I wrote this last fall, but it feels more relevant than ever in light of current events.
Before this year I don’t think I had ever thought through any negative consequences to Brown vs the Board of Education. It just seemed so clear cut in my head—school segregation was bad and the end of segregation was good.
I never thought about what happened to the staff from the schools. But now I keep running across references to these negative side effects and have to wonder why I never thought about them before.
I mean I knew that there were Black teachers and principals and coaches and such in the segregated schools. I just never thought about what happened to their jobs when the schools integrated. I never thought through the idea that integration often meant the closing of the Black schools and the loss of jobs within communities. Over 38,000 Black teachers and administrators lost their jobs. That means that almost half of Black teachers and administrators lost their jobs in the 1960s. In the 1970s, the number of Black public school teachers in Mississippi fell by 9% while the number of white teachers rose 12% (Anderson, 2014). As Anderson says in her article on the disappearance of black teachers, “White administrators weeded them out as “poorly qualified” – even with impeccable credentials – and moved to rid their districts of Black teachers who supported the civil rights movement.”
Schools might have been integrated by the court decision but the teaching ranks certainly weren’t—and still aren’t. As of 2008 the National Center for Education Statistics reports that the teaching force is 83% white and only 6.7% black. I have been reading articles for years about the Whiteness of the teaching population and how that is problem in a diverse society, yet I never connected it back to desegregation. How much of the current shortage of black teachers is directly related to the massive lay offs of black teachers in the 1960s? My guess is a lot.
If we want a more diverse teaching force, we need to start reading history more critically. Racism didn’t end with Brown vs the Board of Education—and it was racism that pushed those black teachers out of the teaching force.
Anderson, M. (2014). Sixty years after Brown vs the Board of Education black teachers are disappearing—again. Ebony News. Retrieved from: http://www.ebony.com/news-views/sixty-years-after-brown-v-board-black-teachers-are-disappearing-again-304#axzz4LO3OJpUt
National Center for Education Statistics (2008). Characteristics of public, private, and bureau of Indian education elementary and secondary school teachers in the United States: Results from the 2007-2008 schools and staffing survey. Retrieved from: https://nces.ed.gov/pubs2009/2009324/tables/sass0708_2009324_t12n_02.asp