Education

ProPublica Examines Resegregation of Schools, 60 Years After Brown Decision

By Mark Walsh — April 18, 2014 2 min read

The gains of the desegregation era have largely eroded as many school systems that have been released from federal court supervision have become resegregated, according to an article released Thursday by the independent journalism organization ProPublica as the 60th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka approaches next month.

Segregation Now,” by ProPublica’s Nikole Hannah-Jones, closely examines Tuscaloosa, Ala., which was a desegregation success story but was freed from court supervision in 1998.

“Freed from court oversight, Tuscaloosa’s schools have seemed to move backwards in time,” Hannah-Jones writes in the 9,000-word story. “The citywide integrated high school is gone, replaced by three smaller schools.”

"[W]hile segregation as it is practiced today may be different than it was 60 years ago, it is no less pernicious: in Tuscaloosa and elsewhere, it involves the removal and isolation of poor black and Latino students, in particular, from everyone else,” she writes. “In Tuscaloosa today, nearly one in three black students attends a school that looks as if Brown v. Board of Education never happened.”

And Tuscaloosa is not an isolated case, Hannah-Jones reports. “Schools in the South, once the most segregated in the country, had by the 1970s become the most integrated, largely as a result of federal court orders. But since 2000, judges have released hundreds of school districts, from Mississippi to Virginia, from court-enforced integration, and many of these districts have followed the same path as Tuscaloosa’s—back toward segregation.”

While there are few all-white schools in such formerly de jure segregated districts, the easing of court supervision has permitted school systems such as Tuscaloosa’s to make changes that have resulted in some schools with virtually all-black enrollments.

Hannah-Jones focuses on Tuscaloosa’s Central High School, which was created in the 1970s during desegregation as the district’s sole, integrated high school. But after being declared “unitary,” or legally desegregated, the district created two other high schools that left Central High with a high-poverty, all-black student population.

“A recent audit of Central had found that 80 percent of students were not on the college track,” Hannah-Jones writes.

“The principal struggles to explain to students how the segregation they experience is any different from the old version simply because no law requires it,” she writes.

In a note introducing the “Segregation Now” package, ProPublica editors Stephen Engelberg and Robin Fields note that Hannah-Jones’ story appears in the May issue of The Atlantic. And they note that other elements of the package include photographs, a timeline, and a 16-minute documentary, “Saving Central,” by Maisie Crow, that focuses on Central High today. (Not to mention extensive “source notes” by Hannah-Jones on her story.)

“We believe the importance of this story cannot be overstated,” the editors write, adding that Hannah-Jones will continue to report this year on the resegregation of the nation’s schools.

If, as ProPublica says on its Web site, the purpose of the nonprofit investigative organization is to produce stories with “moral force,” this one seems to be right on target.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Education and the Media blog.

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Future of Work Webinar
Digital Literacy Strategies to Promote Equity
Our new world has only increased our students’ dependence on technology. This makes digital literacy no longer a “nice to have” but a “need to have.” How do we ensure that every student can navigate
Content provided by Learning.com
Mathematics Online Summit Teaching Math in a Pandemic
Attend this online summit to ask questions about how COVID-19 has affected achievement, instruction, assessment, and engagement in math.
School & District Management Webinar Examining the Evidence: Catching Kids Up at a Distance
As districts, schools, and families navigate a new normal following the abrupt end of in-person schooling this spring, students’ learning opportunities vary enormously across the nation. Access to devices and broadband internet and a secure

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Speech Therapists
Lancaster, PA, US
Lancaster Lebanon IU 13
Elementary Teacher
Madison, Wisconsin
One City Schools

Read Next

Education Obituary In Memory of Michele Molnar, EdWeek Market Brief Writer and Editor
EdWeek Market Brief Associate Editor Michele Molnar, who was instrumental in launching the publication, succumbed to cancer.
5 min read
Education Briefly Stated Briefly Stated: December 9, 2020
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Briefly Stated Briefly Stated: Stories You May Have Missed
A collection of articles from the previous week that you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Briefly Stated Briefly Stated: Stories You May Have Missed
A collection of stories from the previous week that you may have missed.
8 min read