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Slideshare uses cookies to improve functionality and performance, and to provide you with relevant advertising. Does segregation of children in public schools solely on the basis of race, even though the physical facilities and other “tangible” factors may be equal, deprive the children of the minority group of equal educational opportunities? The decision declared the segregationist practices of “separate but equal” to be unequal and unconstitutional, and thus illegal in practice. The implementation of Brown, requiring schools to be desegregated throughout the nation, would prove to be a daunting task.
The actions and inactions of the New York City Board of Education (henceforth “the Board”), following the Brown decision would only serve to increase tensions on all sides.
On average, facilities in Group ‘X’ schools were older and less adequate than those in Group ‘Y’ schools.
If tenure, probationary and substitute status are measures of competency, Group ‘X’ teachers are not as competent as Group ‘Y’ teachers, since fewer of them were on tenure, and more of them had probationary or substitute status.
On average, ‘X’ schools received more services than ‘Y’ schools, and had more classes for retarded children, but fewer for bright children. Recommendations from the commission were expected to immediately address the problem of segregation and introduce solutions that used integration to achieve an inclusive school system. These recommendations were not integration plans, but rather suggestions to improve the quality of education within public schools, “difficult schools” in particular.
For some unexplained reasons, rumors have been spread, that we are transporting or planning to transport groups of Negro children long distances to schools in which the pupils are predominately white, and vice versa.
It is obvious from the tone of the press release, as well as Jansen’s assertion in his subsequent speech to the public that many people had read the sub-commission’s recommendations regarding zoning and busing as a means to integration and immediately began reacting with strong opposition and resistance. In your opinion is the present method used by the Board of Education in assigning teachers satisfactory?
It is alleged that often principals prefer and request that they be permitted to retain a substitute teacher rather than have a new regular teacher appointed. What method or methods can you suggest to lessen the number of substitute teachers in the school system? Do you consider rotation educationally desirable for the (1) teacher, (2) pupil, (3) school, or (4) other reasons? What incentives other than salaries would you consider important to attract teachers to serve in “difficult” schools? Evidently, the sub-commission was trying to establish a baseline and measure of support for personnel issues such as assignment retention, diversity, competency and incentives within the New York City school system. Despite evidence to the contrary, there is still the mistaken notion that minority group members moving into a neighborhood automatically depress property values and cause neighborhood standards to fail. The sub-commission regarded circumstances such as the one described above as part of the reason for perpetuating stereotypes and racial tensions. Kenneth Clark was an African-American sociologist who conducted a study involving dolls of various skin tones to identify the harms of segregation on children. This site is part of the CUNY Academic Commons, an academic social network for the entire 24-campus CUNY system. Unless otherwise stated, all content on the CUNY Academic Commons is licensed under a Creative Commons license. Odum attempted to forecast the future social positioning of the “Negro” in America’s social hierarchy for the upcoming decade, and alluded to the conflicted consciousness that arose from the way America treated its Black citizens with disregard.
To legally and educationally separate the races, argued the court, was a social process and approach detrimental to the academic and social development of Black children. Various communities were pitted against one another in the struggle for integration and New York City was no exception.
In its ‘white system’ presided over by a cohort of experienced teachers, students read at or above the national average, and won a disproportionate number of National Merit and Westinghouse Science scholarships. As the Board, which set and enforced educational policies for the city’s almost one million students enrolled in K-12 public schools, continuously made promises to address demands for greater integration, communities on both sides of the issue erupted in conflict and violence. Group ‘X’ buildings were older (43 years against 31), yet they were not so well maintained. When the commission presented its recommendations, many considered it to be a giant step forward, particularly people from communities of color in the city, who, after all, had the greatest stake in the outcome.
As per the Board, “difficult schools” or subject schools as they were also known, were schools in “an underprivileged and culturally deprived area”[4] (NYC BOE, n.d, p.
Silver (1957) attempted to assuage these fears, while simultaneously showing public support for integration, as evidenced in the conclusion of the press release: Whether or not the Board of Education approves and adopts the proposals of the Commission on Integration, the school board and school administration will continue to discharge its responsibility by providing the best possible education for all the children of the city, consistent with their health, welfare and safety. It suggested that if misconceptions, such as the correlation between declining property values and minority residents, could be addressed, perhaps relations might improve and integration of schools could occur naturally. Congress “to enforce the constitutional right to vote, to confer jurisdiction upon the district courts of the United States to provide injunctive relief against discrimination in public accommodations, to authorize the Attorney General to institute suits to protect constitutional rights in public facilities and public education, to extend the Commission on Civil Rights, to prevent discrimination in federally assisted programs, to establish a Commission on Equal Employment Opportunity, and for other purposes.” (Department of Justice. While many took time to remember the momentous decision as a significant milestone in the United States Civil Rights Movement, others pondered upon how much progress has really been made since the Supreme Court acknowledged that segregation was inherently unequal.
Odum (1939) would argue that the “Negro” is as competent as Whites, using such evidence as Black intellectual achievements and the development of successful Black institutions like Tuskegee University to bolster his case1. Segregation of white and colored children in public schools has a detrimental effect upon the colored children. In the ‘black’ system, pupils in crowded classrooms, receiving instruction from teachers who were learning on the job, read an average of two years behind city’s white students, and dropped out of school at a rate double that of the city as a whole (17). Some of the Board’s promises infuriated those white parents who were vehemently opposed to the idea of racial integration of their neighborhoods and schools, while other Board promises raised the hopes of Black and Puerto Rican parents and their white allies, who desperately wanted better schools and educational outcomes children of color. 4) identified by the Board as having difficulties with student behavior and high teacher turnover. This includes the furtherance of school integration where reasonable measures may be used in consonance with the above principle (p. Losing interest in their present neighborhood, they hasten its deterioration and then point to this as proof of the truth of their strictures against the minority group.
Highlighting the benefits of integration, it argued that: “Children learning in an integrated setting gain valuable experience in democratic living [because] children who work and learn together learn to live together” (NYC BOE, March 22, 1957, p. Report to the commission of integration board of education City of New York by sub-commission on community relations and information. A progress report from the Superintendent of Schools to the Board of dealing with implementation of recommendations of the Commission of Integration.
Two months from Brown’s May 2014 anniversary, a report published by The Civil Rights Project at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) highlighted how ineffective Brown has been at eliminating school segregation. Odum further contended that “… equality, opportunity, and justice are already inherent in […] the American democracy…” and thus, inevitable destinations in the “logical processes” of building the American democratic society (pp. The impact is greater when it has the sanction of the law, for the policy of separating the races is usually interpreted as denoting the inferiority of the negro [sic] group. Constitution, especially the Fourteenth Amendment, as well as other social scientific research and evidence (Clark 1965)3 allowed Warren to affirm the inequities faced by Black children caught in the web of the “separate but equal” doctrine. By promising, but failing to deliver acceptable outcomes to either constituency, the Board ignited powerful emotions and responses from both groups. In retrospect, the city’s plan—which was supposedly crafted to improve the academic conditions of Black and Puerto Rican students, show good faith on the part of New York City, and create an image of the city as a beacon of progressive thought and action—would end up being an empty promise as many of the city’s schools remained segregated and unequal.
The Sub-commission on Physical Plant and Maintenance also recommended progressing towards integration through the improvement of conditions within the school system.
Everett Henry, an African American and the acting Assistant Principal of Public School 12 in Staten Island, detailed the number of current vacancies at her school.
Neighborhoods automatically deteriorate if the people living in them lose pride in their neighborhoods (p.
Silver, President of New York City Board of Education concerning misstatements about proposals or plans of the Board of Education in regard to its integration policy.
The report focused on New York State, yet the conditions described are not uncommon throughout other areas of the United States. However, the court’s decision made desegregation seem as if it would only be valuable and important for Black children and parents. New York City officials and many of its working class white citizens vehemently disputed the fact that segregation existed in various city institutions; but the city’s Black and Puerto Rican communities knew otherwise. The Commission on Integration various sub-commissions submitted reports to the Board with recommendations about how to prevent further segregation within the school system and how to integrate currently segregated schools.
Once more, the Board took a stance that reassured those white parents who opposed integration of their rights while seemingly supporting school integration through zoning.
She stated: “At this time, substitutes are in great demand to fill vacancies for which a regular teacher is not available. The sub-commission asserted that adult attitudes in turn shaped the attitudes of children and, therefore, “[i]t is, then to the adults that we must direct special attention [and] every means should be taken to establish communication among various racial, religious and ethnic groups” (p. There was also of an implicit admission in Odum’s paper that the American democratic experiment, along with America’s world positioning as a democratic leader, could not stand if the “Negro question” was ignored or remained unaddressed. In doing so, the court failed to address and to engage questions that affected the whole of American society.
Arthur Levitt, president of the Board, made a speech in Harlem in 1954 during which he asserted there was “no segregation in schools deliberately imposed by legislation…we have schools populated 100 percent by Negroes, but that is because…when children live in a homogeneous community, you have segregated schools” (Ravitch, 2002, p.252).
The use of the subjective term “reasonable” left it up to the school board to decide when rezoning and busing were sensible approaches to the integration issue and when they were not. People often expect to hear issues of school segregation connected to places such as Alabama, Mississippi or other states in the South that are often considered more conservative; while New York is viewed as a progressive state, more open and accepting of diversity. The Southern sociologist’s assertion was undeniably inflected by a predictive or prophetic tone that anticipated the forthcoming Brown decision. However, just because a report was approved did not mean that its recommendations would be implemented. The Sub-Commission on Teacher Assignment and Personnel also made recommendations to improve conditions of segregated schools instead of taking and adopting a clear and explicit approach to fully integrate the school system.
In order to accomplish the goal of increased positive community relations, the sub-commission provided two recommendations: the creation of a Centralized Community Relations unit and increased public information. The post-World War II era in which the Brown decision was rendered was a charged time for the nation, and New York City was no exception.2 Historian Martha Biondi (2003) chronicles the extensive efforts to fight for integration undertaken by White and Black activists in New York City in the postwar years, along with several jarring instances of racial conflict in the city that predated the Brown decision. Therefore, we hold that the plaintiffs and others similarly situated for whom the actions have been brought are, by reason of the segregation complained of, deprived of the equal protection of the laws guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment (NY Times, 1954, p.

The court could have insisted that an inclusive American school system, where students of all races learned together, would make for a stronger and more unified democratic nation. In 1954, following a symposium titled The Supreme Court Decision-New York’s Responsibilities where Dr. Superintendent Jansen (1957) emphasized this point in the following statement: “The Board must point out that approval of these reports, together with the accompanying supplementary material, does not necessarily mean acceptance in every detail either of the language or of the specific aspects of the recommendations contained therein” (p. Henry went on to discuss the ways favoritism in school assignments and positions resulted in the “lowering of morale among teachers and in the community” and how “ethnic integration should be considered favorably in supervisory and administrative positions as well as in those of teaching” (p. The Centralized Community Relations unit was to be staffed by Board of Education employees and work to increase support for school integration by promoting better community relations among adults. By failing to involve and engage all groups of American society in the legal remedy for the structural inequalities and injustices that defined the public school system, the court removed any sense of responsibility or obligation from the White community. The commission was supposed to help the Board prevent further development of segregated schools within the city and also integrate, to the best of the Board’s ability, schools that were currently segregated.
This would be accomplished by providing personnel to train school faculty, assisting in orientation of school staff, helping parent organizations, developing objectives for school community councils and evaluating the effectiveness of community outreach programs. This article discusses New York City’s school integration efforts in the years following the Brown decision. Blacks and their White allies began demanding an end to segregation in all areas of society, including education, housing and employment (Foner, 2005). In this sense, the court left the Black community and its White allies to continue to demand integration, while simultaneously leaving the responsibility to implement desegregation to state and local officials and school leaders.
The six sub-commissions of the Commission on Integration4 were created to investigate and make recommendations to address and repair issues that contributed to the inequalities that plagued minority schools. However, updating and maintaining “X” schools to the level of “Y” schools would not end segregation, but rather promote the separate, but equal doctrine. The report from the Sub-Commission on Educational Standards and Curriculum recommended increasing student achievement by increasing the number of regularly appointed teachers within certain schools. To increase public information about and knowledge of school policies and administration, the sub-commission called for the distribution of information through various media outlets. It analyzes how the most “liberal” city in America interpreted Brown, failed to implement the historic legislation and went on to become the most segregated school system in the country today.
A 1956 New York Times article on the Conference of Rabbis highlighted the Jewish community’s support for the integration struggle: “It isn’t the Negro alone who is deprived of the right of citizenship.
1) In order to satisfy this assumption, the sub-commission provided various recommendations designed to raise academic achievement.
It also required money and resources that the Board was unwilling to devote to minority schools, which is exactly how White school boards and officials in the South had treated separate Black schools. Their recommendations for Teacher Assignment suggested ways and incentives to provide more competent teachers to “difficult schools.” To assess the situation, Thomas B. It also called for a bureau to interpret policy and administration for the public stating that “it is important that the educational system, its programs and achievements be explained to the public” (NYC BOE, March, 22,1957, p.5). This is evidenced by the need for the second Brown decision, also known as Brown II,in 1955. The recommendations of this sub-commission were never implemented and the physical conditions of school buildings in minority communities remained outdated and decrepit.
Dyett, chairman of the sub-commission, sent out a questionnaire to elementary and junior high school principals concerning the current state of teacher assignments in their schools. 89 located in Harlem, described the difficulty he encountered trying to get White teachers to accept assignments in his school. The sub-commission believed that effective dissemination of information to the public was important because “people cannot support constructively what they do not understand” (NYC BOE, March 22, 1957, p. According to Orfield and Eaton (1996), Brown II attempted to “define how and when school desegregation should be achieved…[while] setting no standard or deadline for desegregation to occur” (p.
He related that teachers gave the following reasons for refusing assignments: “The school is too far from my home. Alliances between various groups, as exemplified by the above statement by a rabbi, were important in the struggle for integration. In the foreword, the sub-commission’s plan already demonstrated the inability of the Board to commit to a definitive plan of action.
My student training was not in a school like yours; so I do not think I can cope with the behavior problems and learning problems of the children.
The sub-commission argued that through the presence of a Community Relations unit and amplified public information, school integration would become possible because of “better intercultural understanding and…more interracial neighborhoods with active participation on the part of school-personnel, members of local schools boards, parents, non-parents, representative neighborhood leaders and pupils” (NYC BOE, March 22, 1957, p.
Many concerned New York citizens, activists, parents and students, Black and White, ceaselessly marched for equality, decrying the discrimination that Blacks were subjected to and fighting to assure that the rights guaranteed in the Constitution would apply to every citizen in the nation. Chief Justice Warren’s agreement to insertion of Justice Frankfurter’s ambiguous phrase “all deliberate speed” in the subsequent 1955 decree shows that the first decision was incomplete. It stated: Any comprehensive plan for zoning will be the result of a process of growth and, therefore, no doubt will undergo continuous modification.
Why don’t they appoint Negro teachers who will understand the children better and know how to deal with them?” (Krane, 1956, p. However the Brown II revision only heightened the elusiveness and ambiguity in the ruling’s language by not giving or imposing clear and specific instructions on timelines for states to implement and actualize the desegregation of their public schools. Any plan at present is, therefore, to be regarded as a starting point and, of necessity, be flexible. The Board had already adopted some of these policies prior to the submissions of this report. Board of Education of Topeka Kansas (1954) case began as a series of five cases concerning the issue of segregation in public schools.
Since there is an uneven distribution of various ethnic groups in different communities and boroughs, and since there is a constant shift of population within the City, it is impossible to establish any fixed ratio of children of different racial backgrounds for all schools. Krane’s experience shows the prejudice and bias of some White teachers and demonstrates why the number of substitutes utilized at schools with a large population of students of color was so large.
Information, whether accurate or not, was being disseminated to the public through the use of press releases such as the ones released on February, 25th, 1957 and another two days later..
Thurgood Marshall and the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund handled each of these cases. Such an oversight by the court, whether intentional or not, effectively limited the full scope of what Brown could accomplish, had the law been properly executed or enforced. The ratio will vary among schools and will constantly change as the residential pattern shifts from one majority to another. In order to combat the problem of vacancies at “difficult schools,” the principal advocated a system of teacher rotation. However, many of these press releases were reactive as opposed to proactive and sought to correct misinformation instead of providing accurate information as it became available. Failing to win in United States district courts, the plaintiffs then appealed to United States Supreme Court in what would ultimately become the first Brown case.
Therefore, it failed to give the decision the power needed to be effective in its proposed remedy. The homogeneous character of some schools neighborhoods is an effect of segregated residential patterns, a condition which the schools cannot deal with directly (NYC BOE, 1956, p. It is worth noting here that while the 1956 Krane proposition was overlooked or rejected, it would surprisingly return as one of the major issues in the 1968 Ocean-Hill Brownsville community control struggle. For example, the February 25th, 1957 press release announced the release of a question-answer review that sought to “clarify many of the points in the reports that have been misunderstood” and the Board urged that “this supplement receive widespread publicity through the press” (NYC BOE, February 25, 1957, p.1).
Thurgood Marshall personally represented the plaintiffs in the Supreme Court case where he argued that school segregation was a violation of the Fourteenth amendment. The limitations of the Brown decision aside, it is clear, nonetheless, why the first landmark court decision against segregation was centered on public schools.
Chief Justice Earl Warren’s legal astuteness, used to secure unanimity in the Brown decision, is noteworthy. Brown challenged the nation to create a more equitable and fair society through its educational system. Despite continuously “passing the buck” or shifting the responsibility to desegregate the city’s schools to such city government entities as the New York City Housing Authority and detailing the impracticality of future integrated schools because of “residential pattern shifts,” the sub-commission still made recommendations for integrating public schools through zoning. Theobald, the Superintendent of Schools who followed Jansen, published a progress report addressed to the Board concerning the “Implementation of Recommendations of the Commission on Integration.” At the beginning of the report, Theobald described the challenge of the Brown v.
Anchoring his legal interpretation of the Constitution, Warren challenged and engaged his colleagues by making the moral argument that the “separate but equal” doctrine could stand only if they in fact believed that African Americans were inferior to Whites. The sub-commission defined zoning as: “the process of establishing boundary lines for an area within which all pupils of the same grade attend the same school” (p. Board decision and the city’s response, yet again, denying that the city’s schools were to be considered segregated: When on May 17, 1954, the Supreme Court announced its historic decision outlawing school segregation, most of us in the school system looked upon it as a legal and moral re-affirmation of our fundamental educational principles. United States public schools are supposed to teach ideals of tolerance, respect, and citizenship to children. A supplement to the reports from the Sub-Commission on Zoning and Teacher Assignments from the Executive Committee of the Commission on Integration discussed the rotation of teachers. This decision did not, of course, apply to us since segregation had been illegal in the public schools of New York State since 1900. Schools are touted as a common ground where all races, religions, classes and ethnic groups (at least in principle) come together to study, learn and, acquire the tools for informed American citizenship. The sub-commission gave a list of basic criteria to be considered when creating zoning boundaries.
There were however, a number of individuals and groups which had been aware for some time of the educational problems resulting from changing residential patterns and housing discrimination (p. However, in the past as well as today, schools often fail to deliver on these promises, especially in the case of minority students.
These criteria included distance from home to school, maximum utilization of school space, transportation, topographical features and continuity of instruction. Douglas (2005) highlights the discrepancy between expectation and reality, noting, “For most of our history, African Americans have viewed education as essential to their quest for equality. The sub-commission asserted that promotion of racially integrated schools should be an important consideration when the above criteria are “acceptable.” The report emphasized that the city’s elementary and junior high schools were neighborhood schools and this fact “insures the conditions of relative nearness, safety and convenience which are basic considerations of good school organization” (p. The supplementary report acknowledged that this would be difficult on the teachers, but maintained that the Board’s primary concern was the children.

Superintendent Theobald’s position was one the Board would maintain for the next two decades. Yet education has not come easily for African Americans in much of our nation’s history” (pp.
Despite this plan of action to staff “subject schools” with more experienced teachers to benefit integration, few, if any, teachers were transferred, protected as they were by their powerful and White-controlled union, the United Federation of Teachers.
It never acknowledged segregation practices in the city’s schools, de jure or de facto, but agreed that the schools did face problems of inequality and inequity. This statement further clarifies the Board’s intention never to offer its support to integration by whatever means necessary.
The Board also thought higher salaries would attract teachers to schools that were difficult to staff. As to the fact of segregation, school officials like Theobald asserted that if it existed in the schools, it resulted from such ongoing problems as segregated housing and residential patterns over which the Board had no control.
What is equally significant about Brown was that it also forced the nation to realize that the survival and progress of its democratic experiment demanded and depended on the construction of a more cohesive, unified, and free society. It was unwilling to inconvenience White parents by forcing their elementary or junior high school-aged children to travel to attend integrated schools due to a backlash from white parents. In fact, educators who worked in “600” schools, educational sites that were designated to service children who were deemed delinquent, were already being paid a higher salary than those working in regular schools. The six sub-commissions of the Commission of Integration created intelligent and thoughtful reports that were carefully constructed. An official policy of segregation would have never permitted the United States to assume the role of democratic leader and exemplar of the Free World in the Cold War era. Despite the fact, the report does assert that there are times when it is possible “to draw the zone lines [so] that more pupils of different races will attend schools with inter-racial pupil groups” (p. According to the New York Times, “…violent and disruptive students were removed from New York City’s regular public schools and placed in so-called ‘600 schools,’ where teachers were paid an extra $600 a year for hazardous duty” (1992, p.A20). Taken as a whole, the recommendations made by each sub-commission, had they been implemented, would have gone a long way toward improving New York City public schools. By the end of World War II, continuing to deny and limit the human and civil rights of its Black population became a litmus test for the American nation’s commitment to be a world leader (Biondi, 2003).
However, instead of being put into action by the Board, the reports mostly remained only words on paper. In order to be a world leader, especially one who represents the ideals of democracy, the United States had to at least look like it was addressing the issue of discrimination within its own borders.
Based on the report, the Assistant Superintendent had the responsibility for drawing boundary lines and that he should consult all affected parents when determining these boundaries lines. While activists, parents and the children of New York City waited for action on school improvement, all they received were more reports. In many ways, Brown was an instrumental and a powerful legal decision that may have been ahead of its time.
The report also maintains that the Assistant Superintendent should consider gradual implementation of boundary lines as opposed to the wholesale introduction of changes in order to win “over the community to change” (p. Despite the Board’s assertion that these minority schools were not delinquent schools, it is evident from the distributed questionnaire that the Board tried to attract teachers into these schools with incentives. On the one hand, it pushed the country to start righting the historic wrongs perpetrated against the Black population and, at the same time, allowed the nation to continue constructing its image as a morally progressive nation. Perhaps the unwillingness to spend extra funds on teachers for these “difficult” schools came from the absence of commitment to the integration movement and the movement’s commitment to the educational improvement and outcomes for minority students.
In a 1957 address to principals of Queens schools and representatives of parent associations, William Jansen, the Superintendent of Schools (1947-1958), stated: “No forms of ‘segregation’ within the meaning of the historical decision of the Supreme Court is practiced or sanctioned in New York City” (Jansen, 1957, p.
The decision helped to remind the nation about its long history of racial inequality—from East to West and from South to North—and to further recognize the deeply flawed or hypocritical “democratic” narrative embedded in its very construction. It is apparent from the various memos released by the Board denying plans to bus children for the purposes of integration that they anticipated a backlash from White parents over the issue of integration through zoning and were making every attempt to accommodate their concerns. The Board also seemed fearful of the responses of teachers as evidenced by the various memos it released concerning the issue including one in 1956 that asked principals their thoughts about the issue and another that was done in a question and answer format where it denied recruiting teachers to difficult schools and instead sought volunteers.
In March 1957, the Sub-Commission on Community Relations and Information submitted its report to the Board. Just one year later, on May 16th, 1958, which happened to be almost exactly four years after the historic Brown decision, 500 Blacks students stayed home from school in protest of the Board’s “intentional segregation policy” (New York Times, May 17th, 1958, p.40).
It was the last and arguably the most important of the sub-commissions to submit its recommendations. Jansen tried to placate parents and principals by drawing a distinction between integration and segregation and diverting the integration issue from its linkage to embedded racism and racist practices. However, Brown’s primary agenda, widespread school desegregation, fell to the wayside in the years immediately following the court’s 1954 pronouncement. It states: “Pupils should not be transported by bus from one school to another solely for the purpose of integration” (p. According to the report, “The Sub-Commission on Community Relations and Information has concerned itself with methods of establishing a community climate that will support the Board of Education’s integration program” (NYC BOE, 1957, p. He asserted that the definition of integration commonly used, one in which schools became racially mixed, was not applicable to New York City schools. Segregation remained and worsened in some respects in the years immediately following the decision.
Orfield and Eaton (1996) observe, “Northern segregation was virtually untouched…Most Northern districts even refused to provide racial data that could be used to measure segregation” (p.8).
The sub-commission’s goal was to change community attitudes and form a sense of unity between minority and majority groups. Instead, the type of integration Jansen envisioned implementing in New York City schools was “to provide full educational opportunities to all children” (p. Busing became a major area of public concern, as evidenced by a press release distributed by the Board.
4), which seemingly implied that each group could receive a quality education while remaining in their own community schools.
De facto school segregation still remains a problem throughout the United States, and is especially prevalent in large cities such as New York.
Brown still represents one powerful symbol and reminder of the potential of American democracy; what is debatable is whether the seminal ruling was made to enact genuine change or merely to silence critics who saw the hypocrisy in the grand democratic discourse used to define the nation. Silver, addressing the “wild rumors that are being circulated concerning present or contemplated practices of school bus transportation” (Silver, 1957, p.
Through the use of commissions, committees, and reports, the Board managed to play on both sides of the integration struggle for a number of years after the Brown v. The statement described how busing would only be used to transport a child who lived far away from the nearest school or to relieve overcrowding. While paying lip service to those who strongly demanded integration, the Board discreetly maintained its allegiance to those white parents and people in power who opposed racial integration.
Using very strong language, Silver, urged the public “not to be duped by anyone of ill will or hate mongers attempting to undermine the confidence of the people in the Board of Education and the school administration” (p.
It was a tactic that could not be employed indefinitely, but it served the Board well for many years, as minority students continued to suffer in New York City schools. Superintendent Jansen supported the same position in his 1957 speech to principals of Queens schools.
Supreme Court to acknowledge segregation as inherently unconstitutional and to be a manifestation of racism, and to label discrimination a crime, gave hope to millions of minority Americans and to their White allies. However, the ideal of Brown in regard to school desegregation was far more significant than its actual impact. Lack of results was especially evident in Southern states, where many school boards refused to adhere to the decision and schools remained virtually unchanged until passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.6 This lack of progress toward racial equality was not limited to the South, however. The Brown decision also failed to induce significant change in the North, as clearly evidenced by the failure of the New York City school system to integrate in the years following 1954, despite exploring myriad plans and propositions. Fighting segregation in New York City seemed to have been more difficult than in the South, perhaps because of the fact that the city never really admitted to or even acknowledged having a segregated school system. Unlike in the South, opponents of segregation in the North were fighting against an invisible system, one that was only evident if you were willing to try to see it.
Instead, there were covert racist attitudes hidden behind a Northern air of culture, sophistication, and so-called liberalism. Surely, many thought racism could not exist in New York City, to which millions of migrants and immigrants had ventured to build their lives.
In the end, the New York City Board of Education played a key role in sustaining the hidden racism practiced in the city. It repeatedly pretended to be a champion of integration and an ally to all children while simultaneously failing to take any concrete steps towards desegregation. While continuously asserting that it was equally concerned about the education of every child, the Board proved through its actions or inactions that its primary concern was not to meet the educational needs of students and families of color. Every decision or indecision made by the Board played to the interests of White children and parents. The failure of the Board to respond to the legal mandate to desegregate the city’s schools in the dozen years after the Brown decision had enduring effects. Eventually, civil rights and community activists and parents would tire of the Board’s deceptions concerning integration and set out to improve educational outcomes for minority students through the use of community control and decentralization approaches and organizations. However, despite efforts throughout the 1950s to control and improve the educational destinies of minority children, the New York school system remains segregated, inequitable, and unequal to this day.
Board decision is still taught in schools throughout the city and the nation as a symbol of progress and of American democratic ideals. Supreme Court’s decision gives a false sense that a great deal has changed in the education of minority students. In reality, the New York City Board of Education’s myriad committees, commissions and reports were a waste of paper, manpower, time and financial resources, designed to deceive a public hungry for action and change. Today, sixty years later, minority students and parents in New York City still await the educational transformation promised by Brown and an end to inequality and inequity in the city’s public schools.

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