Historical Dictionary of School Segregation and Desegregation: The American Experience

By Jeffrey A. Raffel | Go to book overview
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DALEY, RICHARD JOSEPH (born May 15, 1902, Chicago-died December 20, 1976, Chicago). Mayor of Chicago for more than two decades whose political power led to the reversal of attempts to cut off federal funds to Chicago under the Civil Rights Act of 1964* in a major conflict of local versus federal power and authority. Daley directed the Cook County Democratic Central Committee while serving as mayor of Chicago and thus led America's strongest political machine. He began as a clerk in city hall, served in the state legislature, and was elected mayor in 1955. His father was a sheet-metal worker and supporter of the local Democratic party; his mother, a supporter of women's suffrage, often took him on her marches. He received his law degree at night from De Paul University.

Mayor's Daley's role in school desegregation* history was related to the Chicago School District and the Civil Rights Act of 1964. In the early 1960s, despite the high degree of school segregation* in Chicago and the mobilization of civil rights* groups in Chicago, Superintendent Benjamin Willis, a strong believer that the main business of schools was education and not social reform, refused to acknowledge segregation or make even modest efforts to limit it. For example, he would not permit black transfers to white schools with empty seats. Instead, he used expensive mobile classrooms -- termed "Willis wagons" by civil rights advocates -- to keep children in crowded segregated classrooms. Finally, a 1964 report documented segregation in the system, and a limited transfer program was enacted. Superintendent Willis, who had gained a national reputation for his strong efforts to eliminate double shifts in the city's schools,

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