Desegregation of Schools in Dallas

Dallas ISD - A long road to desegregation

On May 17, 1954 the Supreme court ruled against the Topeka Board of Education. The Supreme Court merged together four separate cases that had made their way through the state and district courts. All of them shared a similar storyline: “African American minors who had been denied admittance to certain public schools based on laws allowing public segregation by race.” [1] This was a direct challenge to the 1896 Plessy v Ferguson case establishing the notion of separate-but-equal, as well as a claim that segregation is a direct violation of the 14th amendment.

     As the Fall of 1954 came, Dallas dug its heels in against the perceived federal overreach of the Supreme Court decision earlier that same year. Dallas Times Herald on September 2, 1954, quoted then DISD superintendent Dr. W.T. White (W.T. White High School is located at 4505 Ridgeside Dr, Dallas, TX 75244 in northwest Dallas near I-635 and the Dallas North Tollway - https://www.dallasisd.org/Domain/664) as saying that Dallas public schools “definitely will not end segregation…(1) The opinion of the Supreme Court announced May 17 (1954) was one of philosophy and policy and not a directive or a decree directing that segregation be done, and (2) The schools of Texas are operated under the laws enacted by the Legislature pursuant to the Constitution. In Texas, the Constitution prescribes segregation.” [2] According to the Herald, “The superintendent said local school boards ‘have no option except to carry on the legally constituted segregated schools as presently organized.’” [3]

     By 1961, Dallas is the largest city in the South, and the last in Texas, still maintaining a segregated school system. The pressure from the courts begins to push DISD towards integration. Yet, Dallasites often cited the 1957 desegregation effort in Little Rock, Arkansas, known as the Little Rock Nine, as a reason for its timid progress. Under order of the Fifth Circuit Court, DISD in 1961 begins to implement their “Stair-step Plan,” modeled after a similar plan used in Nashville, Tennessee for desegregation. On September 6, 1961 eighteen African American students would be the first to enter white-only schools. Just six years later, in 1967, DISD would declare Dallas schools desegregated. [4]

     While DISD believed it had complied with the Brown ruling from 1954, by 1970 Sam Tasby disagreed. Mr. Tasby lived near Love Field and questioned why he had to send his two children several miles to an all-black school when there was a perfectly fine school within walking distance of his house, but the school happened to be white. On October 6, 1970 Mr. Tasby filed a lawsuit against DISD claiming that the school district continued to operate a dual school system, a segregated system, which is prohibited under Brown. This challenge from Mr. Tasby would wind its way through the courts off and on again over the next 33 years.

     Nearly thirty years after the Brown v Board of Education ruling, in August of 1983, “the DISD school board finally ended its fight against court-ordered desegregation by unanimously accepting the Fifth Circuit’s upholding of Judge Sander’s desegregation plan. And from that time on, DISD would remain under Sander’s oversight until he declared it desegregated.” [5] However, that declaration would not come until 2003, when Judge Sanders officially ruled DISD desegregated, 49 years after Brown v Board was decided.

Sources

[1]  "Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka (1)." Oyez. Accessed March 30, 2018. https://www.oyez.org/cases/1940-1955/347us483

[2] School Desegregation: Marion Butts Collection. https://dallaslibrary2.org/mbutts/assets/lessons/L12-civil+rights/Marion%20Butts%20-%20School%20Desegregation(PPT).pdf (accessed March 2, 2018).

[3] School Desegregation: Marion Butts Collection. https://dallaslibrary2.org/mbutts/assets/lessons/L12-civil+rights/Marion%20Butts%20-%20School%20Desegregation(PPT).pdf (accessed March 2, 2018).

[4] Underwood Law Library, DISD Desegregation Litigation Archives - Background Info, http://library.law.smu.edu/Collections/DISD/Background-Info.

[5] Underwood Law Library, DISD Desegregation Litigation Archives - Background Info, http://library.law.smu.edu/Collections/DISD/Background-Info.

Additional Resources

Lakewood Advocate Magazine, "40 years of DISD desegregation." July 22, 2011. (accessed March 22, 2018). https://lakewood.advocatemag.com/2011/07/22/a-gray-matter/.

"Plessy V. Ferguson, 163 U.S. 537 (1896)." Justia Law. Last modified 2018. Accessed March 30, 2018. https://supreme.justia.com/cases/federal/us/163/537/.

Feire, Paulo. The Politics of Education: Culture, Power, and Liberation. 1985, pg 122. https://books.google.com/books?id=TvzK9uKs4CIC&pg=PA122

Goldstein, Dana. 2017. Dallas Schools, Long Segregated, Charge Forward on Diversity. (accessed March 18, 2018). https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/19/us/dallas-schools-desegregation.html.

Linden, Glenn M. 1995. Desegregating Schools in Dallas. Dallas, Texas: Three Forks Press.

Underwood Law Library: DISD Desegregation Litigation Archives - Background Info. (accessed March 2, 2018). http://library.law.smu.edu/Collections/DISD/Background-Info.

Wulf, Helen Harlan. 1958. Some Aspects of Desegregation in Dallas, Texas 1956-1957, Southern Methodist University.

Zeeble, Bill. Dallas' History of School Desegregation. http://keranews.org/post/dallas-history-school-desegregation.

Images

Ben Milam Elementary (Photo: Walter Norris)

Ben Milam Elementary (Photo: Walter Norris)

One of the first DISD schools to integrate. View File Details Page

Ben Milam Elementary School

Ben Milam Elementary School

One of the first DISD schools to integrate. View File Details Page

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (Photo: Walter Norris)

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (Photo: Walter Norris)

One of the first DISD schools to integrate. View File Details Page

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (Photo: Walter Norris)

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (Photo: Walter Norris)

One of the first DISD schools to integrate. View File Details Page

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (Photo: Walter Norris)

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (Photo: Walter Norris)

One of the first DISD schools to integrate. View File Details Page

Roger Q. Mills Elementary School (Photo: Walter Norris)

Roger Q. Mills Elementary School (Photo: Walter Norris)

One of the first DISD schools to integrate. View File Details Page

Roger Q. Mills Elementary School (Photo: Walter Norris)

Roger Q. Mills Elementary School (Photo: Walter Norris)

One of the first DISD schools to integrate. View File Details Page

Roger Q. Mills Elementary School (Photo: Walter Norris)

Roger Q. Mills Elementary School (Photo: Walter Norris)

One of the first DISD schools to integrate. View File Details Page

Warren Travis White High School. (Photo: Ryan Holmes)

Warren Travis White High School. (Photo: Ryan Holmes)

Warren Travis White High School is named in remembrance of the Superintendent by the same name, and he resisted SCOTUS 1954 desegregation Brown versus Board of Education decision until the early 1960s. View File Details Page

Warren Travis White High School. (Photo: Ryan Holmes)

Warren Travis White High School. (Photo: Ryan Holmes)

Warren Travis White High School is named in remembrance of the Superintendent by the same name, and he resisted SCOTUS 1954 desegregation Brown versus Board of Education decision until the early 1960s. View File Details Page

Warren Travis White High School (Photo: Ryan Holmes)

Warren Travis White High School (Photo: Ryan Holmes)

Warren Travis White High School is named in remembrance of the Superintendent by the same name, and he resisted SCOTUS 1954 desegregation Brown versus Board of Education decision until the early 1960s. View File Details Page

Warren Travis White High School (Photo: Ryan Holmes).

Warren Travis White High School (Photo: Ryan Holmes).

Warren Travis White High School is named in remembrance of the Superintendent by the same name, and he resisted SCOTUS 1954 desegregation Brown versus Board of Education decision until the early 1960s. View File Details Page

Cite this Page:

Ryan Holmes, “Desegregation of Schools in Dallas,” Human Rights Dallas Maps, accessed December 17, 2018, http://humanrightsdallasmaps.com/items/show/3.

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