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The Persistence Of Segregated Schools

Thousands of students, parents and educators rally in Brooklyn demanding an end to what they describe as separate and unequal education in New York City schools on October 7, 2015 in New York City.
Thousands of students, parents and educators rally in Brooklyn demanding an end to what they describe as separate and unequal education in New York City schools on October 7, 2015 in New York City.

Over the weekend, The Jackson Free Press reported that Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith attended and graduated from a segregation academy — a school established to avoid court-ordered integration.

From The Free Press:

A group photo in the 1975 edition of The Rebel—the Lawrence County Academy Yearbook—illustrates the point. High-school cheerleaders smile at the camera as they lie on the ground in front of their pom-poms, fists supporting their heads. In the center, the mascot, dressed in what appears to be an outfit designed to mimic that of a Confederate general, offers a salute as she holds up a large Confederate flag.

Third from the right on the ground is a sophomore girl with short hair, identified in the caption as Cindy Hyde.

The photo, and the recently appointed Republican senator’s attendance at one of the many private schools that was set up to bypass integration, adds historic context to comments she made in recent weeks about a “public hanging” that drew condemnations from across the political spectrum.

Though this was in the 1970s, school segregation is still an issue today.

NBC reports that “across the country about a third of all black and Latino students attend what the Civil Rights Project classifies as hyper-segregated schools. Those are schools where 90 percent or more of all students are non-white.”

New York Times reporter and MacArthur “Genius” award winner Nikole Hannah-Jones has been covering the issue of segregated schools for years. And she wrote about her own experience choosing a school for her child in Brooklyn, New York. Her daughter’s name is Najya, and her husband’s name is Faraji.

When the New York City Public Schools catalog arrived in the mail one day that spring, with information about Mayor Bill de Blasio’s new universal prekindergarten program, I told Faraji that I wanted to enroll Najya in a segregated, low-income school. Faraji’s eyes widened as I explained that if we removed Najya, whose name we chose because it means “liberated” and “free” in Swahili, from the experience of most black and Latino children, we would be part of the problem. Saying my child deserved access to “good” public schools felt like implying that children in “bad” schools deserved the schools they got, too.

I understood that so much of school segregation is structural — a result of decades of housing discrimination, of political calculations and the machinations of policy makers, of simple inertia. But I also believed that it is the choices of individual parents that uphold the system, and I was determined not to do what I’d seen so many others do when their values about integration collided with the reality of where to send their own children to school.

She also reports that “schools with large numbers of black and Latino kids are less likely to have experienced teachers, advanced courses, instructional materials and adequate facilities, according to the United States Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights.”

We’ll hear from Hannah-Jones, as well as Eve Ewing. Ewing is an assistant professor at the University of Chicago whose work focuses on the impact of racism and other types of inequality on students in urban public schools.

Produced by James Morrison.


Eve Ewing, Sociologist and professor at the University of Chicago. Author, Ghosts in the Schoolyard: Racism and School Closings on Chicago’s South Side; @eveewing

Nikole Hannah-Jones, investigative reporter who covers civil rights

and racial injustice for The New York Times Magazine. @nhannahjones

For more, visit https://the1a.org.

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Copyright 2018 WAMU 88.5