Plans for the future but ideals from the past

by Lauren Wright and Kendall Reed

It was 1954 when Brown v. The Board of Education ruled that it was unconstitutional to segregate public school children by race.

Rear Window was the top grossing movie. Kitty Kallen rode Little Things Mean a Lot to the top of the Billboard charts. Crew-cuts and pegged blue jeans were in. Young men were being drafted by the thousands to serve in a police action in Korea. The population of Tuscaloosa was 46,396.

The directive to desegregate America’s public schools sent shockwaves throughout the country. In Boston, rioters turned back busloads of African-American children as they attempted to integrate schools. And in Alabama, the battle to desegregate was more violent.

After a number of years where schools in Tuscaloosa were integrated and students coexisted in mostly equal classrooms, the city’s schools have become increasingly segregated again since the turn of the 21st century.

Almost 80 percent of the 10,418 students in Tuscaloosa City Schools students are minorities — 71 percent are black and 65 percent are on free or reduced lunch, according to district data.

“We got school zones based on neighborhoods, but there have been a depletion of resources, both human resources and other resources, fiscal resources in schools where the students are low income and students of color,” said Tuscaloosa resident, Sue Thompson. “I think that the school understands that. It’s the policy makers who don’t. You know, the policy makers think that there are cookie cutter responses to everything, and so their focus is not really on teaching students, its on teaching subjects.”

A 2014 ProPublica report revealed the ways the city reverted to a separate-but-not-really-equal educational system. The article prompted calls for change from people throughout the city.

Our community needs to face this issue head on and proceed with honesty and with courage,” Tuscaloosa resident Jamey Richardson wrote in a guest column in the Tuscaloosa News on June 4, 2014. “I speak for my four children when I say now is the time to end this preferential zoning for the sake of our city.”

Students from across the region attend the Alabama Scholastic Press Association Long Weekend Summer Workshop from June 8-10, 2018 at The University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa. The program promotes diversity by encouraging minorities to explore the field of journalism.