Thursday, January 27, 2011

Fisk University: An American Treasure Worth Saving

by Dr. Marybeth Gasman

I admit that I have a special place for Fisk University in my heart. It is the first historically Black institution I ever visited. The campus is quaint, pretty, and jam-packed with African-American history and treasures. My dissertation, and first book, pertained to Fisk University President Charles S. Johnson and his ability to raise money for African-American higher education. I used the archives at Fisk and interviewed roughly 50 alumni for my dissertation research. Let's just say that I spent quite a bit of time on the Fisk campus. As I would walk around, I got a sense of who had walked on the grounds in the past-luminaries like Dr. W.E.B Du Bois, Dr. John Hope Franklin, Countee Cullen, James Weldon Johnson, Nikki Giovanni, Dr. David Levering Lewis, Aaron Douglas, Langston Hughes and the amazing Jubilee Singers.

I also visited the Carl Van Vechten Art Gallery when I was on the Fisk campus. I
t was a beautiful little gallery that boasted one of the best art collections in the South, if not the country. What I liked best was the juxtaposition of African art with the collection donated by Georgia O'Keeffe and her husband, Alfred Stieglitz. For me the most interesting aspect of the art collection was its history. The collection is on the small Black college campus in Nashville, Tennessee, due to a friendship between Georgia O'Keeffe and Charles S. Johnson. Johnson was heavily connected with the New York and the Harlem Renaissance scene. According to two-time Pulitzer Prize winning author David Levering Lewis, Johnson was the architect of the Renaissance-a behind-the-scenes mover and shaker who was highly skilled at raising money for Black artists, performers, and writers. He met O'Keeffe through his artist friends and developed a close friendship. O'Keeffe cherished Johnson's respect and admiration for art and saw the many cultural activities taking place at Fisk. When her beloved husband, Alfred Stieglitz, passed away, O'Keeffe donated his art collection to Fisk. We'd be mistaken to underestimate Johnson's role in securing the collection-he understood the value of art and its cultural value to Fisk.

Under Johnson's leadership (1946-56), the
Fisk campus thrived. It earned the first Phi Beta Kappa chapter at a Black institution; it boasted a Ford Foundation-funded early college program that enrolled students such as Dr. Johnnetta B. Cole; it had a faculty of nationally known artists and writers that shaped the creative souls of its students; and it was the darling of the foundation world. Unfortunately Charles S. Johnson died in 1956 at the age of 63-many of his bold ideas died with him. Fisk managed to flourish during the years immediately after Johnson's death, when Stephen Wright was president, but after that the institution has struggled to retain its glory.

Created immediately after the Civil War to educate former slaves, Fisk is an American treasure wi
th a rich history that speaks volumes about African-American culture. In my opinion, it would be an atrocity to let the institution fail. However, selling an art collection against the intentions of the donor is not going to save Fisk. According to recent articles on the institution's struggles and its president, Hazel O'Leary, Fisk needs roughly $120 million to get back on its feet. The sale of the O'Keeffe collection would only earn $30 million, and selling it violates the donor covenant. In truth, it's not Fisk's collection to sell.

What Fisk really needs is for the thousands of alumni and other individuals who have benefited fro
m the institution to step up and support it now and in the future. As my colleague Nelson Bowman at Prairie View A&M University has said over and over, fundraising for a crisis doesn't work; fundraising needs to be consistent. Fisk is an institution that has produced amazing individuals who have shaped the lives of all Americans. Regardless of our racial or ethnic backgrounds or whether we were students at the institution, we should value Fisk for its contributions to American society, the Black middle class, arts and culture, and beyond.

Philanthropic contributions are def
initely needed to support and sustain Fisk, but the institution also needs to examine itself, cutting costs wherever necessary. The Fisk leadership needs to be completely innovative and not adhere to the same practices that do not work. They also need to assess their own role in the institution's current situation and work to make the situation better through any means necessary.

I personally want to see Fisk survive and thrive. What are we going to do to make sure that happ

An associate professor of higher education at the University of Pennsylvania, Dr. Gasman is the author of "Envisioning Black Colleges: A History of the United Negro College Fund" (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2007) and lead editor of "Understanding Minority Serving Institutions" (SUNY Press, 2008).

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Appeals Court Upholds Race-Conscious Admissions at the Univeristy of Texas

On January 18, 2011, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit rejected a challenge to the University of Texas' ("UT's") affirmative action admission policies in which an applicant's race was one of many factors considered in the process. Applying the Supreme Court's reasoning in Grutter v. Bollinger, the Fifth Circuit held that a university can use race-conscious selection criteria to promote student body diversity as long as that goal is tied to the educational benefits that flow from a diverse student body.

The challengers were Texas residents who were denied admission to the class entering in 2008. They contended that UT's race-conscious admissions policies were unconstitutional because they went beyond promoting the educational benefits of diversity and sought to achieve a student body that was proportional to the of State of Texas' racial composition. This, they claimed, was an unconstitutional effort to achieve racial balance.

The challengers also argued that UT had not given adequate consideration to race-neutral alternatives. Their other argument was minorities had already achieved a "critical mass" under the Top Ten Percent law, making additional efforts to promote diversity unnecessary.

UT's admissions process divides applicants into three groups: Texas residents, domestic nonresidents, and international students. Students compete for admission against other students in their respective pools. Texas residents are allotted ninety percent of all available seats.

Under Texas' "Top Ten Percent" law, students in the top ten percent of their high schools' graduating classes are automatically admitted. Applicants who are not in the top ten percent compete for admission based on their Academic and Personal Achievement Indices. The academic index is based on SAT scores and grades. The personal index is based on a score awarded for of two required essays and a "personal achievement score" which represents a "holistic" evaluation of the applicant’s file.

Admissions staff determine the personal achievement score by evaluating an applicant’s leadership qualities, awards and honors, work experience, involvement in extracurricular activities and community service. The personal achievement score also includes a “special circumstances” component that considers the applicant's socioeconomic status, family status and family responsibilities. Other considerations include the applicant’s standardized test score compared to the average at her high school.

Race is considered is as one element of the personal achievement score, which is only an element of the total Personal Academic Index. Without a sufficiently high Academic Index and well-written essays, an applicant with the highest personal achievement score will still be denied admission.

The Fifth Circuit approved UT's admission program and held that, as long as a university considers race in a "holistic" and individualized manner, and not as part of a quota or racial balancing system, courts must defer to a university’s good faith determination that race-conscious measures are necessary to achieve the educational benefits derived from a diverse student body.

The Court found that UT adhered to Grutter's requirements when it considered race in a process that devoted special attention to minorities that were among the most underrepresented group in its student population. The Court concluded that UT did not violate its obligation to undertake a “serious, good faith consideration” of race neutral alternatives before resorting to race-conscious measures. The Court observed that UT's admissions procedures, which were based on the plan approved in Grutter, are more narrowly tailored than the admission program involved in Grutter because individualized consideration is given to all applicants throughout the selection process.

Fisher was a unanimous decision, but he judge who authored the lead opinion criticized Texas' Top Ten Percent law. He believed that the law does not perform well in the pursuit of the diversity that Grutter endorsed. The law's focus on geographic diversity leaves out other types of diversity that would be considered under Grutter. However, the entirety of UT's selection process and its decision to use a race-conscious selection process were adequately supported by the considerations that Grutter required.

The author of a concurring opinion stated his disagreement with the ruling in Grutter, but conceded that the Fifth Circuit was obligated to adhere to controlling Supreme Court precedent.

The Fisher decision is faithful to the reasoning in Grutter. However, it is not clear what will happen if this case reaches the Supreme Court. Sandra Day O'Connor, who authored the majority in Grutter has stepped down from the Court. The Roberts Court has displayed marked skepticism toward civil rights claims. In a 2007 school desegregation case, Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School District No. 1, the majority struck down a race conscious plan designed to promote student body diversity in public schools. In that case, Chief Justice Roberts authored a plurality opinion in which he argued that race could never be a factor in governmental decision making.

In the 2009 New Haven Firefighters case, Ricci v. DeStefano, the majority struck down a decision that denied promotions to white firefighters who had higher test scores than minority test-takers because examination had excluded a disproportionate percentage of minority firefighters. The Court's decision ignored longstanding precedent interpreting Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. In a 2009 case, Northwest Austin Municipal Utility District No. 1 v. Holder, Chief Justice Roberts issued an opinion in which he made clear his belief that §5 of the Voting Rights Act is unconstitutional.

Some observers speculate that Roberts may be waiting for a case in which all forms of affirmative action could be declared unconstitutional. However, Justice Kennedy has not been unwilling to go that far. UT's admission plan addresses the concerns raised in Kennedy's dissent in Grutter since all applicants are given individualized consideration throughout the process. This may allay the concerns he raised in Grutter. If this case makes it to the Supreme Court, Kennedy will probably supply the key vote.

About the Author

nd Ware, a member of the Board of the Southern Regional Council, is Louis B. Redding Chair and Professor for the Study of Law and Public Policy at the University of Delaware.He is the author of numerous publications, and he served as co-editor of the recently-published volume, Choosing Equality: Essays and Narratives on the Desegregation Experience.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Democracy Demands Memory

By Julian Bond

From Southern Changes, Vol. 19, No. 1, 1997 pp. 3-4

"I tell my children today they don't know anything. You know, when I hear young folk talking about what they ain't gonna take, and I like to sit down and tell 'em, 'You haven't seen anything. You just don't know what it's all about. I don't know what it is you can't take.' And when I go back telling them some of my history, you know, they perk up their ears."

Mary Sanford, a tenants rights and housing activist in Atlanta, Georgia, in 1992

Mary Sanford's words and the reminiscences of other Southerners, black and white, about the civil rights movement ought to be required listening, because few Americans have heard them.

You can hear them in Will The Circle Be Unbroken?-- a landmark radio documentary on the civil rights movement. The radio programs tell the story of how Sanford and hundreds of other people in five southern communities watched, made--and sometimes tried to stop--one of America's most powerful social movements.

Ordinary Americans who witnessed and participated in the movement explain what we Americans have done so far in closing the racial divide; they explain what else needs to be accomplished.

They help explain why we still argue over whether racial minorities ought to be elected to public office; whether merit was ever really the test for getting a job or a seat in a university freshman class; whether children should be bused to schools.

For much of the twentieth century, an interracial black-led movement fought against white supremacy. That after nearly one-hundred years the job remains undone is not a testimony to the movement's failure; it is a measure of how great the odds were, and how difficult the task is that remains.

Mis-memory of this movement threatens to erase the reality of the often brutal past, the class divisions evident in every institution from church to school, the failure of civic institutions to service black communities, and most of all the cruelty and harshness of American apartheid.

A survey of racial attitudes by the seventy-eight-year-old Southern Regional Council demonstrates that while Americans do not place reducing racial inequality high on their list of priorities. few Americans really believe they live in a color-blind society.

One-third of the public has no idea what "affirmative action" is, and makes no connection at all between those two words and race and gender. But, a majority think qualified minority and female applicants deserve it. Three out of four believe our elected officials ought to reflect the diversity of the electorate, and if eliminating majority black districts causes a decrease in black representation, a majority favors drawing such districts 58 to 29 percent.

The more poll respondents knew about our history, and the more the likely results of ending race-specific remedies to discrimination were explained to them, the more likely they were to respond thoughtfully, rather than with bumper-sticker answers.

In more and more schools, students learn about the democratic civil rights movement of the recent past. They learn that ordinary women and men were moved to extraordinary acts of courage. They learn that Ozell Sutton (now with the Justice Department) risked his job as a journalist when he challenged a newspaper's policy that discriminated against black women. They learn that when Rosa Parks refused to stand up on a bus in Montgomery and when Martin Luther King, Jr., stood up to preach, mass participation came to the movement for civil rights. They learn that most presidents had to be forced, by public pressure built by the movement, to make the weakest gesture toward insuring freedom for all citizens.

And they learn that what was done once may well be done again.

At the end of Will The Circle Be Unbroken?, former Arkansas governor Sid McMath says:

"I think you've got a need for continuing a civil rights movement, that's not just the blacks. Of course the civil rights movement wasn't restricted to blacks. There were a lot of good white people in there. And you need a civil rights movement for everybody. Women need a continuing civil rights movement and the blacks and the Mexicans. They should all join together in the civil rights movement to see that the rights we have are protected and that the laws we have on the books are implemented and that the Bill of Rights is recognized in spirit as well as in the letter of the law. So there's a continued need for the civil rights movement. Civil rights education. Human rights."


At the time of this writing, Julian Bond was a professor at American University in Washington, DC and the University of Virginia. Since he was a college student leading sit-in demonstrations in Atlanta in 1960, he has been an active participant in the movements for civil rights, economic justice and peace, and an aggressive spokesman for the disinherited.

Crow & Molasses: The Desegregation of the University of Georgia in its Larger Context


A Personal History of the Civil Rights Movement in Five Southern Communities



Written by:

George King, Cliff Kuhn and Steve Suitts with Vertamae Grosvenor


You have to remember that when Atlanta desegregated its schools, you're only talking about 9 students. And there was as much to-do about 9 students as there should have been about 100,000 students. So it was a gradualist process. But even that gradualist process had a traumatizing effect on white people because what it represented for them was the beginning of the end.

SERIES THEME MUSIC: "Will The Circle be Unbroken?"
[Staple Singers]


You are listening to Will the Circle Be Unbroken?, a personal history of the civil rights movement in five southern communities, and the music for those times.

Amid the racial tensions of the post-war South, Atlanta's white leaders promoted their hometown as, "a city too busy to hate". Yet, Atlanta, like many other southern cities, resisted school desegregation for years after the historic 1954 Brown decision.

In both black and white communities, reaction to the Supreme Court's decision was swift and dramatic.

NAACP leader Jondelle Johnson...


It was like I imagine when they had the Emancipation Proclamation and the slaves was free...We've won that victory. That is over and from now on we'll have integrated schools and equal education.


State Senator John Greer...


Now I'm not a moderate on segregation. I'm a segregationist period. All of us in the state, 99 percent of the people are, but we must face reality and that is that we're under federal court order.


The Supreme Court decision called for school desegregation "with all deliberate speed."

Federal Judge Elbert Tuttle...


I don't think it would have made much difference if the Supreme Court said all school districts in the South shall be desegregated no later than the fall term of 1954. I don't think they would have moved any faster. They'd said you make us do it -- and that's what they did. Everyone of them said, "You make us do it."

"Theme from ‘High Noon’"
[Tex Ritter]


The Georgia state legislature denounced the Brown decision and quickly passed a barrage of laws designed to challenge federal authority and fight school integration, no matter what the consequences.

Muriel Lokey...


The major response in Georgia took place in the legislature where there was developed the policy of massive resistance. This was designed to prevent integration by closing the public schools as a last resort and shifting to a private system. And by 1958, most of the white public seemed to believe their elected officials, who had been telling them that regardless of what the court said, Georgia schools would never have to be integrated.


Former Governor Ernest Vandiver...


There is no real sentiment in Georgia for integrating the classrooms of our schools and our colleges and we are the targets, my friends, of destructive forces beyond our borders and the evil effects of which must be neutralized by Georgians acting in concert for their best interest. [APPLAUSE]


That same year, through the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, black parents in Atlanta forced the action by filing a suit challenging the segregated school system. When federal judge Frank Hooper ruled that Atlanta's schools must desegregate by Fall 1960, the scene was set for a showdown.



College professor John Griffin...


Georgia had a law that called for the closing down of the whole system if a child were admitted to any one school within the system.


So if just one black student entered a white school--all the city's schools would be closed--an option many whites preferred. Others saw the matter differently.


Nan Pendergrast...


We were so horrified by what had happened in Little Rock--so determined that that not happen in Atlanta.

Of course, it was a tremendous number of people--well-meaning people, who said, "You cannot legislate morality." Well, if we hadn't legislated morality, I don't know if we ever would have gotten any.


As the crisis deepened during the winter of '58, a group of liberal white women founded a new organization. HOPE–Help Our Public Education was formed to keep the public schools open. HOPE leaders, Muriel Lokey and Nan Pendergrast explain the group's pragmatic approach...


From the beginning we felt that our best strategy would be to stress the one issue of preserving public schools. And to maintain a neutral position in arguments over integration. We chose not to be a biracial organization but rather to be white people persuading white people. It was seen as a tactical necessity.


My particular job was talking to the Kiwanis and the Rotarians and the Civitans who at that time would never have allowed a black person in their door and probably not allowed anybody who was known to consort with those people. We had 7 children who were in the public schools for at least some part of their career.

And I also was very fortunate in having a grandmother who had been born in Atlanta during the battle of Atlanta and born in the basement because the Yankees were occupying the rest of the house. I exhumed the woman with every speech, because it was terribly important to let people know that you lived here--that you understood the situation.


HOPE adopted many creative tactics to demonstrate white support for keeping the public schools open.


My name is Frances Pauley. I remember once we had a telegram that we blew up until it was about six feet long, you know, about like so and delivered the telegram to the governor with some real pretty sweet looking ladies carrying it.


By the end of '59 we had 20,000 names on a statewide mailing list. And when the legislature convened in January of 1960, the Athens chapter sent an open telegram to the governor with 747 signatures and a few days later HOPE presented a statewide edition with 10,000 names on it. We had pasted them all together and made a big roll.


We were up on the third floor in the Capitol. So over the banister of the rotunda, we dropped the petition down and it goes down, fell down to the first floor. And of course we had all the press and everything taking pictures of it.

"Something’s Gotta Give"
[The Andrews Sisters]


With NAACP lawsuits, new federal court decisions, Decisions, and pressure from hope affirming the necessity for school desegregation, some Georgia politicians began to back away from their public rhetoric. In early 1960, the legislatureappointed a commission to conduct state-wide hearings on the schools. It was headed by prominent Atlanta attorney, John Sibley....

Former governor Ernest Vandiver...


Judge Sibley went into each congressional district and had...public hearings and gave everybody that wanted to testify a chance. And so if they were opposed to it, they had a chance to say they were opposed to it.


Do you think it's better to have separate schools for the colored people and the white people or do you prefer having mixed schools?


Well, I tell you, I'm speaking for the group...cause in my church and, the ah...PTA, we prefer our school remain unmixed.


I attended one, one here... I remember Mr. John Sibley was gentle, and courteous and encouraged everybody to say what they thought. Some people said some outrageous things. But mostly it was constructive...


It quieted the situation -- it gave the people of Georgia knowledge as to what their options were -- either have no schools or had integrated schools.


And the majority of people that appeared before that hearing said keep them open and segregated.


The Sibley Commission's final report never advocated desegregation per se. It favored plans to enable white children to transfer out of any school where a black child had enrolled.

Vernon Jordan ...


But the Sibley Commission was not in charge of the issue. We were in charge of the issue. And in effect black people were calling the shots, and the white community was having to respond. We had the initiative and it was our call.

"Glory, Glory For Old Georgia"
[University of Georgia Redcoat Band]


Continuing to apply pressure, Atlanta lawyer Donald Hollowell and other NAACP attorneys targeted the state's best-known public school--the University of Georgia. Under the state's massive resistance laws, like any other school, the University would be closed down if black students were admitted. The table was set.


I think that the NAACP was terribly smart when they picked the University of Georgia to make the first case. Because if it was one thing that was close to the hearts of the General Assembly, was the University of Georgia because too many of them were graduates.


Former U.S. Congressman James MacKay...


Donald Hollowell understood Georgia and that football is God! Donald Hollowell said, we gonna test this allegiance to God Almighty. And so the crunch ain't coming in Atlanta. And immediately they said, "Well, you know, we will be disqualified to be in the football conference." Well, I mean, you know, you can't interrupt the football schedule!


In January 196l, when federal judge W. A. Bootle ordered two black Atlantans, Charlayne Hunter and Hamilton Holmes, admitted to the University of Georgia--a riot broke out on campus. The school was closed down—Holmes and Hunter were suspended. Then judge Elbert Tuttle ordered the university to re-open with the two students admitted. Governor Ernest Vandiver, going back on his campaign promise reopened the university.


I spent a lot of time – prayerful time – on my knees during that period of history, seeking guidance. I could think of nothing worse than a million children out of school and on the streets and what would happen if you closed the schools. I was caught on the horns of a dilemma. Finally, I made a decision and recommended to the legislature that all of the segregation laws be wiped from the books.


Well, I think it turned the tides as far as open schools and"Little Ernie" as we used to call him, Ernest Vandiver, was the governor. He had said never, never, no never and so then he got up and said that the schools would open, and so everybody says all right, now go home and send him a telegram and I said I cannot send him a telegram! It was usually me that was telling everybody else that. Said if he's got to eat crow, at least let him have a little molasses on it. [LAUGHS].

"Mama Said There'd Be Days Like This"
[The Shirelles]


With the University of Georgia Successfully desegregated, the focus shifted back to the Atlanta public schools. The city school officials took a "go slow" position, calling for only token integration in the upper grades alone. But black community members maintained the pressure, recruiting students to apply for transfer to white schools. Student Martha Holmes.


Mr. Jesse Hill with the Atlanta Life Insurance Company was instrumental in encouraging us to go down to get the applications.


Then we went to the homes and went to the PTA meetings and we solicited people and some of them just came forward, and wanted to do something for history.


We had lived through the sit-ins with the college students. When I got the opportunity to do this in high school, then we jumped right on it.


The students who went to the segregated schools did not come from Atlanta's finest in the black community. They were regular blue-collar people's children.


I don't think that any one of the parents were college graduates, and they were really low income, low middle income families. Hard working, but very intelligent very determined parents. Many of them indirectly received some type of economic retaliation--but of course we were able to support them, even to get employment for people who were threatened.


Judy Tillman...


Someone came to our home from the NAACP and I remember my mother and grandmother whispering, "No we don't want to subject her to that. We don't want her to go." She said that someone came to the house and asked if I would want to be one of those nine and my mother said that she was fearing and especially my being the only child, she didn't know what would happen.


Despite the violence that had accompanied school desegregation in Little Rock and elsewhere, the first students were assured things would be different in Atlanta.



I'm William B. Hartsfield, mayor of Atlanta. Soon now Atlanta's public schools will be desegregated according to federal law. I'm sure we'll all meet this change with the order and dignity that Atlanta's have been famous for and show the whole world Atlanta is truly a great city. Let's not let Atlanta down.


Martha Holmes was among the students who applied to transfer to a white school.


The message was that we won't let the same thing happen here. We could do it better in a sense. I guess they couldn't afford to let something like that happen in Atlanta.


133 black students applied for transfer. 10 were accepted.


We kind of thought they put fewer of us in the schools, hoping that we would be discouraged and want to go back. And they'd say, "Well, you see we tried and they couldn't stay, so what else can you do?"

"Brown Baby"
Cordell Reagon


I awakened that morning with my heart in my throat wondering what would happen and worrying about, of course, the transfer students themselves.


On August 31st 1961, Atlanta's public schools would finally admit 9 black students.


Nine Negro students are to attend four previously all-white high schools. The schools involved are Grady, Brown, Murphy and Northside High.


With an eye to the city's image, mayor William Hartsfield and others carefully choreographed the event.

Journalist Celestine Sibley...


In other cities there were protests and marching. Here, Mr. Hartsfield set up a pressroom in City Hall for the out of town press, equipped them with desks, and typewriters, and food, merchants brought in food, Coca Cola company brought in Cokes. They were connected by radio with the campuses of these schools, and then given a bus trip to visit the schools. The out of town press were given a party that night. It was altogether different from what was going on in some cities. It was a great public relations coup.


Everything was beautifully quiet and just a regular old school day. WSB Radio News...


In looking back on it, was sort of incredible. We had all of that attention to put how many people was it, half a dozen kids in school. But the city felt so proud of itself when it was all over.


George Goodwin...


You can't imagine the pride in this town when Jack Kennedy started his news conference that August afternoon.


I strongly urge the officials and citizens of all communities which face this difficult transition in the coming weeks and months to look closely at what Atlanta has done and to meet their responsibilities as have the officials and citizens of Atlanta and Georgia with courage, tolerance and above all, respect for the law.


Even now, I can't talk about it without getting emotional --- it just set this place on FIRE!


I don't want to leave the impression that everything was just beautiful. Betty Vinson was there at City Hall as a press representative for OASIS and she still recalls now, with pain, the shock of hearing on a loudspeaker a voice coming from one of the schools, from one of the police cars, saying, "Everything is normal. No one is eating with them. No one is speaking to them. I repeat: everything is normal. No one is eating with them and no one is speaking with them."


The very first day we attended school, we went to lunch. And it was pretty much like a table had already been reserved for us. Nobody else was sitting there.

They pretty soon came to be comfortable enough with us being around that they could sit and eat their lunch and not have to run away from us.


For those first students who desegregated the Atlanta public schools, the experience was often unpleasant, lonely, and confusing-- feelings that would last through graduation.

"Pomp and Circumstance"
Arthur Fiedler w/the Boston Pops]


Graduation - huh! It wasn't terribly exciting for me.

They had a class outing at a place that did not allow blacks to come in and of course, the principal and other people assured me that I had EVERY RIGHT to attend and if I wanted to, they would make other arrangements. But at the same time suddenly they were telling me you know you really don't want to spoil this for all of these students. And I guess I didn't. It wasn't that important to me.

I did attend the prom, but I didn't stay very long. My escort and I hung around for a little while. But then they was playing music that we didn't dance to.

"I Saw Her Standing There"
[The Beatles]


I do remember just being sick of them. I said I've had enough of it, I've done what I set out to do and I think my sentiment might have been let somebody else do their part now.


Throughout the 1960's, Atlanta school officials continued to stall desegregation. They placed the burden on the shoulders of black students and their families. In the black community they said, it was easier to get into Harvard or Yale than to transfer to a majority white school.

Attorney Leroy Johnson...


The board of education as it was then constituted never adopted the theory of equality of education. So at every opportunity they resisted it.


You see you have to understand that when these white men were in office no one had to pressure them. I mean they believed in what they were talking about. And they believed that the races should be segregated. They did not believe that black kids ought to sit in schools with white kids.


For some years desegregation continued on a grade-by-grade basis. No white students were ever required to change schools. The city rejected any bussing plan whatsoever until the early 1970s. By that time, massive white flight from the city of Atlanta and its public schools had made city-wide integration nearly impossible.


That same power structure never took a stand in education, that same group that sought to protect the business never took a stand to protect the schools. Instead, they took their students, their children out and sent them to some other school where they could afford to send them.


Well, whites were moving out of Atlanta at a rapid rate to escape school desegregation.


They went to the suburbs.


So these folks are all over the suburbs now. Still coming in Atlanta working, but their kids going to school in their neighborhoods out there. Mableton, Palmetto, Austell.

At that time I had become president of the NAACP, this was in 71, I said well I'd be interested in entertaining how we can drop this law suit, but there has to be a price for the dropping of the law suit.


In the time-honored Atlanta fashion black and white leaders met behind the scenes in early 1973 -- to hammer out an agreement on the schools. Julian Bond, a state senator at the time, reflects back on the deal known to some as, "The second Atlanta compromise."


The community settled for black control of the school system in exchange for an integrated school system... At the time it had a lot of attractiveness to it, but in hindsight it was an awful mistake.

Black control of the school system was inevitable; population dictated that! Surrendering integration of the public schools here and elsewhere in the country has been an awful mistake. You only have to look at the state of inter-city education to see how much apartheid there is in American life and in American education today. It's epidemic.


Eliza Paschal...


We keep putting off the issue really, which to me is whether or not the color of your skin really makes any difference to people as individuals in Atlanta. Schools are not really integrated and we have never had a discussion on what it would mean to integrate the schools.

"New York Girl"
[Miles Davis]


Key to Archival Collections

1 Georgia Legal History Foundation, Institute for Continuing Legal Education
2 "Dawn’s Early Light," Ralph McGill Papers, Woodruff Library, Emory University, Atlanta, GA
3 Howard University, Ralphe J. Bunche Oral History Collection, Washington DC
4 WSB Television News Video Archives, University of Georgia, Athens, GA