One of the most important battles in American education took place in Boston. In the mid-1800s, Boston was one of the largest, most industrialized cities globally. With so many immigrants, many of them from Ireland, the city’s schools became segregated. The Irish, who were Catholic, attended Catholic schools, often underfunded and led by anti-immigrant Protestant teachers.
The 1954 Supreme Court decision struck down school segregation in America. The decision was a defining moment in the civil rights fight, and it led to the desegregation of schools. But it wasn’t easy. The fight for racial equality in Boston schools took many years and court cases. In the 1960s, the Boston-Irish community was quite accepting of the idea of desegregating schools. But the Boston school system was run by the Boston school board, which Boston-Irish and conservative politicians heavily populated. As a result, the Boston public school system, which was segregated for more than 100 years, was first required to be fully integrated by the court, and desegregation took almost 20 years. It wasn’t until 1970 that the system became 100 percent integrated.
The military played a large role in desegregating the Boston Public Schools. After the 1954 Supreme Court decision, President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed an executive order requiring military facilities for integration purposes. This significantly reduced the amount of time black children spent traveling to school. The integration of Boston schools was not without conflict. Many white families decided to move to the suburbs during the desegregation process. This led to a decrease in white students in Boston’s public schools. The Boston school system had to bring in more money from tax increases or cut programs for students to make up for the decline. When school was fully integrated in 1970, the number of black teachers in the Boston Public Schools increased dramatically. Some of the white faculty, who were already underpaid, saw this as an opportunity to leave the school system and get paid more for teaching in better schools.
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