Marking 1st School Desegregation in the “North”

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One of the most heated battles over school desgregation in American history took place right here in New Rochelle almost 50 years ago in 1961,

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     

seven years after the better known Brown v. Board of Education.

Monday night more than 100 people braved torrential rain for a meeting at New Rochelle City Hall to discuss how the community will mark the anniversary in January.

It was a time of sit-down strikes. Demonstrations. School boycotts. Not much different than those in Selma or Birmingham.  New Rochelle was once called, "The Little Rock" of New York.

In 1960, the city’s Lincoln School (now the site of Lincoln Park, Lincoln Avenue, just west of Memorial Parkway) was 94% black. City officials insisted that the school simply reflected New Rochelle’s "neighborhood school" policy, but eleven Lincoln school parents disagreed.

Led by Hallie Taylor, the mom of an 8-year-old student,the parents sued New Rochelle in Federal Court, charging that the city had prevented them from enrolling their kids in schools outside the Lincoln School district.

Documents presented in court proved that since 1939, New Rochelle had rigged its school districts to keep black children at the Lincoln School. White students had been allowed to transfer out to other schools in New Rochelle, but many of them had chosen to attend parochial or private schools instead.

The parents insisted that since their school had been segregated for so long, their kids lagged academically behind every other school in the District.

New Rochelle hired experts to disprove the parents’ claims, but the experts sided with the parents, stating that, "New Rochelle has been remiss in its attitudes and derelict in its duties. The situation has caused a feeling of inferiority for Black students that may affect their hearts and minds in a way unlikely to ever be undone."

“While conducting the oral history project for the commemoration of the 50th anniversary," " says New Rochelle historian Barbara Davis, "we have seen that the decision had a profound impact on the lives of so many New Rochelle residents – the most dramatic, of course, being the children attending the school who had to start anew in other schools."

In 1961, Federal Judge Harold Kaufman ruled for the plaintiffs. However, the school board continued to oppose the judge’s orders to desegregate.  The U.S. Supreme Court in 1962 let the decision stand, ruling that the Lincoln School boundaries had been intentionally drawn to create segregated elementary school districts.

 

 


Finally, in 1963, the Lincoln School was torn down, and busing began system-wide throughout New Rochelle. Students could attend any school of their choosing, as long as there was availability.

 

 

 

"The words on the plaque that was placed on the 25th anniversary memorial of the decision are most appropriate: “A milestone on the search for unity in the midst of our diversity.”  Davis says.

 

 

January 24th, 2011 will mark the 50th anniversary of Judge Kaufman’s historic decision. To commemorate the occasion, the city of New Rochelle is launching a 50-year retrospective with activities to be announced.

If you have ideas, memories, or historic items for the event, please contact: Camille Edwards-Thomas, School Community Facilitator at 914-576-4233, or by e-mail at: cedwardsthomas@nred.org

—Wendy Koch is a Larchmont writer.

6 thoughts on “Marking 1st School Desegregation in the “North”

  1. Excellent piece. My husband is a teacher at New Ro High, and it’s wonderful how this article highlights the school’s relevance to the desegregation movement. Many are surprised when they learn about this. So glad to read about it in a local forum…nice job, Loop!

  2. [quote][i]Freedom of the press is limited to those who own one.[/i]
    -A. J. Liebling[/quote]

    Just as some were saying newspapers were dead, we’re fortunate in previewing a rebirth of journalism. It will take many different forms and people will have the potential opportunity to read from many sources.

    It won’t be entirely ‘free’ as there are costs even on the internet, but fortunately the ‘new’ is much less capital intensive than the ‘older’, the constrained newspapers and television channels. Advertising will likely be one of the economic models in the ‘new’, and there may be other models in ‘new’ journalism.

    But hats off to ‘[i]editrix[/i]’, to Judy and Paula, to Lynda, to the hyperlocals-we the people, who are pioneering the new wonderful ways of communicating and sharing information. And everyone can make it even better.

    :)

  3. In 1963, I started kindergarten at the Ward school. We had one or two “minority” students in each class. Since Davis had approximately the same white/minority ratio, I’m not sure that students really could attend any school of their choosing.

  4. But neither you nor Lynda do the sort of in depth reporting on local issues that the Gazette did so very well. They also offered the tremendous service to the community of printing local obits, etc.
    editrix
    watch us over the next few weeks, brin, there are some changes coming i think you will like. fully implemented in about a month.

  5. The Loop sure is good, but I prefer to read LYNDA Larch’s blog. Much more honest and no advertisments. Also, not as slanted towards advetisers as the LOOP sometimes may be. example: A White Plains Restaurant’s favorable review, just as they advetise, and what about all the Larchmont/Mamk restaurtants, NO REVIEW! Oh well as I said I read both, just know which one I prefer. Many also agree too! They just dont post these coments often lol :)
    editrix sorry you feel that way, roadd, we try to be fair to everyone and when we do reviews or stories on sponsors we *always* say they are loop sponsors right up front. we have reviews on 120 restaurants, and most of them are user generated…so please feel free to add one.
    Also,unlike Lynda, who is a friend, we moderate our comments in order to prevent a free for all of ugly personal attacks.

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