contained no mention of improved curriculum, not a word about new textbooks or smaller class sizes or more experienced teachers. Nothing to suggest that her younger children would receive their choice of honors classes, in an environment that would both challenge and encourage. The future the plaintiffs had yearned for, a guarantee of high-quality education, had once again eluded Black families in Boston.

Really, read the Globe articles. It's great reporting.

https://apps.bostonglobe.com/metro/2024/06/busing-in-boston/busing-garri...
https://apps.bostonglobe.com/metro/2024/06/busing-in-boston/meet-the-fam...

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His ruling didn’t say that BPS had to have bad schools. He can’t control curriculum and day to day running of the schools. He could rule that segregated schools are illegal and that BPS had to integrate. He didn’t say that white families whose children now went to integrated schools had to move to white suburbs and couldn’t work to improve the schools instead. Many white families were fine with schools black kids went to being of poor quality until integration when their kids had to go there. It’s no coincidence that the south shore, where many white families from places like Southie went after integration, are supporters of Trump.

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That Boston had to have good schools either, or equally funded schools. No schools in Boston were entirely segregated at the time; the majority-Black schools had more white kids at them already than they do today. White families whose kids attended those schools would surely have been happier if he had ruled instead that they had to be funded at the same rate as other schools, with majority white populations.

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They had ten years to fix the situation during which they knew that it would come to this.

This was never Garrity's fault. This was the fault of extreme racism in the City of Boston and the failure of Boston's racist leaders to read the room and the decisions that hit other cities in the two decades prior to Garrity having to enforce constitutional rights.

Blame everyone who was in power between 1954 and 1974. Garrity is just the fall guy for decades of arrogant racism.

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The solution the families asked for was simple: make the schools the Black kids went to as good as the schools the white kids went to.

Gee, that sounds an awful lot like "separate but equal." I would hazard to guess that the families that sued were quite emphatically not asking for that, although I'm quite certain that's exactly the solution the majority of families of the "white kids" wanted.

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Or you could listen to the parents themselves.

“It’s never what I wanted for them,” she said. “I wanted them to be able to just walk up the street and go to school and get the education [white kids] were getting out there.”

The parents who sued were quite emphatically asking for that. Listen to them.

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"The parents" is a stretch. Further, there's this part that you're failing to read:

District lines require some students to travel many blocks to a school when there is another school much closer, but on the other side of that district line. In multi-school districts, students at least when enrolling for the first time have a complete option as to which school to attend and often walk past one en route to another.

Perhaps your quote is from a parent of one of those students. But sure, go ahead and twist things. Regardless, explain to me how what you are saying, and what you are purporting this one parent is asking for, is not "separate but equal."

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The schools that Garrity found were much less separate than they were when he was finished with them. He divided them into two categories: more than 50% Black, and less than 50% Black. He, and you, ignored the fact that the "Black" schools all had significant white populations before busing; they weren't evenly integrated, but they were all integrated already. Leveling funding would have helped the white children at the majority-minority schools as well. But the people most hurt by Garrity's decision were Black children. Why do you cheer hurting Black children. Do you hate Black children?

IN RE district lines, the vagaries of inter-district lines are irrelevant to the question of matters of equity within a single school district, like, say, Boston.

Garrity could perhaps have made them relevant by ordering busing of students from Mattapan to Milton or to his home town, Wellesley, but the whiteness of such segregated enclaves was apparently much too important to him.

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I think that chicken is ready to roast by now ... and yet you keep plucking it.

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I went to parochial schools since kindergarten.