1970's: Swann and Busing

back to the 1970s page

In Swann v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education, 402 U.S. 1, 91 S. Ct. 1267, 28 L. Ed. 2d 554 (1971), the focus of school desegregation shifted from largely rural school districts to urban ones, a change of scene that offered new challenges to desegregation. In the rural South before the Brown decision, blacks and whites lived largely in the same communities or areas, and requiring that their children attend the same neighborhood schools could resolve segregation. In urban settings, however, blacks and whites lived in different neighborhoods, so combining the two races in the same schools meant transporting children, usually by bus, to institutions that were often far from their homes.

In Swann, the Court took the final step toward making busing a part of school desegregation plans, by giving the lower courts power to impose it as a means for achieving integration. Swann involved the Charlotte-Mecklenburg School District, in North Carolina, a district in which African Americans made up 29 percent of the student body. After the Supreme Court's decision in Green, a federal district judge ruled that the school district had not achieved adequate levels of integration: 14,000 of the 24,000 African–American students still attended schools that were all black, and most of the 24,000 did not have any white teachers. The judge called for the adoption of a desegregation plan that involved busing 13,300 additional children at an initial start-up cost of over $1 million.

Busing ended where it really worked—OpEd piece on Swann http://www.slate.com/id/35218/