A model of integration is now 98% black

Coleman High was the black middle-high school in Greenville, Mississippi.

Greenville, Mississippi was a model of integregation in the 1970s, writes Lynnell Hancock on the Hechinger Report. The Delta town was lauded in the Coleman Report for its voluntary plan to desegregate schools.

Now, 98 percent of public school students are black and 94 percent live in poverty.

Greenville High, once a top high school in the state, struggled to pull itself up from the F status it received for many years from Mississippi’s state accounting system to the D it has now

Across town, the private Washington School charges up to almost $6,000 annual tuition and is 94 percent white. Eleven out of its nearly 700 students are black.

In 1977, the U.S. Civil Rights Commission declared Greenville’s desegregation to be a “near total success,” writes Hancock. “Good leadership and good will” had created a district where “not one school was left with an all-black student body,” the commission concluded.

But whites, who were 30 percent of enrollment, steadily left for private schools.

A slower approach to desegregation, such as “freedom of choice” transfers used by some blacks,”may very well have had a better outcome than we’ve got now,” says William Percy Jr., a former school board member.

Hodding Carter III, who ran the pro-integration Delta Democrat-Times, is more cynical. “There is no place in America in which there are truly integrated schools when the black numbers get higher than 60 percent,” he said.

Charlotte, North Carolina also was a model of desegregation, reports The New Yorker.  After the school district stopped assigning students by race, in response to a 1999 lawsuit, the schools resegregated.


Resegregation now

Large and medium-sized “school districts in the South have steadily resegregated” when freed from court supervision, according to a Stanford School of Education study published in the fall issue of the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management.

“Many of the gains that resulted from the Brown decision are being lost,” said Sean Reardon, a professor of education at Stanford and lead author of Brown Fades: The End of Court-Ordered School Desegregation and the Resegregation of American Public Schools.

Suburban schools are failing to integrate disadvantaged minority students, concludes a new book, The Resegregation of Suburban Schools, edited by Erica Frankenberg and Gary Orfield. “The United States today is a suburban nation that thinks of race as an urban issue, and often assumes that it has been largely solved,” write the editors. Not so.