Any assessment of the extent of progress made in the last 10 years since the Supreme Court’s decision of May 17, 1954, must be done under careful analysis of the real and the imagined. The naive might believe that great strides have been made in school desegregation over the past decade, but this is not at all true.
Today, the tragically real picture of school desegregation, particularly in the South, is still one of stark tokenism or no desegregation at all. In my own hometown of Atlanta, for example, the awful truth is that of 14,159 Negroes enrolled in high schools, only 153 are presently attending classes with whites, and, worse, not a single Negro child attends a desegregated elementary school.
The pattern is the same all over the deep South, and those states which have moved at all in any effort to comply with the Supreme Court’s decision have done so with a gradualism and tokenism that is shamefully appalling.
The worst offender of all is Mississippi, which has not desegregated a single public school.
If one turns to the North the picture is not much brighter. The Negro ghettos created by the power structures, and tacitly endorsed by unspoken “gentlemen’s agreements,” have kept Negro school children still victimized by the crippling chains of segregated schools. An example is Gary, Ind., where 97 per cent of the city’s 23,000 school children attend schools far removed from any contact with the white population.
The only conclusion to be drawn is that in the past decade school desegregation has moved only at a creeping pace when it has moved at all. But we are still hopeful that the next year or two will bring a marked change in the entire picture.