HIS 200: Historical Analysis Essay

School Desegregation in Boston

The desegregation of schools in Boston is a historical event that started after the 1974 ruling by federal judge Arthur Garrity, ordering all Boston public schools to start the process of busing to ensure that schools in the region were desegregated. Judge Garrity’s decision was the first key victory for Black students and parents since Brown v. Board of Education in 1954. The desegregation of schools in Boston is an event that is significant for immigrant communities since it resulted in law changes that began the process of equal treatment of students from different backgrounds in the educational setting. The event paved the way for equality, enabling African American children to attend the same schools as their white counterparts without being deemed unfit or unteachable based on their color or background.

Causes of the Event

Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, White and Black students would go to different schools (Blum, 2019). White schools had many classrooms, with a small number of children in every class, permanently employed teachers, and access to all the necessary learning resources and materials. Black schools had overcrowded classrooms, with children sitting outside and learning materials scarce. A huge portion of care and resources were allocated to White schools since it was assumed that they had more students. The effect of the segregation of schools was that Black students were harmed, as they were provided with inferior educational opportunities and learning resources. The Black residents and parents across the country began opposing the segregation of schools, fighting for education equality for students (Blum, 2019).

In Boston, Black parents wanted their children to attend schools where there were adequate resources for proper educational growth. They wanted schools that had enough classrooms and up-to-date books and learning materials. They wanted good school buildings and schools where adequate funding was allocated for purposes of acquiring books and equipment used for teaching and learning (Delmont, 2016). Activists and parents were fighting for more than just having Black and White students sitting next to each other in class. In Boston, more than eighty percent of the Black-elementary-school students attended majority-black schools, which were overcrowded. The average per-pupil spending in the 1950s for White students was $340 while that of Black students was only $240 (Delmont, 2016). While such data was not enough to persuade the Boston School Committee that segregation existed in the region, continuous protests and activism ultimately resulted in the 1974 decision of federal judge Arthur Garrity.

The Course of the Event

The 1954 US Supreme Court decision in Oliver Brown et al. v. Board of Education of Topeka et al. (Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, 1954) was the beginning of the journey towards the desegregation of schools in Boston. The decision found that schools that are separate for black and white students were illegal and there was a need to integrate public schools. However, the public schools in Boston continued becoming unbalanced through the 1970s. As a result of the continued inaction, a group of Black parents filed a suit against the Boston School Committee on March 15, 1972, in the case of Tallulah Morgan et al. v. James Hennigan et al. (Patterson & Freehling, 2001), claiming that the school committee was deliberately keeping schools segregated. On the 21st of June, 1974, Judge Arthur Garrity ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, the Black parents, ordering the Boston School Committee to submit a desegregation plan for public schools. The judge started the enforcement of the plan developed, dictating that the “racial balance in all citywide schools shall be reflective of the total student population in the Boston Public School system” (UMB, n.d.). This eventually became the first phase of the desegregation plan, and involved student transportation, redistricting, and the formation of parent committees.

Consequences of the Event

The decision of Judge Garrity and the integration plan developed resulted in fierce criticism among some of the residents of Boston. Attendance of the students enrolled in Boston school districts dropped significantly immediately after the plan was implemented, with those opposed to the ruling attacking the judge (UMB, n.d.). From September 1975, the school attendance zones and grade structures were revised. Construction of new schools began, with the transfer policy being controlled. Black and White students were allowed to attend any school in their district, where the enrollment process was carried out by the school committee. They could also attend a citywide school of their choice upon qualification (UMB, n.d.). Local universities, colleges, and community groups were linked to schools after the implementation of the desegregation plan. Eventually, parents and students accepted forced desegregation and the racial tensions in Boston lessened.

Historical Evidence

The changes that were implemented after the ruling of Judge Garrity in Tallulah Morgan et al. v. James Hennigan et al. became the foundation upon which modern schools were built, where Black and White students attend classes together (Delmont, 2016; UMB, n.d.). To date, Black and White students continue to enjoy educational equality, attending school together and accessing learning resources without discrimination. The decision formed the foundation for the racial balance of schools across the country.

The Complexity of the Chosen Historical Event

The chosen historical event is not so complicated to understand for the immigrant population, which is the most appropriate audience or the target audience for this research. The immigrant population, especially the younger generation, would benefit from understanding the history and the journey towards the desegregation of schools in the country. The various key events that resulted in the desegregation of education institutions are discussed in this research. To appreciate the journey and the liberty that Black children and students enjoy today in their choice of schools, it is important for them to understand where it all began. A simplification of the historical and language terms is the only important change that can be done to ensure that the target audience understands the research. Terms such as segregation, racial balance, busing, and desegregation will be explained to ensure that readers understand the research.


Blum, L. (2019). Reflections on Brown vs. Board of Education and School Integration Today. The Harvard Review of Philosophy.

Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, 347 U.S. 483 (1954). https://supreme.justia.com/cases/federal/us/347/483/

Delmont, M. (2016, March 29). The Lasting Legacy of the Busing Crisis. https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2016/03/the-boston-busing-crisis-was-never-intended-to-work/474264/

Patterson, J. T., & Freehling, W. W. (2001). Brown v. Board of Education: A civil rights milestone and its troubled legacy. Oxford University Press.

UMB. (n.d.). Research Guides: Selected Resources Documenting School Desegregation: Overview of School Desegregation Research Guide. https://umb.libguides.com/desegregation.

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