School Busing - Summary

“Jim Crow” laws in the Southern states create two separate societies: one for blacks and one for whites. Although the laws advertise “separate but equal," they are anything but equal.

The United States Supreme Court finds that the “separate but equal” schools are unconstitutional and, in 1957, nine black students in Little Rock, Arkansas are the first to attend an all-white school. The governor of Arkansas and the parents of the white students do not believe in school integration and protest. To end the crisis, President Eisenhower sends in 1,200 national Guardsmen to allow “The Little Rock Nine” to attend Central High. 

Even with the Supreme Court rulings, ending segregation is not easy. School districts attempt to fix the problem with compulsory busing, but this leads to more violent protests. White children are bused to black schools and black children to white schools, but this does little to solve the problems.

While blacks see busing as a cure, whites are against it. School districts are ordered to end segregation with “all deliberate speed” but the local school systems are not moving toward integration in a timely manner. Violent anti-busing protests occur, and all are in agreement that the quality of education needs dramatic improvement. Many support the idea of neighborhood schools.

As parents are protesting busing, students across U.S. college campuses are protesting the war in Viet Nam.

Kent State University in Ohio, houses many students who are angry that innocent Cambodians are dying in the war. To control these protests, National Guardsmen go onto the Kent State campus. What happens next shocks the country.

On May 4, 1970, the Guardsmen open fire, first with tear gas, then with rifles and bayonets. When the gunfire is over, four unarmed students lie dead and nine others are injured. As a result, Kent State closes temporarily. 

Eleven months after the Kent State shootings, all schools are ordered to integrate at once. The Swann v Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education case permits student busing to achieve racial integration. Once again, protests follow.

The Swann case is law for 30 years. Students are bused from neighborhood to neighborhood, and from one school district to another. Then North Carolina changes history once more as a lawsuit claims that race-based integration discriminates against non-black children. Similar cases follow throughout the country, and Swann is overturned.

Currently, the days of marches and demonstrations about busing seem to be over. As long as school boards can prove that they try to eliminate segregation and follow court orders, they will not run afoul of the law.  The current generation is unaware of busing issues. Segregation seems to belong in the past, but who can say what the future holds. 

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Author: Carole D. Bos, J.D. 5190stories and lessons created

Original Release: Apr 01, 2001

Updated Last Revision: Nov 09, 2016

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"School Busing" AwesomeStories.com. Apr 01, 2001. Jan 18, 2020.
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