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Boston story of desegregation is a story of resistance as in the numerous anti busing marches in recent years. The demonstration on city hall plaza two days before school was to open brought the temper of the people of Boston to the forefront. I think they are angry because we have been ignored and spurred stocks. And the banks are up against the wall the fancy bar saying mothers and fathers shouted down their once favorite son. Ted Kennedy he was forced to make a hasty retreat from an angry crowd that wanted no part of his liberal politics where they asked did his children go to school desegregation was a long time coming to Boston a federal court order finally bore through two decades of resistance. Boston was found guilty of willfully creating and perpetuating a segregated school system. As the nation watched the long building wave of forced integration over Boston last September the symbol of desegregation the school
bus appeared on Boston streets. The reaction was predictable. The. The anger has manifested itself throughout the desegregation in the first days there were isolated incidents of violence when school buses carrying black children were stoned in South Boston but elsewhere in the city a calm prevailed and there was talk of surviving the desegregation. But on the streets of south Boston the trouble continued for a week there were daily confrontations between the police students and residents. Police escorted buses in and out of South Boston. Riot equipped officers formed a bizarre show of force on the streets of this American city. But the most persistent opposition to desegregation came from parents throughout the city who silently kept their children out of school in support of the white boycott. The outcome of the day was three hundred twenty one Blacks the white
women minorities as the maid of enrollment or what some called the resistance or blatant racism. Others said it was just parental concern. Whatever the motives the resistance was real and it was strong. For the first two weeks attendance throughout the system was low but slowly it began to climb. Although to this date it has not reached pretty desegregation levels with the attendance growing. So did the tension in particular across town from South Boston in Hyde Park High School open with and if not at school are you going to be good because you don't have that and we don't have the book for me not to move the buses and yelling Hey we've got what goes on in the schools which I didn't say did I know I know Hyde Park High erupted the school was closed and members of the Ku Klux Klan had arrived in Boston although their presence was felt they failed to muster genuine support. But at the
grassroots level the seeds of disruption and resistance were being planted throughout the city. East Boston Charlestown parts of the city not even affected by the busing held sympathy marches and boycotts for Hyde Park and South Boston. The resistance was spreading south Boston still look like it was under police occupation and the calm that was in other parts of the city those first few days had been broken. The mayor had a divided city and he and his staff began to question if desegregation could work in Boston. It was the disorder that made the headlines despite the fact that only a few schools were actually disrupted those first weeks. Elsewhere at schools like the lease school in Dorchester black and white children learn side by side. At the Martin Luther King's School all black Last year the numbers of white children in attendance grew daily. So too at the Loewenberg unmount upin white and black children were in integrated classrooms and in most instances there was no serious trouble.
This is how it was in most schools in the city and although the opposition never faulted Boston began to relax until October 2nd when violence flared inside South Boston High School then a fight in a South Boston bar between the Boston tactical police and local residents. Charges of police brutality. The following Monday a black man was dragged from his car and beaten in South Boston. Black leaders gave up on city officials and called for federal marshals to bring order to the streets. A false fire alarm at English High School brought black students out onto the streets smashing cars disrupting traffic. Mayor White now a defendant in the Federal Court case called for federal marshals. Not a minute passion's go by once the court has ruled that busting is a Law in Boston and this city is under a federal court order. The Boston police cannot implement this law alone. The request from our soul is
denied by Federal Judge Arthur Garraty. He ordered the mayor to call in all other police including the state police and if necessary the National Guard. The problems in Boston them surfaced at a press conference with President Gerald Ford and the anti busing leaders secured another victory. The surgeon that in my judgment. It was not the best solution to quality education in Boston. I have consistently opposed forced busing to achieve racial balance as a solution to quality education and therefore I respectfully disagree disagree with the judge's order. But having said that the state police on the streets of south Boston the tension in Hyde Park turned to bloodshed. A white student was stabbed allegedly by a black student. Governor Francis Sargent urged President Ford to send federal troops into Boston.
The president denied the request until all local law enforcement personnel had been utilized. The governor called 450 National Guardsmen into the armories and standby alert for duty on the public streets of Boston. The chaos predicted by the resistance seemed to have arrived for almost one month. The guard waited but with state police and Boston police in the troubled schools and lining the streets they were never needed. Attendance remained citywide at about 75 percent. Statistics revealed a loss of 8000 white children from school rosters emotions were strained in all parts of the city. Apprehensively black parents continued to put their children on the buses so did some white parents. But for too many people it was a matter of segregation vs. integration and the students were left to deal with the fallout. Right now I'm just so confused between Mayor White and I said what I really just feel like dropping out of society really. So we'll not really know because we don't get a diploma going to school going to get into the
service. Yeah I think it's the scene is really feel bad. You have a school ring and present they won't you know promise nothing going on. But it really affects everybody but the scene is really hurting. Throughout November the situation in Boston schools remain tense but stable. Often police outnumbered students in Hyde Park in South Boston. Anti busing demonstrations continued in one of the strongest displays of resistance to force desegregation in the United States. In South Boston many things remained as they were in September. The opposition was just as strong and streets lined with police only hardened the communities hostility towards the desegregation order. The tension was stifling. And then on December 11th a white student was stabbed in South Boston High School allegedly by a black student. Racial hatred reared again. Crowds gathered in front of South Boston black students inside one hostage. Police were finally forced to run the students out a back door
down through backyards to waiting buses while an angry white crowd cried out for revenge in front of the high school. All schools in the south Boston Roxbury High complex were closed until further notice. The trouble in South Boston brought new strength to the resistance. Three Boston school committee men John Kerrigan John McDonogh and Paul Allison defied a federal court order to submit further desegregation plans. They said they would not be responsible for the death of a child brought on by forced integration. The federal court found them in contempt and they became the heroes of the resistance. The contempt citation was later dropped when they submitted a voluntary desegregation plan to the court. Fearing for the trouble Mayor White asked the court to shut down the South Boston High complex. The court refused. And on the eve of the opening of South Boston High almost a month after it was closed superintendent of schools William Leary made his appeal to the people of Boston.
The Boston Public Schools. I have the legal and moral responsibility to provide an education to every boy and girl in this city to close a South Boston High. It would be an abdication of this responsibility. For this reason I have not only directed that it be reopened but requested our attorneys to file a motion in the federal court requiring those charged with the responsibility of public safety to take all necessary measures to maintain order and safety. I have every confidence that the three anti boxing forces in South Boston did not want to lose South Boston High. It was their school. They promised a smooth reopening and they kept their promise. The anti busing forces in South Boston had accomplished what the politicians the police and the courts could not. They kept Southey calm. But to this day it is an uneasy calm. The tension is still there as it is in the Hyde Park.
Police still escort buses and the police overtime budget for this school year will be equal to the overall desegregation budget. And each day white resistance grows the significant events of this school year have added fuel to the resistance. And it comes down very simply to this bottom line desegregation has not been a pleasant experience for Boston. Children at this public school are not involved in resistance to desegregation. For them this is the beginning of a typical school day at a public elementary school in High Park. But here in Hyde Park many parents are balking at court order desegregation. In fact they've taken it a step further and set up their own underground or alternative schools. These schools are not accredited and therefore they're not legal. Yet these schools are flourishing in Hyde Park and in South Boston and may set the pattern for similar alternatives to other communities. If and when busing reaches them next fall we visited one such alternative
school in the heart of Hyde Park. This week they meet in makeshift classrooms like these usually in the basement or play room of some sympathetic family. The teachers are accredited. Many were unable to find jobs in the Boston Public Schools last fall and they're paid mostly out of the $15 a week charged for the first child a family enrolled in the school $10 for each additional child. The curriculum is much the same as public schools but the classes are smaller. And parents say their children are learning much more than they had in public schools. Let me tell you they will do is black too right. We measured north and south. Now for the ones a parallel never to me. What we found is the children who were transferred into the shooting classes who have previously attended the public schools are way behind the children who have been attending these schools since we opened in September. What do you think prompted most parents to send their
children here rather than just keep them out altogether. Well many parents are against forced busing. They are not resisting desegregation as the opposition would like to have a lot of people believe what they're interested in is having their children receive a good quality education. And this is what really prompted many of the parents to send their children to these classes. I've been told by many parents that if busing disappeared tomorrow they would still keep their children in high factor because the quality of education that they will receive will be much better than that in the public schools. One hundred twenty five white students now attend schools like this mostly in Hyde Park in South Boston. But these schools may be the forerunner of a more sophisticated alternative school within the next several weeks. Organizers hope to open Hyde Park Academy complete with the staff its own building
and up to 500 students. The alternative schools like this one Hyde Park are almost exclusively white. Leaders say they are against busing not desegregation. And the black students are welcome to enroll. But there's also an alternative school for black children in Boston set up for many of the same reasons as the ones in Hyde Park. Parents are afraid to send their children into hostile perhaps dangerous environments and choose instead to set up their own schools. Many of the results are the same as well. Parents say they discovered that with or without busing the public schools their children attended did not provide a quality education. That's a term that's cropped up a lot in the last several years. Quality education is a thread running through the whole tangle of desegregation issues. But perhaps it's come up most in the political rather than the educational realm. The Boston NWC calls upon all adults and those who yearn to be leaders to refrain from further inflammatory
remarks or actions. We include the governor and Michael Dukakis who must both refrain from politicizing the segregation. When you consider that a majority of Boston's residents probably oppose the busing now going on when you consider that the Ku Klux Klan got a sympathetic reception from some people in the city. When you consider that the gubernatorial candidate of the American party who ran on a strong anti busing platform carried South Boston. When you consider all this it is odd that in a year when Boston will elect a mayor only one gold plated bona fide anti busing candidate has surfaced the incumbent mayor Kevin White says he is against forced busing. But he asks with a federal court order what can you do. The first announced major challenger to wider Suffolk County Sheriff Thomas Eisenstadt. And when he announced for mayor last month he attacked the incumbent not for his busing stand but for whites quote arrogant and elitist administration dedicated to self service rather than public
service. In other words politics as usual. Only State Representative Raymond Flynn of South Boston who is expected to announce this week is willing to campaign principally on the busing issue. At a news conference last week Flynn said that if he were mayor he would refuse to pay for the car costs of court order desegregation. Flint is not the most popular of the anti boxing politicians a number of whom could run for mayor but these other politicians have not yet announced any intentions to run for mayor and seating an incumbent is difficult requires a good deal of lead time. And this incumbent mayor is already running his re-election machine. Where then with just six months to go until the city primary or the candidacies of the major anti boxing politicians Louise day Hicks who has run for mayor before and is visible on the city council has been screwed. State Senator William Bulger has talked about considering running but hasn't announced. No member of the school committee seems about to come forward to run for mayor. There was a lot
of talk about anti busing figures out of politics running from there. Such talk extends to radio talk master avi Nelson who for the record does not live in Boston. He lives in Brookline. It is perplexing that the turbulent year of school desegregation has produced just one candidate willing to take on busing as an issue. It may be that an anti busing stand in the view of the political professionals isn't enough to get someone elected mayor of the city. The way the busing story was covered outraged many in the city especially those opposed to the court order editorially. Both of the city's major dailies the Globe and The Herald American urged compliance with the desegregation order. And when the morning editions of the papers hit the streets the day after day one of school it was evident that both Daly's had thought long and hard about how they would cover the busing story. It was an obvious attempt at both papers to keep things in perspective. There had been violence on that first day. The Stoning of the buses in South Boston. But neither paper emphasized the
violence both emphasized that most Boston school children had gone to classes without incident. Both papers were immediately suspect in the eyes of anti busing forces. The papers were at a minimum distrusted. They were not trusted to accurately report what photos of busing considered the bad news in desegregation. The Globe was particularly distrusted. There were calls in South Boston for a boycott of the paper. Shots were fired through the front window of the globe building a globe delivery truck was commandeered and driven into the harbor in South Boston and in other parts of the city. And he busing parents set up their own information centers. These functioned primarily as centers for resistance. But they reflected as well a disbelief that the papers in the city official information center were dispensing the truth. An odd thing about the newspapers controlled coverage their attempt at putting the violence and resistance in some kind of context. It was a new departure in papers which had in the past prominently featured stories of violence particularly Hearst Herald American.
Most of the anti-Bush media feeling in the early days. It seems now to settle down to a quiet mistrust was directed against the newspapers rather than at the television stations. Some worry though about the implications of such a massive media presence. The story was covered by news gathering operations as diverse as the British Broadcasting Company and the daily newspaper in Shreveport Louisiana. The headmaster of South Boston High School worried for example what the coverage would do to the students who did show up at his heavily boycotted school. Keep my kids on a camera I kid you why you put them on cameras and I'm not in there we want to take a picture we won't. We got has got to know these kids have to live in the neighborhood we realized then pick them up. There is compliance with the order to desegregate but that is a very quiet story. Each day thousands of school children black and white board buses to travel to an integrated
school. As is the case in other D.C.. Gating cities across the country the compliance is more peaceful at the elementary school level. For many of these children this is the first time they have been in an integrated classroom. The desegregation that began last fall is only the first step. If anyone believes the worst is over they are mistaken. Last September only 80 of the city's 200 schools were desegregated this September all schools throughout Boston including East Boston in Charlestown will be de segregated. Having a minority population between 30 and 50 percent every one of the city's 87000 school children should be in an integrated classroom. But this will entail the bussing of students into the heart of Roxbury which was not done this last year and is viewed by many as a major problem in the upcoming desegregation. And its problems in trying to accomplish that. If for no other reason than that the problems that this school faces the
crowded conditions in the neighborhood can readily be changed. These conditions can be reflected in the housing the economic level. The neighborhood the instability of some of the homes these are the conditions which presently prevent this school from being a better school than it is and I'm afraid that the conditions would influence any student body regardless of color for the black community the desegregation represents the beginning of the end of a long battle for quality education quality education at least as good an education as white children receive. Black leaders say now that for the first time their children have adequate supplies and good teachers. They assert that no matter how strong the resistance they will continue to put their children on the buses.
By far the black community has been a lot quieter in one community as we have had 700 horses and dogs and police and state police troopers outside of schools runs great and I think that shows something of forbearance and a willingness to go through this with on the part of black community for all the meetings and all the speeches and all the interviews. It's mothers a kid putting the kids on the bus I think that are going to make the process work to have a calm face after your child comes home with class and to put him back on a bus guiltily to make it work. After all the rest of us and. Even more black kids will start going oh I hope so. I've had a doll. Stefan. They missed out on education long as I get mine. And a piece of paper that Slade. Mitchell is out of. I think you're going to college throughout the desegregation there has been a growing push to Metropolitan eyes to involve the suburbs in the desegregation process. Boston already has programs that bring inner city black students
together with students from surrounding cities and towns. But anti busing forces want more suburban involvement. This is prohibited at this time by a Supreme Court decision striking down the busing of students across city lines. Within the next few weeks Boston will know exactly how it is to desegregate its schools this September. Court appointed masters are finalizing a plan right now. It will entail the bussing of more than 30000 white and black students from all areas of the city. Only 18000 students require transportation. This school year but the desegregation of the Boston public schools does not deal only in the shuffling of students. It goes to the very heart of the Boston Public School System. The federal court in its ruling found not only that the city had segregated its students into white and black schools but had also segregated its teachers prior to the desegregation order last June. Fifty nine of the city's 201 schools had majority black and Romans. Of the three hundred fifty six black teachers in the school system 75 percent of them were assigned to those 59
majority black schools. Half of the black teachers were assigned to schools that were more than 90 percent black. What this meant for children and schools that were all white was that they never saw a black teacher or a black student. So too was the situation with black administrators. Black principals head masters and their assistants were always signed to the signs of the majority black schools. The segregation was complete in the court's view from students to administrators to teachers. There were basically two systems rule the court one black one white that was ordered split apart and last September. That process began. And it will continue this September. Many black teachers were reassigned last fall. They were transferred to schools which before the court order had never had a black teacher. Administrators were also transferred. What the court found to be just as damaging as the segregation was that the most inexperienced teachers black and white were in the majority black schools. This was for the most part due to the fact that white teachers with experience had the option to transfer and most of the experienced white teachers
opted for the white schools. Therefore the beginning teachers were assigned to the black schools. The court order has tried to slow this process. Experienced teachers are no longer exclusively assigned to the majority white schools. The federal court also found that Boston was deficient in its hiring of black personnel with fewer than 400 of the city's 5000 teachers being black. The system has been ordered by the court to use a one to one hiring policy for each white teacher hired a black teacher must be hired. This is a process that has been used in other desegregating school systems. What this all means is that desegregation goes far deeper than simply busing. It is the reordering of an entire school system. Boston the oldest and once considered finest school system in the nation is now regarded as one of the worst. Many look to desegregation as a way to improve and update an archaic school system. Others warn that the desegregation could be the death knell for Boston that it will be the reason the white population flees to the suburbs leaving Boston a majority black city. Whether this will happen is the subject of
speculation. One fact is not speculation however and that is that desegregation costs money the tab for this school year is estimated to approach 20 million dollars. Half of that will be for police and security. And next year that figure is expected to go even higher. And it is to this September that everyone is looking with the entire system desegregating resistance is expected to be stronger than we have seen this year. Can the desegregation order be stopped. There are two ways a Federal Judge Perry's order could be reversed his ruling was based on 20 years of law and precedent in desegregation cases. The Court of Appeals has already upheld his findings. The ruling is on appeal to the Supreme Court and attorneys doubt very much an appeal will be successful. The other way to stop the desegregation is to have Washington approved anti busing legislation although the movement has been strong. It is considered a long shot. The Congress is more liberal this year than last. And desegregation lawyers doubt that such legislation would affect a federal desegregation order already underway as September and complete desegregation
The Compass Weekly
A Delicate Balance
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WGBH (Boston, Massachusetts)
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Episode Description
Reported by Pam Bullard. Retrospective of first six months of busing. Supt. William Leary. Alternative schools for children whose parents keep them out of public school; all white class in playroom of private home in Hyde Park. KKK sign on car. Mayoral candidate Suffolk sheriff Thomas Eisenstadt. Rep. Ray Flynn stills with narration saying he is anti- busing. Isaac Graves, Peter Ingeneri, student Chris Mitchell. Stills of Judge Arthur Garrity, Francis Sargent. Gerald Ford opposes forced busing.
Race; Education; race relations; Boston (Mass.) History; School integration; Busing for school integration
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Duration: 00:29:46;11
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Chicago: “The Compass Weekly; A Delicate Balance,” 1975-03-04, WGBH, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed September 30, 2022,
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APA: The Compass Weekly; A Delicate Balance. Boston, MA: WGBH, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from