The School Desegregation Of The District Of Columbia History Essay

The NAACP ‘s determination to dispute the constitutionality of racially segregated public schools through a scheme of judicial proceeding culminated in their greatest triumph, the 1954 Supreme Court Brown v. Board of Education school integration opinion. The tribunals consentaneous determination to strike down province sponsored racial segregation in the U.S. public school system, declared, “ separate educational installations are inherently unequal ” . Thus, black kids had been deprived of the equal protection of the Torahs as guaranteed by the 14th amendment, therefore doing segregation unconstitutional. This groundbreaking instance non merely overturned the case in point of Plessy v. Ferguson ( 1896 )[ 1 ]which had declared ‘separate but equal installations ‘ constitutional but besides provided the legal foundation of the civil rights motion of the 1960 ‘s. However, on the same twenty-four hours as Brown the Supreme Court besides announced their determination in the Bolling v. Sharpe ( 1954 ) school integration instance, which individually called for the integrating of the District of Columbia Public school system. The sheer magnitude of Brown has overshadowed this historically of import instance that played its ain portion assailing the formidable building of de jure racial favoritism.

Ever since the constitution of the District of Columbia inkinesss have fought for equal educational chance. First they had to run for the right to set up and keep schools aboard Whites, a conflict which lasted until Reconstruction. Then utilizing their limited resources, kind to better the quality of their instruction within the confines of the ‘dual school ‘ system that later developed. Finally, gaining segregation would ne’er bring forth a truly equalised school system, inkinesss pressed for integration, which Bolling v. Sharpe ( 1954 ) delivered. This thesis will chart the development of the District of Columbia ‘s segregated public school system before Bolling, analyse why a separate legal instance from Brown was required to get rid of it and bring out the impact it had on the Nations Capital public schools system.

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When the District of Columbia was established it became place to the full federal authorities setup, integrating the metropoliss of Washington, Georgetown and Alexandria, which placed them under the ultimate authorization of Congress. As the land was donated by the provinces of Maryland and Virginia in the Residency act 1790[ 2 ], the Nations Capital inherited much of its cultural individuality and societal traditions from these two slave keeping Southern States. Consequently Washington D.C. had a big black population and prior to 1807 no system to educate them existed. Merely a few northern altruists and spiritual groups provided a basic instruction for ‘free inkinesss ‘ . Others were taught simple reading and authorship accomplishments through close contact with their white Masterss, a procedure described as, ‘incidental instruction ‘[ 3 ]. However, with the first black school established in Washington by three former slaves George Bell, Moses Liverpool and Nicholas Franklin in 1807, African Americans began to take the taking function in educating their kids. Unfortunately, advancement was interrupted between 1831-1836. It was in this period that the Nat Turner rebellion took topographic point in Virginia, during which black Rebels killed 60 Whites. As a consequence there was an eruption of anti-Negro sentiment wherever the influence of the South was felt. In 1835 the Snow Riots occurred in revenge, and about all the colored schools in D.C. were partly or wholly destroyed.[ 4 ]Despite go oning white resistance in the old ages after, inkinesss continued to do important advancement in instruction, exposing much autonomy and enterprise by organizing, raising financess and puting up new schools.

Federal authorities engagement in black instruction did non happen in D.C. until 1862[ 5 ]. The statute law enacted by Congress required 10 per centum of the belongings revenue enhancement consumption from African Americans life in Washington and Georgetown be reserved for establishing, “ a system of primary schools for colored Children ” and in add-on a separate, “ Board of legal guardians ” to administrate them.[ 6 ]This gave inkinesss equal administrative power over their schools and though African-Americans were fortunate to derive equal position with Whites, these policies had efficaciously created a unintegrated school system. Though Congress ne’er passed a jurisprudence necessitating school segregation in D.C, their ulterior determination to incorporate the two separate boards of legal guardians into a individual Board of Education while go oning to divide fiscal resources to a “ colored ” and “ white division ” , legitimised double schools and entrenched them further. Originally, the policy did non sabotage the quality of instruction inkinesss received. In many ways it sparked a ‘golden epoch ‘ in instruction for African American instructors and decision makers. Under the system they received equal wage, near liberty and money for school care and building.[ 7 ]School modules worked indefatigably to better the quality of their schools, presenting new classs to the course of study and enforcing strict academic criterions. The District of Columbia ‘s public school system offered some of the highest quality instruction unfastened to African Americans and provided occupations, money and position that were often unavailable elsewhere for black pedagogues.[ 8 ]

However, these initial successes were befoging terrible lacks within the system, which were bit by bit exposed by the dramatic societal alterations brushing the state as a consequence of World War 1 and the development of harsher systems of segregation elsewhere. These factors were driving large-scale black migration to the part as they sort a better quality of life and greater employment chances. By the 1930 ‘s, this had left the public school system badly overstretched. As the support to the black and white schools was divided on a relative footing, based on the per centum of black kids in the general population harmonizing to the last metropolis nose count, no more money would be available in the short-run to assist. The consequence was terrible overcrowding, bedraggled school edifices, parttime instruction and an progressively unequal school system. During World War 2 the state of affairs merely deteriorated and as overcrowding was such a seeable phenomenon it provided a footing for assailing inequality that existed in the double schools.[ 9 ]Campaigners argued, instructors could non get by with the Numberss they were expected manage and that runing a unintegrated school system was an unneeded load on the Washington taxpayer. Though some proverb constructing new schools as the solution to the widespread overcrowding, as the Pittsburgh Courier noted, this meant, “ less money is spent proportionately for the instruction of Negro male childs and misss in order that more money be spent for edifices to continue a unintegrated system ” .[ 10 ]African Americans in the District of Columbia seemed no longer content with the position quo. They would come to gain, the double school system, which had evolved from 1862 could ne’er be equal or sustainable. The late 1940 ‘s grade the beginning of their battle to convey about school integration to the states capital, in the hope of accomplishing a equal instruction.

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The Fifteenth Street Presbyterian Church 1900 was one of many churches lodging early African American schools.[ 11 ]


After World War 2, severe over crowding and parttime instruction in the colored division remained the most seeable jobs of the double school system. Over seven 1000s black pupils had to go to categories on a parttime footing. On this Schedule they either attended categories from 9:00am to 12:00pm or 12:30pm boulder clay 3:30pm. This had a immense damaging impact on their instruction as they were losing three house of learning each twenty-four hours.[ 12 ]Though the job impacted on both divisions, as the figures show, ( see appendix table 1 ) , the job of overcrowding and subsequent part-time categories chiefly affected black schools. African Americans merely had entree to 27 % of the entire high school infinite available, which could non suit the quickly lifting black pupil organic structure. As a consequence the School board found itself at odds with the 1940 District of Columbia codification which required, “ kids go toing schools above the 2nd class be provided a full twenty-four hours of categories ” . It farther stipulated that the board of instruction must supply “ suited and convenient schools promote a thorough equitable, and practical instruction for colored kids ” .[ 13 ]As overcrowding meant instructors resorted to learning in hallways and storage closets, it was clear this proviso excessively was being violated. The cumulative consequence was raising dissatisfaction amongst the African American community. However, at this phase they were divided over the best manner to better the state of affairs. Though some pushed for integration the bulk still preferred equalization within segregation, demanding the School Board revise its budgets to procure extra support for the building of new schools as the solution to ease the chronic overcrowding.[ 14 ]

Though African Americans lacked a incorporate scheme, their cosmopolitan anger forced the school board to respond. Officials had two options, either equalize the schools or get rid of the system. Gordon Young the applied scientist commissioner for the District of Columbia estimated that it would necessitate $ 49,000,000 to build the schools the black division needed. To raise the money required the Board would hold to procure a congressional loan.[ 15 ]However, accomplishing this was improbable and the large-scale edifice plan required would hold taken old ages to finish, intending none of the jobs would hold been solved in the short term. As no jurisprudence existed necessitating the school system to be segregated, the death of the double school system seemed inevitable. However, under force per unit area from anti-integration white civic groups together known as the Federation of Citizens Associations and larger groups like the District of Columbia Congress of Parents-Teachers-Association ( PTA ) , the School Board resisted all calls for integration.[ 16 ]They alternatively like many other Southern provinces took belated stairss to equalize the system in an effort to pacify black demands for integration. Though the $ 49,000,000 ne’er to the full materialised black schools did have more investing and the war interrupted school building budget was resumed. Several new schools were built but much of the extra financess went on repairing or upgrading the bing schools. For case many needed basic betterments like the installing of fire-alarm systems[ 17 ]and as they were highly overcrowded the danger of a possible calamity was to great to disregard. However, by passing money on urgently needed repairs the money was non available for the building of other new schools, go forthing the chief job of overcrowding unsolved. As a consequence the school Board resorted to reassigning old underutilised white schools to the black division. As table one illustrates, many of the white schools had become good underused. They had suffered from the ‘white-flight ‘ to suburbia and progressively found themselves in bulk Afro-american countries. Thus the School Boards program had some virtue but faced resistance from both communities. Blacks saw the transportation of bedraggled, underutilised white schools as a gambit by the school board to salvage money on the school building programme, while Whites feared the academic excellent and traditions these schools had built up would be lost in passage.

Once the transportation policy was implemented it shortly ran into resistance. In 1947 the job of overcrowding at Browne Junior High School became so critical that the PTA decided to earn support for case against the school board. They hired lawyer Belford Lawson to fix an “ equalization ” instance on behalf of the Students at Browne.[ 18 ]Since the new school building undertakings were non scheduled for completion until 1949 the school board hurriedly transferred several white schools to suit the flood from Browne to queer any legal action. This did nil to defuse the state of affairs ; both the PTA and activist parents viewed the transferred white schools as unfit for intent. They were non every bit near as other underused white schools and they lacked basic installations like halls, libraries or cafeterias. They would non even wholly extinguish the overcrowding at Browne, as some pupils would stay on a portion clip agenda. Parents responded by registering a case seeking a lasting injunction before the transportation became effectual.[ 19 ]The caput of the Browne PTA James Carr put frontward an alternate thought. Alternatively the Board of Education could hold assigned the Browne pupils temporarily to the white Eliot Junior High. Not merely would this hold reduced overcrowding but it could hold besides set a case in point for the integrating of the public school system. The Board chose to disregard Carr ‘s proposal, as it believed any action that resulted in the commixture of the races would go against the ordinances that created the double schools. By declining to chair its place the Board ‘s action sparked a series of cases from defeated parents. These included Carr v. Corning ( 1947 ) , which argued Marguerite Carr ( James Carr ‘s girl ) should be allowed exercise her legal right and, “ attend the nearest school where they would have a full twenty-four hours of direction ”[ 20 ]. Though this attack did non dispute the constitutionality of segregation straight, triumph would hold allowed her to go to the underutilised Eliot Junior High School, with other white pupils. But before the instance even came before the tribunal the School Board found a trim edifice near her place to suit the flood from Browne. The tribunal dismissed the instance stating the board had solved her job. Soon after the other instances were dismissed, while an entreaty was filled, black parents and instructors continued to protest over the unbearable conditions at Browne. The instance was important as it was the first clip African americans in the District of Columbia had organised a big legal challenge against the School Board mirroring tactics used against other School Boards around the U.S. However, their failure showed they needed professional aid if they were traveling to win in the hereafter. Parents turned to Charles Houston and the NAACP for aid and with their experience, a lose set of committed militants and parents were organised into a professional administration, who would turn out to be the community daze military personnels paving the manner to Bolling.

Gardner L. Bishop, with others he founded the Consolidated Parents Group Inc. Courtesy of Judine Bishop Johnson, Ed.D.


Many black parents where ab initio doubting about nearing Charles Houston for aid. They considered him to be an ‘upper category black ‘ which in general had ‘hurt ‘ and shown small involvement in working category Blacks.[ 21 ]However, as dean of Howard University, Houston had a acute involvement in the educational chance available to Blacks in the District of Columbia.[ 22 ]Equally early as 1935, while functioning on the Districts School Board, Houston stated his personal resistance to segregation[ 23 ]. When the parents lead by Gardner L. Bishop approached him, he was more than willing to assist. He called a meeting to discourse all facets of African American instruction in D.C. and how to chart away frontward. After the blunt treatment he stated, “ You ‘ve got yourself a attorney ” .[ 24 ]At this phase Parents were non willing to force for immediate integration. This suitable Houston as he believed litigating against the ‘separate but equal ‘ philosophy and thenceforth assailing segregation could merely accomplish triumph.[ 25 ]The rational behind this scheme was simple, by doing functionaries follow with separate but equal they would come to gain segregation was an economically unsustainable pattern, therefore coercing integrating. The scheme was acceptable to parents who were ready to intensify the battle but non neglect wholly. With Houston ‘s counsel they set up the Consolidated Parents Group, Inc. ( CPG ) , perpetrating themselves to a to a plan of judicial proceeding and following the slogan “ Give the Child a Fair Chance ” .[ 26 ]

With the initial scheme agreed, Houston and the CPG were determined to utilize the tribunals as a arm. At a mass meeting Houston outlined the non-negotiable place of the parents, “ We do n’t mean to allow them hold segregation at our disbursal, we ‘ve got to protest and travel to the tribunals ” .[ 27 ]He argued the school Board was non in conformity with separate but equal, as they artfully claiming black kids where having the same instruction during half-day displacements as Whites received during a full twenty-four hours of categories. He besides accused the school board of intentionally declining to delegate suited excess edifices, equipment and installations to black pupils, “ entirely on the footing of race, thereby intentionally and maliciously coercing on black pupils inferior educational chances ” .[ 28 ]In the months that followed Houston pressed instances for equalization in unintegrated schools at the baby through to senior high school degrees, while the CPG campaigned intensely, organizing day-to-day meetings, registering ailments and composing requests to the overseer of the school board.

In 1948, as Houston ‘s instances worked their manner through the tribunals the CPG focused its attending on the overcrowding jobs badly impacting Cardozo High school. The impact of the white flight to the suburbs around Cardozo had been considerable. As the racial composing of the country changed the white schools had found themselves significantly under utilized. Cardinal High was one of these schools, though it had a capacity of 1,950 by 1949 it merely housed 1,400. Blacks were outraged that while Central had empty schoolrooms Cardozo was providing for 1,700 whilst it merely had a capacity of 850.[ 29 ]The overcrowding was exasperated Cardozo ‘s awful physical status. Blacks had waited 20 old ages for the building of Springham High School to relieve the jobs at Cardozo but budget restraints and other jobs prevented it from being built in clip. There was a clear demand for immediate action. The CPG called on the Board of Education to transfer the white pupils at Central High to other white high schools and transportation and integrate it for the usage of Blacks.[ 30 ]However, Central High held a particular topographic point in the Black Marias of many white Washingtonians and the program provoked a ferocious white recoil. It was at the Centre of many white community events and had an impressive list of alumnas. For Whites, reassigning Central constituted an invasion of their community by inkinesss. The CPG tried to widen an olive subdivision to white pro-segregation groups, with an invitation to discourse the double schools system in an “ unfastened forum ” .[ 31 ]The caput of the Federation of Citizens Associations ( FCA ) , John Connaughton, replied, “ when the Negro people of Washington have cleared your race of its high per centum of felons and eradicated its high incidence of genital disease, so come to us with a proposal of this character ” . Though the Board of Education were sympathetic to the predicament of the pupils at Cardozo, the force per unit area exerted on them by the FCA was excessively great to disregard. The Board turned to Dr. George Strayer to carry on a thorough scrutiny of the school system. In his study he concluded, Central High had passed its viability as a white high school but could be kept as a biennial proficient institute for Whites.[ 32 ]The FCA threw its weight behind the proposals, but the Board chose to disregard them and Central High was officially transferred in May 1950. Renamed Cardozo High the schools larger capacity alleviated the overcrowding jobs but did non wholly work out them.

The transportation of Central High became a polar minute in conflict for educational equality in the District of Columbia. The Boards efforts to make a consensus backfired stunningly. Strayer ‘s Report was seen by many in the African American Community as a petroleum detaining tactic to pacify white resistance to a rational determination, while their kids continued to endure in unequal bedraggled schools. Ultimately. It radicalised black militants originally doubting of school integration. They had gone beyond thought that the equalization of school installations on a unintegrated footing was desirable, indicating to the go oning unbearable conditions in black schools as grounds the system should be abolished. At the same clip the NAACP led by Thurgood Marshall, had overhauled its legal scheme. It was now prepared to assail the constitutionality of segregation itself. With the NAACPs advice and back up the CPG prepared itself to follow integration instead than equalization as its chief policy.

At the beginning of the 1950 school twelvemonth the registration statistics documented the go oning demographic alterations in the District of Columbia. The white schools had lost 863 pupils and the black schools had gained 342 students when compared with the 1949 statistics.[ 33 ]The transportation of Central High to the coloured division may hold been a triumph for the CPG but overcrowding remained, most evident in the Junior High schools. When comparing parent-teacher ratios throughout the junior high schools, the figures ( See Appendix Table 2 ) supply grounds to propose the transportation policy was neglecting. Overcrowded schoolrooms were still permeant across the colored division. Black instructors had to oversee categories far larger than those found in white schools and therefore the quality of instruction these students received remained inferior. The Anacostia part of D.C had become the most overcrowded portion of the black division. Of the three edifices in the part used as junior high schools, none were designed for that intent.[ 34 ]The School Board wanted to reassign the old Birney Elementary School to assist but it was merely non suited. It did n’t hold the installations a junior high school needed and was excessively old to change over. When Bishop visited the trade name new John Philip Sousa Junior High School ( located in the sou’-east quarter-circle of D.C which incorporated Anacostia ) , the low criterion of black schools was field to see. Sousa was good equipped with the most modern installations available and like other white schools it was undersubscribed.[ 35 ]Its trim capacity meant it could hold accommodated the flood from the environing black schools. Bishop asked the rule of the school, Eleanor McAcliffe to let the black pupils to inscribe but she refused.[ 36 ]In response Bishop and the CPG started roll uping signatures for a request to the Board of Education saying the parents desire to inscribe their kids at Sousa.[ 37 ]Predictably the Board refused, claiming it had no authorization to integrate the schools. The Boards negative response forced militants to fix for another case. For aid, Bishop one time once more turned to Charles Huston but by this clip he was soberly sick. However, he advised him to seek advice from his co-worker at Howard University James M. Nabrit Jr.[ 38 ]Bishop contacted Narbrit who agreed to take on the instance but on the footing it challenged the constitutionality of “ separate but equal ” instruction. The Amalgamate Parents Group ‘s passage to following a policy of integration was already good advanced and they readily agreed to the footings. Nabrit, George E.C Hayes and Harry Mercan filed a case in the United States District Court against C. Melvin Sharpe, president of the President of the Board of Education. They filed Bolling v. Sharpe in behalf of Spottswood Boiling, Jr. , and other black pupils in a similar place. The suit alleged that the District of Columbia Public school System discriminated against inkinesss, by denying them equal educational chances entirely on the footing of race. It said nil about equalization reflecting the new scheme.[ 39 ]

By the clip of Bolling v. Sharpe was filed, the African American run for educational equality in the District of Columbia had transformed itself from a general motion advancing equalization within the position quo, into a professional, extremist administration which had adopted the policy of integration. The CPG and others had come to gain the public school system could ne’er be genuinely equal while the Board of instruction remained committed the double school system. Though their equalization run had produced touchable benefits such as more investing channelled to coloured division and the transportation of schools from the white division to ease over crowding, black pupils remained deprived. Class sizes remained far higher in black schools and the physical conditions of the edifices remained hapless and in some instances unsafe. The go oning white flight to suburbs combined with the inflow of black migrators meant overcrowding was likely to stay a continual job in the colored division as demand outpaced capacity. It seemed irrational to maintain a system so ridged that it resulted in some schools badly underused or perilously overcapacity. The transportation of schools though supported by the CPG came to be seen as an exigency interim step, while the contention over Central high demonstrated that it could be highly dissentious. Ultimately the equalization run was a failure and integration came to be seen as the lone means to convey about equality. Underling factors aided the passage towards integration. The NAACPs determination to dispute the constitutionality of segregation straight besides proved important as the CPG and others relied to a great extent on their advocate. Another of import factor was the developing Cold War. By the clip Bolling v. Sharpe ( 1951 ) was filled, the United States was embroiled in a acrimonious propaganda war with the USSR. This influenced many black militants who thought-maintaining segregation in the states capital compromised the state ‘s function as leader of the free universe. How could the United States teach the remainder of the universe about democracy when it was non carry throughing its ain committedness to be rights?[ 40 ]It was a powerful statement that resonated with both black and white Washingtonians. However, despite all the old contentions and alterations in scheme the cardinal end of educational equality remained unaffected. Black instructors, pupils, decision makers and militants now viewed integration as the best manner to accomplish this. They hoped Bolling v. Sharpe would present.

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Pictured in 1950, the trade name new, modern white John Philip Sousa Junior High School. It became a symbol for African American Parents who wanted the best instruction for their kids.[ 41 ]


When the United States District Court for the District Court of Columbia foremost heard Bolling v. Sharpe in 1951, the presiding Judge Walter Bastian mentioning Carr v. Corning ( 1950 ) continuing the legality of unintegrated schools in the District, dismissed the instance.[ 42 ]The complainants filled an entreaty in the United States Court of Appeal for the District of Columbia. Before it could be heard the Supreme Court issued a writ of certiorari, which allowed the instance to short-circuit the appellate procedure. It allowed Bolling to be heard alongside the other school segregation instances consolidated under the Topeka Case Brown v. Board of Education.

However, there were constitutional differences between Bolling V Sharpe and four province comrade instances, which meant it was heard individually. In the Brown v Board of Education opinions Thurgood Marshall attacked the constitutionality of segregation on the footing that it violated the equal protection Torahs incorporated in the 14th Amendment.[ 43 ]However, constitutional philosophy held that the Equal Protection Clause was applicable merely against the provinces and non against the federal authorities.[ 44 ]As a consequence the Bolling v. Sharpe was about autonomy and due procedure of jurisprudence. Litigants claiming favoritism by the federal authorities had in the past argued that the Fifth Amendment ‘s Due Process Clause contained an equal protection constituent of its ain but these statements had been rejected. Though in these old instances it had besides been acknowledged that some minimum signifier of equality of application of the jurisprudence was built-in in the system and specifically the due procedure clause.[ 45 ]Narbit and his squad advanced this statement, harmonizing to them:

The basic inquiry here is one of autonomy, under the due procedure clause. You can non cover with [ autonomy ] as you deal with equal protection of Torahs because equal protection of Torahs involves a quantum of intervention, well equal. You either have autonomy or you do non. When autonomy is interfered with the province, it has to be justified, and you can non warrant it by stating that we merely took a small autonomy. You justify it by the rationality of the pickings.[ 46 ]

The attorneies combined congressional authorization under Article 1, Section 8 ( 17 ) with their reading of the Fifth Amendment ‘s Due Process clause. They recognised Congresses supreme authorization over the District of Columbia but argued Congress was required to utilize that authorization without depriving, “ the people of the District of Columbia of Congressional warrants of life, autonomy and belongings. ”[ 47 ]Specifically, the Districts racially segregated schools violated the constitutional rights of the pupils and their parents “ to get utile cognition, to take a peculiar public school, and to bask public instruction chances without authorities enforced restrictions or limitations based entirely on race or coloring material ” .[ 48 ]The Bolling attorneies set out to turn out autonomy was expansive plenty to back up the suppliants ‘ due procedure claims. For illustration, in 1944 Justice Frank Murphy ‘s dissent in Koremarsu v. United States denounced the Executive Order 9066 at issue in the instance as a misdemeanor of the Fifth Amendment, which interpreted to include a warrant of equal protection.[ 49 ]By utilizing autonomy instead than equality as the footing of their statement the attorneies shifted the focal point onto Congress. They non the suppliants would hold to confirm the usage of racially segregated schools was necessity. To confute it was, the suppliants ‘ brief set out a four-point set of standards by which Congress ‘s actions could be measured. It stated,

First, racially unintegrated schools would hold to be based on an affirmatory screening of curious fortunes, present exigency or pressing public necessity. Second, Congress must hold acted to accomplish a intent it had authorization it had authorization to consequence. Third, the racial segregation must hold been clearly authorised and if implied authorization was relied upon, it must look that the limitation was clearly and unmistakably indicated by the linguistic communication used in the granting of authorization. Fourth, segregated public-school pupils based on race must hold been moderately related to an authorised intent within the competence of the authorities to consequence.[ 50 ]

The Bolling legal squad Congress had



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