Against the Wind: African Americans and the Schools in Milwaukee, 1963-2002

By Bill Dahlk | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 11
THE ICEBERG CRACKS:
THE DESEGREGATION OF MILWAUKEE PUBLIC
SCHOOLS, 1976–1980

We’ll probably not need massive busing. I suppose we’ll need some. We should not bus students from one end of town all the way to another…. And we should not bus just Blacks.

—Lloyd Barbee, in 1976, before integration plans were made.1


JUDGE REYNOLDS RULES

In announcing his historic decision of January 19, 1976, Federal District Judge John Reynolds wrote: “[The] Constitution does not guarantee a quality education; it guarantees an equal education…. A segregated education that is mandated by school authorities is inherently unequal.”2 This was the crucial legal principle guiding Reynolds, who presided over Amos et al. v Board of School Directors of the City of Milwaukee et al., the Barbee-initiated lawsuit. Reynolds continued: “I have concluded that segregation exists in the Milwaukee Public Schools and that this segregation was intentionally created and maintained by the defendants.”3 Reynolds’ decision inaugurated a radically new period for MPS, one that produced far-reaching racial desegregation in the schools. This in turn produced further upheavals.

Reynolds arrived at his decision by analyzing the policies and activities of school officials from 1950 through 1974. He concluded that school officials had deliberately pursued a

1 MC January 24, 1976.

2 Amos et al v. Board of School Directors of Milwaukee 65-C-173, January 19, 1976, 768–69.

3 Ibid., 771.

-300-

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