Was there bullying or racist attacks in American schools when they were in the process of being desegregated?

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larrygates's profile pic

larrygates | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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As one who lived through the period of racial segregation, I can testify firsthand to the bullying and racial attacks that occurred during the early days of integration. With precious few exceptions, every white child in the South was raised to believe that separation of the races was both proper and right; anything else was an undisguised evil. it was preached from pulpits on Sundays, discussed at the dinner table at home, even stressed by teachers. As a result, those who first had to deal with integration were unwilling to the point of hostility to accept this "new" situation. The most black students could hope for was to be isolated and ignored, other than a few scornful looks or muttered remarks. If the opportunity presented itself, black students were bullied both physically and emotionally, and made to feel as unwelcome as possible. Physical beatings were not uncommon. There seemed to have been an unspoken hope that Black students would "go back to their own schools," as they had no business in "our schools."

The situation was ubiquitous throughout the South as well as in the North. Segregation existed in the North and South; the only difference was that in the South, it was legally sanctioned. Whites in the North and South treated black students with contempt or at best forced politeness.

This type treatment is universally condemned now; at the time it represented a radical departure from that which was considered normal. The above post describes the Little Rock incident as the worst. I beg to differ. There were worse incidents throughout the country; some violence resulted in homicide. Little Rock is famous for no other reason that it was there that President Eisenhower decided to force the issue.

pohnpei397's profile pic

pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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The most famous episodes of racial bullying that were connected to desegregation came in Little Rock, Arkansas when Central High School in that city was desegregated.   The details of that bullying from the perspective of one of the children who desegregated the school can be found in the book Warriors Don't Cry, by Melba Patillo Beals.

In 1957, nine black teens were chosen to be the first blacks to attend Central High.  The desegregation of the school brought out crowds of whites who were determined to stop it.  There were also numerous incidents of racial bullying by students inside the school.

There were surely other instances of racial bullying in schools around the country, but the experience of the Little Rock Nine is the most famous.

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