Make Haste Slowly: Moderates, Conservatives, and School Desegregation in Houston

Make Haste Slowly: Moderates, Conservatives, and School Desegregation in Houston

Make Haste Slowly: Moderates, Conservatives, and School Desegregation in Houston

Make Haste Slowly: Moderates, Conservatives, and School Desegregation in Houston

Synopsis

When faced with the Supreme Court's order for "all deliberate speed" in achieving school desegregation, a fearful Houston school board member urged the city to "make haste slowly".

Houston, Texas, had what may have been the largest racially segregated public school system in the United States when the Supreme Court declared the practice unconstitutional in 1954. Ultimately, helped by members of its business community, Houston did desegregate its public schools and did so peacefully, without making the city a battleground of racial violence.

In Make Haste Slowly, William Henry Kellar provides the first extensive examination of Houston's racially segregated public school system, the long fight for desegregation, and the roles played by community groups in one of the most significant stories of the civil rights era.

Drawing on archival records, HISD School Board minutes, interviews with participants in the process, and the oral history collection of the Houston Metropolitan Research Center, Kellar shows that, while Houston desegregated its public school system peacefully, the limited integration that originally occurred served only to delay equal access to HISD schools. Houstonians shifted from a strategy of "massive resistance" to one of "massive retreat". White flight and resegregation transformed both the community and its public schools.

Kellar concludes that forty years after the Brown decision, many of the aspirations that landmark ruling inspired have proven elusive, but the impact of the ruling on Houston has changed the face of that city and the nature of its public education dramatically and in unanticipated ways.

Excerpt

Houston,Texas , had what may have been the largest racially segregated "Jim Crow" public school system in the United States when the Supreme Court declared such segregation unconstitutional in 1954. Forty years later, no detailed account of what should be considered a milestone in civil rights history--the peaceful desegregation of the Houston Independent School District (HISD)--had been written. This study is an attempt to remedy that deficit by examining the development of Houston's racially segregated public school system, the long fight for school desegregation, and the roles played by various community groups, including the HISD Board of Education, in one of the most significant stories of the civil rights era.

Both primary and secondary sources have been utilized to construct a detailed account of the development of Houston's segregated public school system and the struggle of Houston's African American community against racial discrimination in the city. The HISD school board's Minutes provided a narrative of the often bitter school board debates. The result is a chronological history in eight phases. The study concludes with an epilogue analyzing the impact of desegregation in Houston during the forty years subsequent to Brown.

Houston desegregated its public school system peacefully, but the limited, or "token," integration that occurred served only to delay equal access to HISD schools, as Houstonians shifted from a strategy of "massive resistance" to one of "massive retreat." White flight and resegregation transformed both the community and its public schools. Thus, forty years later, many of the hopes inspired by Brown have proven elusive, but, as this study shows, the high court's ruling had a extraordinary impact on Houston nonetheless.

Many people have given generously of their time to help me through the various phases of this endeavor; without their encouragement, it would not have come to its fruition. I am especially grateful to the members of my dissertation committee at the University of Houston for their enthusiasm and support for this project. My advisor, Linda Reed, offered guidance and expertise, setting a high standard for my writing. I thank Joseph A. Pratt, professor, mentor, and friend, for his advice, encouragement . . .

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