It goes without saying that education equality has always been one of the most important questions in Afro-American struggle for equality. It is essential that the Southern states has always been the stronghold of racial inequality and treatment to the Afro- Americans was worse than anyone else is one the most important places in the struggle for equal education. This paper would examine the endless struggle of the black minority in St. Louis for getting the equal education, as good as the white majority gets. The analysis of the struggle for the primary civil rights of the Afro-American nation would help to realize how important was reaching educational equality in the area where the blacks were always considered to be unequal members of the society, who does not have right for the equal jobs, rights and education as well. This struggle for the equal education would be the best illustration for the further generations and help them to understand what a difficult way. “What happens inside the classroom is only a small part of education. What, where, and how students learn is a function of the organization of the school system, prevailing theories about learning, local political pressures, and, of course, financial realities. The history of education in St. Louis is little different than that of most American cities, in that it forms another framework through which to view the community’s past” (St. Lois Government, 1996). The aim of this essay to reveal the difficulties the black minority met while fighting for the equality in the educational sphere
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St. Louis. The beginning of the struggle for equal education of Afro-Americans
It is a well known fact that even in the 20th century it could be hardly spoken about equal rights for the backs and the whites in the educational sphere and Southern states of the U.S. The education of the black minorities, if it is was possible, was separated from the white children and it goes without saying there was no even slight mention about the equal educational facilities: “Schools were segregated by race. Churches operated the first schools for African-American children until 1847, when Missouri law forbade teaching African-Americans to read and write. First Baptist Church pastor John Berry Meachum responded by opening the “Freedom School” on a barge in the Mississippi River, which was federally owned, and thus beyond the reach of state law” (St. Lois Government, 1996). The segregated schools became legal in 1896 by the United States Supreme Court (Plessy v. Ferguson case). Back and white children in St. Louis studied separately for more than 50 years and only after the World War II the first steps towards the desegregation were made. The black children were mistreated at school as were as well their parents at work and what is the most poor in this case that it was legally supported over the whole country: “Giving the power of law to the separate-but-equal doctrine, school systems nationally kept black and white children apart. The problem was that separate wasn’t equal” (St. Lois Government, 1996). Hence after the war the civil rights movement was developing quite quickly. Afro-Americand understood that they could not live under the white oppression and the most burning area were Southern States of the United States. : “In its landmark Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka decision in 1954, the court reversed itself, saying that separate education was, by definition, unequal. Amidst a rising tide of social awareness about racial equality, Catholic schools in St. Louis had already figured this out, desegregating the Archdiocese system in 1948. The Brown decision did bring about one immediate change in St. Louis education” (St. Lois Government, 1996). The first step towards the changes which were so much needed was made. It goes without saying that the whole system needed desegregation as equality of education is one of the primary rights of the person. It is essential that representatives of the Afro-American nation were seeking for the equal education and equal work facilities with the whites. They were not intended to yield the places in public transport to the whites and were intended to provide for their children equal with the whites education. The schools were poorly equipped compared to the white communities’ schools: “East St. Louis Senior High School, whose biology lab has no laboratory tables or usable dissecting kits, with nearby suburban schools where children enjoy a computer hookup to Dow Jones to study stock transactions and science laboratories that rival those in some industries” (Linda Darling-Hammond, 2010). The primary equipment needs in the schools of racial minorities were still severely violated and it is not surprising that the educational level of the black children was significantly lower that the white ones and they could not get equal job and get equal income in future. The problem was really burning and it got to be solved, either by the local government or by Afro-American community itself. As it usually happens the problem solution was found by the the black themselves. It is a well known fact that one of the most significant problems in segregated schools was teaching. The white teachers did not appreciate teaching of the black children that the Afro-American community of St. Louis was eager to train black teachers themselves to raise the quality of the black teachers and the level of the black children education: “Stowe Teachers College evolved out of the Sumner High School program to train black school teachers since 1890. But Brown v. Topeka Board didn’t fully address the issue of de facto segregation brought on by housing patterns. Blacks were relegated to their own city neighborhoods, where their children attended neighborhood schools. When housing is segregated, so too are the schools. Funding, and therefore educational quality, receded during the 1950s and 1960s as well. What had once been one of the best public school systems in the United States had plummeted. Black students especially suffered as public schools declined in a core city with a disproportionately high African-American population. Three in four students in the St. Louis Public Schools were black in 1980, while more than two in five white youngsters attended school outside the system. Public education in St. Louis came under court supervision in 1980, with the goal of desegregating St. Louis Public Schools” (St. Lois Government, 1996). More than hundred years have passed after declining of slavery and starting of the fight for the equal rights of Afro-Americans with the white majority, when in St. Louis the desegregation program started. It is not surprising that being separated from the equal education from the very beginning the Black Minority did not chanced to protect themselves and seek for the better future. Low rating of the Afro-American schools and their segregation from the white children also had a significant impact on the crime rate in the region, the level of unemployment among the Afro-Americans and other significant factors that form the whole economical vision of the city. Such a poor treatment and late start of desegregation program negatively influenced St. Louis as resort area and economical center of the region as desegregation program was not started earlier, but only in the late 20th century. The following chapter would reveal how desegregation program was started and what were the results of it.
St. Lois. Desegregation program of primary and secondary educational systems in the area. Its beginning, results and decisions.
Desegregation plan was started in 1983 and since then it has a controlling eye of media, civil rights foundation and other on it. It is essential that development of the blacks segregation in the certain areas in the late 20th century, when the civil rights were not just an empty words, but people struggles for equality for more than hundred years and finally reached it. Then we see that desegregation was started to assimilate the white majority and black minority as the human rights should be observed and the Afro-American community could not stay aside the social life of the country: “Five years ago, St. Louis pioneered a metropolitan wide school desegregation plan that tried to fuse the predominantly black and poor inner city with 16 mostly white and wealthy suburbs. The plan, which resulted from a Federal District Court settlement that postponed threatened litigation for five years, involves no mandatory busing and became the largest voluntary school transfer program in the country, with 12,000 children attending schools outside of their designated districts each day. It has also met most of its goals for integrating blacks into suburban St. Louis County schools” (Amy Stuart Wells, 1988). It was the first attempt which was under the strict control and attention from the federal government. And it should be mentioned that even after just five years of this program operation in St. Louis the other areas took some significant parts of this particular program to solve the typical questions in their local place. It is not surprising that being the pioneer is very difficult task and St. Louis as the area of traditional confrontation between the black and the white communities had to overcome certain difficulties in order to reach the desired effect. The core idea of the program was the ability of parents to chose the schools for the their children studies outside the area of their dwelling: “Once hailed as “one of the most creative social experiments of our time” by William H. Hungate, the judge who oversaw its design, the plan has fostered many problems. Among them are what some parents and educators in the city call a brain drain of the city’s best black students, too few white students coming into the city system and high operating costs, financed mostly, and reluctantly, by the state. Concept’s National Appeal. Still, the main component of the plan, the concept of allowing parents to choose schools well outside their local districts, has gained national appeal as a way to extend to inner-city children the better educational opportunities often available in suburban districts” (Amy Stuart Wells, 1988). Different civil rights foundation often relate to the St. Louis desegration program as one of the most significant attempts of the past century and consider that it has incorporated the core elements of the school changes involving expansion of such an element as freedom of school choice and accountability. The researches consider that St. Louis desegregation program is one of the most significant achievements in the fight for the civil rights of Afro-American community and it was the largest school choice plan, which let with 13,000 to 15,000 to break through the boundaries of the suburb, the boundaries of inequality, and the boundaries of racial discrimination: “It permits parents of children in failing schools to send their children to more successful public schools. The St. Louis desegregation plan reconstitutes failing schools with new principals and educational programs-elements of the education reform program supported by President George W. Bush and Senator Edward M. Kennedy” (William H. Freivogel, 2002, p. 209).
The same time analytical investigation of the school reform in St. Louis provided by the investigator of the Century Foundation (Task Force on the Common School) William H. Freivogel came to the conclusion that even desegregation did not solve one of the most significant problems for American secondary system and the St. Louis reform has a number lessons to take for the further reforms all over the world: “the St. Louis desegregation plan has lessons to offer the rest of the nation. Neither school desegregation nor accountability magically creates a level playing field for African-American children. But an entire generation of students-black and white-has had an opportunity for a high-quality education in an integrated setting. African-American students, who took advantage of this opportunity, gained significant, if not dramatic, improvements in achievement, graduation rates, and college attendance” (William H. Freivogel, 2002, p. 210). The increasing of secondary education of drop out rate is probably one of the most significant problem for the white majority and the black minority of the area met. The data provided by the different educational establishment showed that the black minority used their advantage and actively participated within the desegregation. The following data give the compared results to the other cities of the U.S.: “Data from the 1990 census show that, in Florida and Texas, urban districts generally have a greater percentage of minority students as part of the total student body than rural districts. This is a national trend as well. It has been estimated that in the mid-1990s, for example, 53.8 percent of urban schools had predominantly African-American student populations. In some cities the number is higher: Milwaukee, 61 percent; Philadelphia, 64 percent; St. Louis, 80 percent; Atlanta, 92 percent; and Birmingham, 94 percent” (Matthew Ladner and Christopher Hammons, 2000, p. 94). We see that the drop out rate increasing is not just the problem of the St. Louis Area and it even yet it may have connection to the desegregation, It should be noted that the Black minority after the years of suffering from inequality and mistreating within the different educational establishment took their chance. The success of the desegregation should be undertaken as one the positive example of the racial struggle for equal right for the education and freedom of choice. Understanding the mistakes of the past the government developed the plan which corresponded to the needs of the racially discriminated African-Americans. The final edition of the plan included five main components. One of them was so called interdistrict transfer program it “required mostly white suburban districts to either increase the number of African-American students by fifteen percentage points, or to reach and maintain the plan goal of a student population that was 25 percent black” (William H. Freivogel, 2002, p 213). One of the core features of this plan was that the student would apply for the district she or he would like to study in. The same time the district should identify the children, who need special education and screen for any discipline problems, but it should be noted that they could not send the student off due the academic disorders. Another element of the program was creation of magnet schools in the city and their aim was to create balanced student bodies, which would be attended by the white students from the surburb: “After a decade of slow growth, the number of white students from the suburbs traveling to schools in the city climbed above 1,100, reaching a peak of 1,478 in 1997” (William H. Freivogel, 2002, p 214).. The third part of the plan was quality of educational component. The thing the black segregated schools always suffered its aim was “to make capital improvements in city schoolhouses and to improve the education of those students left behind in all-black schools-a number expected to be from 10,000 to 15,000 students” (William H. Freivogel, 2002, p 214). The forth element included financial part, which was aimed to make the first three components working. The prosperous areas received nearly $ 10, 000 per pupil for accommodation and less prosperous from $ 3,000 to 4,000. And the fifth element was to provide 5 year lasting stay of the interdistrict case. It would help to evaluate critically the effect and the results of the first step.
It is essential that each step of this plan contributed a lot to the unending struggle of the Black minority for its educational rights. It goes without saying that this desegregation plan was one of the most important decisions in the fight of Afro- American society for the equal educational facilities and it actually reached the aim. It goes without saying that it was the great victory in unending struggle for equality.
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In the end it would be essential to make a stress on the fact that this desegregation program provided a significant impact on the whole country. The positive elements were undertaken in other areas, when they started their personal desegregation programs celebrating cultural diversity and racial equality. Personally I support the idea, that it was the great victory of Afro-American community in their fight for equal education and now not only in St. Louis but in many other cities all over the United States people could choose the school despite the district we live. The racial question is still one of the most important in the present day United Sates but such reforms help a number of Afro-American children to find their place and the white ones to understand the necessity of interracial equality and communication.
- William H. Freivogel. St Louis: Desegregation and School Choice. Century Foundation Press. 2002
- Matthew Ladner and Christopher Hammons. Special but Unequal: Race and Special Education. Houston Baptist University. 2000
- Linda Darling-Hammond. Unequal Opportunity: Race and Education. Education, Race. Education, Race. Spring 1998
- St. Lois Government. 1996. St. Louis Historic Context. Education. 28. 04.2010. Official web site of St. Louis city.
- Amy Stuart Wells. St. Louis Evaluates Its Pioneer Integration Plan. The New York Times. June 8, 1988