Opinion
Equity & Diversity Opinion

Brown at 60: In the Delta, a Dream Deferred

By Renee Moore — May 20, 2014 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Renee Moore

My thoughts and emotions about the Brown decision are colored by where I live. Cleveland, Miss., has the ignominious distinction of never fully obeying the order to desegregate its public schools.

“Mississippi ignored Brown v. Board of Education ... for a decade,” according to an article in the Wall Street Journal. “Black parents started filing lawsuits in the mid-1960s to force compliance; the suit against Cleveland, population 12,000, was filed in 1965, and has dragged on through the courts ever since,”

Separate has never been equal. I began my teaching career at the all-black high school directly in front of our house—built in 1955 to dissuade black parents from attempting to integrate. All of our 11 children attended there. Unlike their peers across town, my children never had the opportunity to use a science lab; their teachers performed occasional experiments with a kit purchased out of their own pockets. One year, I went dumpster diving at the other school to get their discarded English books for my students; that was 40 years after Brown.

While recent articles lament a return to segregated public schools, generations of black children in the Delta have yet to know anything else. The “massive resistance” to desegregation resulted in the majority of white students in the Mississippi Delta attending private academies. Ironically, the resistance to complete desegregation here in Cleveland is the reason it is the only Delta town that still has any significant number of white students in its public schools. Brown has been, like Reconstruction, an unfulfilled promise.

There is one staggering effect of the Brown decision that is less discussed: the assault on black educators. In a chapter of the 2011 book The American Public School Teacher: Past, Present, and Future, I review how tens of thousands of African-American teachers and administrators were deliberately terminated when Southern schools were finally forced to desegregate. The percentage of black educators, especially males, in American public education has yet to recover from that devastating period. I argue, “What we currently describe as an achievement gap may have looked very different had more of those veteran African American educators remained to mentor and prepare succeeding generations of teachers and contribute to the overall growth of the profession.”

I agree with original plaintiff Cheryl Brown that American education missed a great opportunity for genuine racial reconciliation after the decision, but it’s never too late to do the right thing. Every child deserves a quality school.

Renee Moore has taught English and journalism for 25 years in the Mississippi Delta region at both high school and community college levels. She is a National Board-certified teacher and a former state Teacher of the Year. She blogs at TeachMoore and is member of the Center for Teaching Qualities Collaboratory.

Related Tags:

The opinions expressed in Teaching Ahead: A Roundtable are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.


Commenting has been disabled on edweek.org effective Sept. 8. Please visit our FAQ section for more details. To get in touch with us visit our contact page, follow us on social media, or submit a Letter to the Editor.


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
Teaching Webinar
6 Key Trends in Teaching and Learning
As we enter the third school year affected by the pandemic—and a return to the classroom for many—we come better prepared, but questions remain. How will the last year impact teaching and learning this school
Content provided by Instructure
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
School & District Management Webinar
Ensuring Continuity of Learning: How to Prepare for the Next Disruption
Across the country, K-12 schools and districts are, again, considering how to ensure effective continuity of learning in the face of emerging COVID variants, politicized debates, and more. Learn from Alexandria City Public Schools superintendent
Content provided by Class
Teaching Profession Live Online Discussion What Have We Learned From Teachers During the Pandemic?
University of California, Santa Cruz, researcher Lora Bartlett and her colleagues spent months studying how the pandemic affected classroom teachers. We will discuss the takeaways from her research not only for teachers, but also for

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Equity & Diversity Reported Essay What the Indian Caste System Taught Me About Racism in American Schools
Born and raised in India, reporter Eesha Pendharkar isn’t convinced that America’s anti-racist efforts are enough to make students of color feel like they belong.
7 min read
Conceptual Illustration
Pep Montserrat for Education Week
Equity & Diversity Reported Essay Our Student Homeless Numbers Are Staggering. Schools Can Be a Bridge to a Solution
The pandemic has only made the student homelessness situation more volatile. Schools don’t have to go it alone.
5 min read
Conceptual illustration
Pep Montserrat for Education Week
Equity & Diversity How Have the Debates Over Critical Race Theory Affected You? Share Your Story
We want to hear how new constraints on teaching about racism have affected your schools.
1 min read
Illustrations.
Mary Hassdyk for Education Week
Equity & Diversity Opinion When Educational Equity Descends Into Educational Nihilism
Schools need to buckle down to engage and educate kids—not lower (or eliminate) expectations in the name of “equity.”
3 min read
Image shows a multi-tailed arrow hitting the bullseye of a target.
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty