Both Sides Now: The Story of School Desegregation's Graduates

Both Sides Now: The Story of School Desegregation's Graduates

Both Sides Now: The Story of School Desegregation's Graduates

Both Sides Now: The Story of School Desegregation's Graduates

Synopsis

This is the untold story of a generation that experienced one of the most extraordinary chapters in our nation's history--school desegregation. Many have attempted to define desegregation, which peaked in the late 1970s, as either a success or a failure; surprisingly few have examined the experiences of the students who lived though it. Featuring the voices of blacks, whites, and Latinos who graduated in 1980 from racially diverse schools, Both Sides Now offers a powerful firsthand account of how desegregation affected students--during high school and later in life. Their stories, set in a rich social and historical context, underscore the manifold benefits of school desegregation while providing an essential perspective on the current backlash against it.

Excerpt

Given the tenacity of his commentary on double consciousness, mixed schools, and the color line, the capacity of W. E. B. DuBois to introduce the significance of the present work should come as little surprise. Writing during a period when school boards across the South were implementing varied forms of massive desegregation and noting unequivocally that the “United States has a long history of ignoring and breaking the law,” DuBois posed a central, albeit generally ignored, query: “During the 25 or 50 years while the southern South refuses to obey the law, what will happen to Negro children?” (Jones 1978: 7). His question was simple and forthright. Its answer, however, has not been so direct.

What happened to the children? DuBois’s question haunts us into the present. To be sure, some previous scholarship provides discernible categorical responses to his query. For example, in the literature are firsthand accounts of the intimidation, isolation, and mistreatment black children experienced as they entered previously all-white settings (Beals 1994; Baker 1996; Morris & Morris 2002). Supplemented by television documentaries such as Eyes on the Prize that captured the countenance of angry mobs who would impinge upon the right of black children to attend previously all-white schools, this line of scholarship vividly answers DuBois’s ponderings about the experiences of children by elevating the violence and mistreatment that occurred. When linked with historical scholarship revealing the extent to which the experiences of black children in southern desegregated schools mirror the experiences . . .

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