1963 - Separate & Unequal: How Can We Provide a Better Education for Boston’s African American Students?

The year is 1963. The place is Boston, Massachusetts. You are a visitor from today, joining an important conversation. The question under discussion: How can we provide a better education for young African American students in Boston?

The main reason people are concerned about this question is because Boston’s public schools are racially divided. Most Black students attend schools where the student body is majority Black. For example, more than 80 percent of Boston’s Black elementary students attend majority-Black schools. Most of the city’s white students attend majority-white schools.

Why is there such a racial imbalance in our schools? Boston is a city that is racially divided by neighborhoods, and most schools reflect the racial makeup of their neighborhoods. These patterns can be traced, in part, to discriminatory federal housing policies, which have made it more difficult for Black people to obtain mortgages. This greatly limits their options and often forces them into lower-quality housing. Federal policies have also encouraged white people to move away from neighborhoods when African American residents start moving in.

What Should We Do?

The conversation you are about to have takes place just after the June 11 meeting between the NAACP and the BSC. It seems clear to Black parents and their allies that most BSC members have little interest in taking meaningful steps to address the inequalities and resulting poor outcomes for Black students in Boston. It is time to discuss next steps. What is the best path forward? How can we provide a better education for young
African American students in Boston?

What follows are three possible options for fixing this problem. Each option describes actions that could be taken. There is no right or wrong option; each has benefits and drawbacks. Te options are summarized below and explained in more detail on the following pages. Please consider each option carefully and be ready to share what you think should be done to address racial inequities in the Boston school system.