When the U.S. Supreme Court declared in 1954 that racial segregation of public schools was unconstitutional, the court ordered that public school districts desegregate “with all deliberate speed.” As in many urban districts across the United States, desegregation in Texas school districts proceeded in a way that was neither deliberate nor speedy. Almost twenty years would pass before the largest cities would have desegregation plans in place. By that time, many Whites would have moved from racially diverse cities to mostly White suburbs. Thousands of school children would have passed through the twelve grades of public schooling before their communities—and the courts—decided who would sit together in schools, and what those schools should be like when they did.
When the courts finally declared the urban district under study here a “unitary” district, that is, one whose school integration is as complete as demographically feasible, they approved a plan that used special schools as sites for voluntary racial integration, leaving the majority of the schools relatively untouched. These special schools were deemed magnet schools. They were to have academic programs so special and of such high academic quality that they would “draw” from racially segregated neighborhoods (and their racially