A history of the desegregation of the Houston Independent School District 1954-1971



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On May 17, 1954, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled in a unanimous and far reaching decision, Brown v. Board of Education, that laws requiring racial segregation in public education were unconstitutional. With this momentous decision, the slow and uneven pace of desegregating the Houston Independent School District began. With a hesitant, though receptive Board of Education, the district studied the problem and proposed various plans during the first two years following the court ruling. But the board took little action toward eliminating the dual school system based upon race. In fact, throughout the remainder of the decade, the Houston School District continued to maintain separate schools for both blacks and whites. In the four years following 1956, the district went through several court battles and suits calling for desegregation. The conservative, segregationist-minded faction, after strengthening their control on the board in the fall of 1956, proceeded to reverse the tentative good faith steps taken earlier by the moderate controlled board. Even though opposition to desegregation remained strong in the district until late in the decade, the moderate board faction was always able to keep on the Board of Education at least one opposing voice to the segregationist's evasive tactics. After Federal District Judge Ben C. Connally ordered desegregation with all deliberate speed in October, 1957, the Board of Education delayed and postponed action in a variety of ways, until the district was forced by the court to admit a token number of black first-graders into previously all-white schools in September, 1960. Desegregation was minimal and was to proceed at one grade a year. It came without violence or uproar, under the eyes of a watchful and hostile board, and an apathetic black community. In the following years, integration in the Houston School District expanded until all grades were desegregated in 1967 by board action. Yet the actual number of blacks in integrated classrooms remained quite small, for the district continued to build schools in segregated neighborhoods to diminish the impact of integration. After the board used regulations and new policies to hold back the number of blacks attending integrated schools, the district was confronted with several challenges to its desegregation methods, from both the federal government and the Houston black community. New court suits, a black student school boycott, federal government pressure, and a decline in the public's concern over the issue of school desegregation, brought a slight increase in desegregation for the district. However, discontent with the board's lack of positive action increased in the district by 1970, and a new faction of moderates gained a four-seat majority on the board. By the initiative of this new board majority and under new court decisions, changes were made in faculty and student desegregation. By the end of 1971, the number of blacks in integrated schools had increased significantly. But the resulting integration was deceptive, as a majority of blacks still attended schools where blacks greatly outnumbered whites. While legal segregation was not maintained, de facto segregation still existed in the district. Moreover, new rumors of forced busing, criticism by the black community of desegregation methods, and rumors of possible splintering of the district by segregationist patrons, loomed before the district, as indications that all the predicaments of desegregation were still unresolved by 1971.



History, Education, School integration, United States, Texas, Houston Independent School District (Texas)