Reclaiming the Narrative
This research study is a historical analysis of Boston school desegregation viewed through the lens of Black Bostonians who gave rise to a Black Education Movement. Its purpose is to place Boston’s school desegregation history in a markedly different context than many of the narratives that evolved since Morgan v. Hennigan (1974). First, it provides a historical connection between the 18th and 19th century long road to equal schooling and the 20th century equal educational opportunity movement, both led by Black activists who lived in Boston. Second, it provides a public space for the voices of 20th century activists to tell their accounts of schooling in Boston. The narrators in this study attended Boston public schools and became leaders and foot soldiers in the struggle to dismantle a racially segregated school system. Ten case studies of Boston’s Black activists provide the foundation for this study. They recount, through oral history, a community movement whose goal was to save children attending majority Black schools from a system that was destroying them. Two theoretical perspectives, Critical Race Theory and Resiliency, inform the research design and findings. The findings shed light on agency from within the Black community, what changes were expected in the schools, the range of views regarding the intent of desegregation, and how systemic racism was the force that drove this community to dismantle a system that violated the 14th Amendment rights of Black students.