thumbnail of At Issue; 20; The Battle for School Integration
Hide -
If this transcript has significant errors that should be corrected, let us know, so we can add it to FIX IT+
In the cities across the nation, the strategy of the school boycott has become a major issue. And Cambridge, Maryland, civil rights leader Gloria Richardson. I think in this matter, Cambridge, of course, is a smaller area and it's just begun here. But I think in Chicago and Boston, we're in New York where supposedly they've had integration for quite some number of years. They reached a certain point and stopped. And they still have de facto segregation because they've not solved their housing problems. Certainly, the way the Negro feels across the country today, but you cannot stop for this type of de facto segregation that you've got to get in there and eliminate the causes and start the programs of planning that will change the pattern. It's been waiting too long. The masses of Negro people, large numbers of Negro people, are not affected positively by the plans that are in effect now. From Boston, the chairman of the School Committee, William E. O'Connor. If we admit that segregation exists in our schools, the Supreme Court has ruled that under the Constitution that is not allowable.
It has never ruled that integration must be had in the public schools. It has ruled that you cannot have segregation. And if we formally admit that we have segregation, then it involves a court trial. The leaders have threatened a court trial, but to the moment they have not attempted it, waiting, I suppose, for us to formally admit that we are guilty of segregation, then if we admit it, it would be certainly a cause for court case. National Educational Television Presents At Issue A commentary on events and people in the news. At Issue this week, the battle for school integration. Major target of the spreading school boycotts, including those scheduled this week in Boston and Chicago, is de facto segregation.
Charles Silverman, member of the Board of Editors of Fortune Magazine and author of the forthcoming book, Crisis in Black and White, explains the meaning and significance of the term. The Supreme Court outlawed segregation in public schools ten years ago. The cases before the court in 1954 involved communities which operated completely separate schools for Negro and White pupils. Children were assigned to one school or another solely because of their race. In New York, Chicago, Boston, and other northern cities where boycotts have occurred. Children are assigned to schools according to the neighborhood in which they live, regardless of their color. The methods and the objectives are completely different therefore, but the results are much the same. Since Negroes and whites generally live in separate neighborhoods, their children attend separate schools. In short, segregation is a fact.
New York City, for example, has 134 elementary schools with a 90% or higher Negro and Puerto Rican enrollment. And 186 schools with 90% or more white non- Puerto Rican enrollment. Negro civil rights leaders argue that the 1954 Supreme Court decision outlawed segregation as such, whether Dijure is in the south or de facto is in the north. And they're demanding that education boards abandon the neighborhood school policy in order to integrate their schools. No one really knows whether they're right about the law or not. No de facto segregation case has yet reached the Supreme Court. And the lower federal and state courts are sharply split on the question. But the problem goes far beyond the question of law. Equally important is the question of how integration can be achieved. The number of Negro students keeps increasing and the number of white students keeps declining. And when white parents react to changes in zoning by transferring their children to private schools,
or by moving to another community altogether. In the borrow of Manhattan, for example, Negro and Puerto Rican youngsters already constitute more than 75% of the elementary school enrollment. In Boston, a major point of contention in the integration battle is whether or not de facto segregation exists. Here is a report from George Page of WGBHTV in Boston. The President of the United States, the President of the United States, the President of the United States. About 1,000 persons showed up last week for this Freedom Stay Out Day rally at Boston's Tremac Methodist Church. The turnout indicates increasing support for the school boycott, planned for February 26th. Boycott leaders also hoped to stage a mass protest march through downtown Boston. Author Louis Lomax came to Boston to address the rally.
He was billed as the first of several national figures who will come here to support the planned boycott. Last June 18, Boston became the first city in the nation to experience a pupil stayout as a protest against de facto segregation. The Office of the Five Member School Committee was the main target of the pickets that day. Integration leaders say the June boycott resulted in more permanent teachers and more textbooks for the predominantly Negro schools. Mrs. Louise Day Hicks was then chairman of the school committee. She and a majority of the committee members steadfastly refused to concede that de facto segregation exists in Boston's public schools. Mrs. Hicks was reelected to the school committee by a large majority in November's balloting. Her one-year term as chairman expired with her reelection and the committee chose a new chairman. Although no longer Boston's top school official, Mrs. Hicks remains the integrationist principal opponent.
She's a lawyer, says the boycott is illegal, and has personally threatened court action against the stayout leaders. Then last week, in a decision that must have been agonizing, Massachusetts Attorney General Edward Brook ruled that the plan boycott would be illegal. Brook said Truett officers may legally apprehend boycotting pupils. Cannon James Breeden, a young episcopal priest, is leader of Boston's boycott movement. He organized the first boycott here, and in fact is the originator of the boycott tactic, which spread from Boston to other cities. Brook's ruling means possible court action against Breeden, but he is undaunted. There's been much criticism, including an editorial in the New York Times, and of course here in Boston, Cardinal Cushing has come out against the Freedom stayout day. The criticism is sent around the idea that this is not a valid means of protest. How do you answer this criticism?
Well, I simply say that it's an unusual means of protest, and many people when they are faced with the unusual say that it's wrong. It's certainly valid from the point of view of allowing those who are most deeply involved to express themselves, namely the children who are in the schools. But beyond that, the parents are deeply involved too, because we insist that parents give their children permission, sign permission slips on their return. And any parent whose child is involved in the Freedom school is deeply involved himself. The Boston School Committee has group will not say officially that de facto segregation exists in the Boston schools. In fact, they voted three to two that it did not exist. Therefore, what can you hope to accomplish with the boycott? Well, it's easy to say something doesn't exist if when you say it, it goes away and doesn't bother you anymore. But as long as it keeps bothering the school committee sooner or later, they're going to have to decide by majority vote that de facto segregation exists.
It's there whether they decide it exists or they decide that it doesn't. But our last stay out helped one member of the school committee face up to the problem. He did his homework and he no longer says the problem doesn't exist. We're hoping that this stay out will perhaps push a couple more over into our column and then we can get down to solving the problems. The new chairman of Boston School Committee is William E. O'Connor, an associate professor of business administration at Suffolk University. The committee now says it's willing to meet with Negro leaders to talk about education, but not de facto segregation. Well, that there. Why is this definition of a term become so important? Wouldn't it make your life easier if you went ahead and said, well, there is de facto segregation or racially, some of our schools are racially imbalanced? Why has there been this insistence on this definition of this term?
Well, then again, the majority of the school committee feel that the NAACP in their insistence on a formal vote of the school committee to acknowledge de facto segregation had a legal significance to it. In other words, if we admit that segregation exists in our schools, the Supreme Court has ruled that under the Constitution that is not allowable. It has never ruled that integration must be had in the public schools. It has ruled that you cannot have segregation. And if we formally admit that we have segregation, then it involves a court trial. The leaders have threatened a court trial, but to the moment they have not attempted it waiting, I suppose, for us to formally admit that we are guilty of segregation, then if we admit it, it would be certainly a cause for court case. And the only solution to segregation is an order to break it up. And there is where the conflict comes, taking children out of their own committee and busing them all over the city to strange communities.
But in Boston, in order to provide seats for those children in different communities, we must take the children out of the seats that are there in the neighborhood because we don't have many surplus seats on mass to take care of a shift of 10,000 pupils. It's clear that integration leaders are gaining new support from religious leaders and other groups outside the Negro community. But only one thing appears certain. Boston is in for a long, drawn-out controversy over racially imbalanced schools. Already, Negro leaders are thinking beyond next week's boycott. One of them said, if the school committee doesn't come up with a comprehensive integration plan, we will find new forms of protest that are stronger than the boycott. This is George Page reporting from WGBHTV in Boston.
Major new development in the school boycott movements in New York and Chicago is the partial defection of the local NAACP chapters. In New York, the NAACP is withdrawn from the citywide committee for integrated schools, although it may still participate of a second one day boycott materializes. From Chicago, here's a report by Harry Homewood of the Chicago Sun Times and WTTW. The state law of Illinois forbids anyone to induce or attempt to induce a child to stay out of school. Nevertheless, inducing children to stay out of school is a protest against segregation in public schools as a protest against an inferior education for segregated students has become a potent weapon in the arsenal of those who fight for civil rights. That weapon was used in Chicago last October, a massive boycott of Chicago's public schools called Freedom Day, kept more than half of Chicago's almost half million schools children at home.
8,000 pickets jammed in the Chicago's downtown business district as part of that school boycott. What did this exercise and mass absenteeism achieve that could not have been brought about by peaceful negotiation? One does not really know. However, two days after the boycott, the Chicago Board of Education publicly revealed for the first time that 23% of Chicago's Negro children attended schools that did not have a single white student. 82% of all of Chicago's Negro school children went to schools that were 90% and more Negro. On the other hand, more than 76% of Chicago's white school children attended schools that were at least 90% white. Some of this seeming the fact of segregation is, of course, due to the fact of residents. Some is due to gerrymandered school districts. It is a critical issue in Chicago because another school boycott has been threatened for later this month. This second boycott is not a popular issue among all Negro leaders.
Here is what Mr. Lawrence Landry, director of the Chicago Branch of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. Freedom Day Chairman, spokesman for the boycott leaders, has to say about this second boycott. When I told you the 22nd 1963, 260,000 children stayed home from school to protest inferior and segregated education in the city of Chicago. This protest was called by the coordinating council of community organizations. Six weeks later, in the first week of December, after a week of evasion, misrepresentation, and downright lies by the school board president Claire Roderick, we sat down and discussed with the school board the adoption of a simple policy statement of integration. The school board refused to adopt such a policy and insulted the Negro community by making irresponsible charges against this leadership. In early January of 1964, the CTPO frustrated in its efforts to get integrated in quality education in Chicago,
called the second school boycott for February of the 25th. There is a commission set to report on the same genuine, but the Negro community as clock is tired of waiting for commissions and committee reports. We know the schools are segregated. We are products of these schools. We know the living higher that Negro kids go through. We do not need a committee report. Only the school board needs such a report. The Reverend Carl Fuqua executive secretary for the Chicago branch of the NAACP does not agree with Mr. Landry. The NAACP does not agree with nor do they sponsor a second school boycott. Here is what the Reverend Fuqua has to say. The proposal for a second, what is termed boycott and I do not call it one day demonstration of boycott. It will point out something which the community already knows. If it is going to be a boycott of some sustained amount of time, this is a different situation.
It is going to do anything more toward the solution of the problem than the October 22nd demonstration did. Be sure it is going to point out to the community the higher of many citizens, of parents, of groups, of children. It is going to point out something which is already known. This was I think the main function of the October 22nd demonstration. It let the community and the nation as a whole know how a vast majority of people in Chicago felt about the factor of segregation in Chicago branch. Now that that fact is known, I do not see where it has to be re-emphasized to the extent that so much time is taken on the re-emphasis with less time being taken on. To follow through to solve the problems which caused the need for such demonstrations.
Since the Chicago School Boycott in October, considerable effort has been made to discover the problems peculiar to schools segregated by virtue of residents and the problems peculiar to schools partially or wholly integrated. Two committees of able respected and responsible educators are at work of these problems, studying them and trying to arrive at a solution. A great deal is expected from these committee reports, despite what Mr. Landry has said. The public school boycott is a powerful weapon. It can easily get out of control, become a weapon for personal power. Chicago faces just such a situation. Millicent young civil rights leaders are advocating a second school boycott in Chicago. They are not supported in this by all of the civil rights leaders or by any of the Negro consulmen in Chicago city government. But proved to be a weapon of bludgeoning power in October is now being used as a threat for personal gain in an internecine fight within the civil rights leadership rank in Chicago.
It has been in fact a Pandora's Box, and no one really knows whether the opening of that box will bring forth good or evil. Cambridge, Maryland, achieved nationwide fame last year when the National Guard was called out to quell demonstrations and place the city under martial law. The truth was declared in September and the Human Relations Council was created with the major task of wiping out de facto segregation as rapidly as possible. Reverend Alan Watley, chairman of the council and Mrs. Gloria Richardson, have clashed ever since. Last week, after Mrs. Richardson had called for a school boycott, reporter Andy Stern asked the Reverend Watley what he thought about it. I am definitely opposed to a boycott. In my judgment it will stir up more animosity, make it increasingly difficult for Negroes and whites to adjust to each other in educational pursuits. What do you think will happen if these demonstrations continue?
It makes it more difficult for people like myself and those interested in the welfare of our community to work. It's creating an image of Cambridge that's extended far beyond the state of Maryland. It goes throughout the country. This then reacts to the detriment of encouraging industries to come to Cambridge. This is one of the things we hope for and I stated in Washington and I stated again that this industrial area was growing in Cambridge, making it possible for more people to have an opportunity of employment. Now, I think attitudes on the part of extremists have killed the goose that laid the golden egg and they are defeating the very purpose of which they strive to attain. Mrs. Gloria Richardson led the school boycott in Cambridge last week. No one knows whether it was successful since her figures and the school boards differ.
We asked her why she thought a boycott was necessary. Well, we have of course the segregated schools which means that we feel that the Negro students and it is true that the Negro students get their education is not up to the same part as the white students here. On the other hand, we don't feel that either the Negro or the white students are getting at it with education because it's being maintained in a segregated set up which cost more economically. The textbook question, they are different textbooks within the school. The curriculum, for example, like the Cambridge High has business law and psychology to languages. This is something the Macy's Lane High School does not have. County students have to come from a maximum of 35 to 40 miles away into a Negro school past white schools which consumes quite a bit of time. They might have to get up at 4 or 5 o'clock in the morning and get home at 7 or 8 o'clock at night.
And we don't believe that this has failed nor that it provides a good academic atmosphere or environment for the students. What is the school board done to try to defeat the boycott? I think as far as their tactics are concerned, these are usually tactics of Cambridge politicians here. They have said that the parents could be jailed on a misdemeanor charge and charged $50. They have said that the kids would be flunked with the day that they missed out of school. They have also implied that this would prevent them from recommending them to a decent job and for college entrance into college. Of course, it's ridiculous because you did 365 days a year. They could attend school here in Cambridge and still couldn't get a decent job if they were eligible because they are Negroes that they would expel them. This was through rumor. Some members of the community have complained that your group has made threats to some of the children that if they did show up in school that there would be certain actions taken against them, what do you say to this? Oh, this is completely ridiculous. I think this is implied in the non-violent action committee. If we were going to bother anybody like that, we certainly would have done it last summer.
You know, or out on a ticket line when somebody throwing eggs at you or kicking you or hitting you or the police banging your head on the ground. I think this is completely ridiculous. We don't have to do this type of thing. The resentment is already within the Negro people. Anywhere in the country, it only has to be brought into focus and curled into action. The Reverend T. E. Murray, local chairman of the NAACP in Cambridge and a member of the Human Relations Council, was asked what he thought of the school boycott strategy. I've heard said by some of the parent of some of the children that they do not yet approve of their children being engaged into too much conflict. They do not feel that it's a good for their children. It was stated that some of them have trouble enough with their children now. They feel that to expose their child in this early age, to such conflicts as this, it does something to the child.
And I agree with them to a certain extent. I think this is a man's fight. And to me, it appears to me a cowardice to a certain extent for adults to sit back and to send children what adults do to do, what adults ought to be doing themselves. Have any Negroes been accepted in white schools since the agreement? I do not know of any that has been turned away from the schools. Those who have made application as far as I know have been accepted. And I think here perhaps that would have been more of progress made if the Negro population or the Negro families have sent their children to these schools. Why didn't they do it?
Now this is a question that is hard for anyone I think to really answer. Why they didn't do it? Because I think some of it perhaps might have been fear on the part of some of our, some of the color people. And this change over, change over of, and the Mingling with many people is strange to the adults and therefore it brings fear to them and they impose this fear upon the children. This has a lot to do with it I think. By and large schools and Negro areas are not only separate but unequal. The Chicago Board of Education for example appropriates 21% less per student in all Negro schools than in all white schools. New York on the other hand spends roughly $200 a year more for people in Negro than in white schools. But even so, Negro schools tend to be old and terribly overcrowded and academic achievement is very poor. Third grade pupils in Harlem for example are one year behind grade level and by sixth grade they fall in nearly two years behind.
The reason is not Negro inferiority as John Fisher, President of Teachers College has put it. Every Negro child on the day he enters school carries a burden no white child can ever know no matter what handicaps or disabilities he may suffer. Research indicates that if Negro youngsters are to perform as well as white children the schools must carry on a massive effort of compensatory education beginning at age four at the very latest and continuing all the way through school. No city has even begun to do that. A growing number of Negroes are coming to agree with Dr. Kenneth Clark of City College, distinguished Negro psychologist. The genuine integration will not be possible until the schools and Negro neighborhoods brought up to the level of the very best in the country. In the long run, excellence requires an end to segregation. But in the short run, compensatory education is necessary. Why then the insistence on desegregation now? Because Negroes are convinced with good reason that white taxpayers will not pay to bring Negro schools up to the necessary standard of excellence without the threat of having their children transported into Negro neighborhoods.
For more information, visit This is NET, National Educational Television.
At Issue
Episode Number
The Battle for School Integration
Producing Organization
National Educational Television and Radio Center
Contributing Organization
Library of Congress (Washington, District of Columbia)
If you have more information about this item than what is given here, or if you have concerns about this record, we want to know! Contact us, indicating the AAPB ID (cpb-aacip/512-qf8jd4qp2r).
Episode Description
This program examines the spreading civil rights boycotts of northern schools. It surveys the positive and negative effectiveness of the boycotts, what these boycotts do to the political and asocial structure of a city, and probes whether this method for promoting school integration is a valid use of the boycott. To present an in-depth report, camera crews will go to one of these cities New York, Boston, or Chicago to show the preparation for a school integration boycott scheduled for February 25. Educators, teachers, pupils, civil rights leaders, and parents will be interviewed. There will also be on-the-spot coverage of similar boycotts scheduled for February 11 in one of the following three cities Cambridge, Maryland; Wilmington, Delaware; or Chester, Pennsylvania. Running Time: 28:50 (Description adapted from documents in the NET Microfiche)
Series Description
At Issue consists of 69 half-hour and hour-long episodes produced in 1963-1966 by NET, which were originally shot on videotape in black and white and color.
Broadcast Date
Asset type
Talk Show
Social Issues
Race and Ethnicity
Media type
Moving Image
Embed Code
Copy and paste this HTML to include AAPB content on your blog or webpage.
Executive Producer: Perlmutter, Alvin H.
Producer: Zweig, Leonard
Producing Organization: National Educational Television and Radio Center
AAPB Contributor Holdings
Library of Congress
Identifier: 2004549-1 (MAVIS Item ID)
Format: 2 inch videotape
Generation: Master
Color: B&W
Library of Congress
Identifier: 2004549-2 (MAVIS Item ID)
Generation: Master
Library of Congress
Identifier: 2004549-3 (MAVIS Item ID)
Generation: Copy: Access
If you have a copy of this asset and would like us to add it to our catalog, please contact us.
Chicago: “At Issue; 20; The Battle for School Integration,” 1964-02-17, Library of Congress, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed September 30, 2023,
MLA: “At Issue; 20; The Battle for School Integration.” 1964-02-17. Library of Congress, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. September 30, 2023. <>.
APA: At Issue; 20; The Battle for School Integration. Boston, MA: Library of Congress, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from