Boston, Massachusetts, has long been a crucible for social, cultural, and political change. But Boston is also a city of contradictions.
Forty years ago, a group of parents filed a formal complaint in the U.S. District Court for Massachusetts. The case beings with this simple sentence: “This is a class action brought by black children attending the Boston public schools and their parents.”
Tallulah Morgan et al. v. James W. Hennigan et al., United States District Court Civil Action Case File No. 72-911-G—known as the Boston schools desegregation case—occupies 54 large storage boxes in the National Archives at Boston. The case was presented over a period of two years, and on June 21, 1974, Federal Judge W. Arthur Garrity ruled that the School Committee of the City of Boston had “intentionally brought about and maintained racial segregation” in the Boston public schools.
The response to the implementation was protest, at times violent, but eventually the Boston Public Schools would change.
During the summer of 2014, a group of educators from across the country—elementary through college—spent a week at the National Archives at Boston and Chicago studying issues of civil rights.
They scanned documents like the above letter from Mrs. Sumner Bernstein. She wrote to Boston Public Schools Superintendent Leary explaining how, though she initially “went along with the plan,” she became angry and fearful after her daughter’s experiences at her new school (10/22/1974, from the Records of District Courts of the United States). All of the newly digitized documents are available online by entering “Primarily Teaching 2014” in the documents search box.
They also used these newly digitized primary sources to create online teaching activities related to education equality:
- What does it mean? Boston School Desegregation
- Formulating Questions About A Primary Source from Morgan v. Hennigan
- Different Perspectives: Boston School Desegregation
- An Introduction to Morgan v. Hennigan
- Civil Rights in Education: Legal Complaints in Morgan v. Hennigan
- Who were the stakeholders in the desegregation of Boston Public
- Minority groups during desegregation of Boston Public Schools
- Evaluating Police Protection during Boston Schools Desegregation
- Alleged Segregation in Chicago Public Schools in 1960s
- School Experience in Chicago, 1950–1961
You can create your own activities on this subject with the tools available on DocsTeach!