May 17, 1954 the United States Supreme Court announced its decision
in the case of Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas. Their
ruling stated, "In the field of public education, the doctrine
of separate but equal has no place. Separate educational facilities
are inherently unequal." The ruling stated that both legally
sanctioned desegregation in the South and de facto segregation in
the North violated the 14th amendment of the United States Constitution.
With this precedent in place, African Americans in Boston began a
20-year struggle that culminated in the 1974 decision by Federal District
Court Judge Arthur Garrity, Jr. who found the Boston Public School
Committee guilty of "knowingly carrying out a systematic program
of segregation," and "intentionally maintaining a dual school
system" in violation of the U.S. Constitution.
residents, discouraged by the public school system and inspired by
the spirit of the Southern Civil Rights Movement, began to organize.
In May 1961, over 10,000 demonstrators marched on the State House
to lend their support to the civil rights struggle in Birmingham,
Alabama. A week later, Paul Parks of NAACP organized a meeting at
Freedom House to air grievances to Louise Day Hicks, the new chair
of the Boston School Committee. Hicks controlled the school committee
and its refusal to acknowledge the existence of de facto segregation.
at this stance, the Massachusetts Citizens for Human Rights Organization
supported by Ruth Batson, chair of the NAACP Education Committee,
organized the first "Stay Out for Freedom" boycott on June
18, 1963. Three thousand African American students attended "freedom
schools" set up in churches and community centers throughout
the city, where they studied African American history, the civil rights
movement, and non-violent resistance.
second stay-out, almost triple the size of the first, was held in
February 1964 and led to the formation of the Sate Board of Education's
Advisory Committee on Racial Imbalance. On August 8, 1965 the Racial
Imbalance Law was passed denying federal funding to school having
over 50 percent non-white students. The law, however, did not resolve
the problem, and the number of racially imbalance schools in Boston
continued to increase.
a series of lawsuits filed by the Boston School Committee contesting
the Constitutionality of the Racial Imbalance plan, black parents
were left with only one choice: to air their grievances in the federal
court. In 1972, the NAACP and a coalition of parents filed suit in
the federal courts demanding that it order the desegregation of the
school system. On June 21, 1974, the case was decided when Judge Garrity
ordered the mandatory busing.
the court order, Freedom House formed the Institute on Schools and
Education, headed by Ellen Jackson who founded Operation Exodus. The
goal of the institute was to monitor the implementation of the state's
plan for desegregation.
primary concern of the institute was the safety of school children
being bused to neighborhoods attempting to block the desegregation
order. Community leaders, anticipating violence, formed the Freedom
House Coalition to run a hotline and rumor control center.
services unavailable from the city were provided by members of the
Coordinated Social Services Council. The Council, along with the Institute,
the Freedom House Coalition, and parents, expanded the community's
role from channeling information to working directly with the court
as advocates and advisors.
monitored court proceedings and participated in developing policy
to foster quality integrated education for Boston's school children.