This website, a companion to Matt Delmont's book of the same name, offers twelve ways to think about the issue of busing, its origins, and its consequences. For starters, begin in the 1950s, when busing was a tool to enforce segregation in schools. Next, understand that the term "busing" itself was developed as a tool to oppose school desegregation.
The Senate during the creation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the news media covering the civil rights movement, framed segregation as a regional Southern issue, rather than a nationwide problem. Matt Delmont and Jeanne Theoharis show how this disingenuous narrative enabled northerners to avoid implementing Brown v. Board -- and allows liberal leadership to continue to perpetuate structural inequality today.
Joe Biden's staunch opposition to busing as a Delaware senator in 1974 became an issue in his 2019 presidential campaign. This article discusses the busing debate in Delaware, the government's role in the residential segregation that undergirded it, and Biden's role in policies that perpetuated the segregated status quo.
Legal history of busing as a means to desegregate schools. After Swann v. Charlotte-Mecklenberg (1971) confirmed that busing across town lines in North Carolina was legal, the NAACP sued Michigan to use busing to desegregate Detroit area schools. In Milliken v. Bradley (1974) the court ruled that busing could not be ordered if the the segregation was caused by anything other than an explicit Jim Crow law. Thus, northern suburbs could use structural racism to perpetuate segregation.
This essay argues against the narrative that busing failed because conservative justices rolled back integration efforts. Instead, Tanner Colby argues that busing failed due to the geography of northern residential segregation, liberals' misunderstanding of the difference between desegregation and integration, the complexity of Black public opinion about busing, and the backlash to the decision to bus white students to Black schools.
Was busing actually successful? Nikole Hannah-Jones argues that it was very effective in desegregating schools, and that is why the backlash against it was so strong. The real issue was that many white northerners opposed desegregation but it was socially unacceptable to say so. White flight from cities to homogenous suburban towns with white schools, and opposition to busing in favor of neighborhood schools, gave them a cover to support policies of segregation without admitting it outright.
A busing program in Boston, begun in 1966 before the famous controversy, is still in operation. Alana Samuels recounts the experiences of herself and her best friend, an African American student who attended her suburban school through the METCO program. She concludes that despite its challenges and limitations, busing was -- and still is -- a successful model to combat school segregation and a pathway of opportunity for many individual students.
Even though it is well-documented that government policies deliberately caused residential segregation, the court has since claimed that existing residential segregation makes busing an injustice to whites. Matthew D. Lassiter argues that by refusing to address the government's role in residential segregation, the Supreme Court has closed off avenues for implementing the desegregation required in Brown v. Board, and has sanctioned continued school segregation.