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Brown vs. Board

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When Brown verses the Topeka Board of Education decision was handed down, I was in the sixth grade in Jones County Elementary School with an all Black student body. It was a wooden building located just across the road in front of our home.

It was nestled in the backside of town called back street where some of us Blacks were segregated from the township. As of today, the living patterns have not changed in the town of Trenton located in Jones County. However the schooling racial patterns have undergone tremendous changes since 1954. When I graduated in 1960 the segregated status had not changed because a plan had to be devised to remove Black teachers, principals, and superintendents from their current positions.

As strange as it might seem to some of you, Black teachers taught all of the Black students, the principals were Black, and even the superintendent was Black. Now all of the school board members were White and the Black superintendent reported to the White superintendent who reported to the board. If you get the picture, this was not an easy system to dismantle.

What was going to happen to the Black educational staff under this separate but equal system? As I later learned while reading a magazine as I flew across the country, President Eisenhower told Chief Justice Earl Warren that this controversial Brown verses Board of Education decision was about Black boys sitting in the classroom with White girls and Black teachers teaching White students. I don’t know about all of the school districts in the south or north but in Jones County a plan was devised to frustrate Black teachers and parents to eliminate these problems. Black teachers who had taught elementary school for over twenty years were suddenly placed in high school classes and vice versa.

This led to massive resignations and retirements. Now prior to the Brown decision, half of the teaching population in the south was Black. As they retired White teachers replaced them with no experience in working with Black children or the Black community. Who do you think got the worst end of the disciplinary action in school? Black boys. You ask me how do I know? I had brothers and sisters still in the system and cousins who were reassigned as teachers in the classroom.

These teachers had taught me when I was in school. Every summer I was home, I was involved in these educational issues involving the school board. When I came back to California it was the same thing. We were told by school officials, “We can’t find qualified Black teachers to place in the classroom.” Districts in the west spent millions of dollars going down south to recruit Black teachers but to no avail. Come to find out few Blacks were sent on the recruitment trips and they were not going to Black Colleges.

In the meantime, and to some degree today, Black boys are being disproportionately put out of school and few districts have parity in the teaching profession.

Has much changed since the decision? Yes. We have Blacks elected to school boards yet we have only 14 Blacks out of 1056 as superintendents in the entire State of California. Has much changed since the decision? Yes. We have Blacks moving into some neighborhoods that will permit them to attend non crowded classrooms and never to be taught by a Black teacher or see one in authority. Currently we have only 15,290 Black teachers in California out of 309,773, that is a dismal 4.9%.

We have a Black student population of 515,805 for 8.3 % of the student population. Whites make up 33.7% of the student population and 73.7% of the teaching population in California. This has a tremendous impression on young people illustrating the reality of how things work in the real world. The statewide average salary for teachers is $55,693, principals is $89,950 and superintendents is $128,194 per year. This is much higher than the pre-Brown decision.

Has much stayed the same? Yes. We still have some classrooms that are all Black and some campuses with no Blacks as teachers or in authoritative positions. We have the media and other businesses that have no Blacks in management positions nor do they even seek out Blacks anymore. We currently have a college and University system in California that spouts equal access while at the same time denying Blacks access because of laws on the books, thanks to Ward Connerly. There are many factors to why measurable progress is seen in some areas of Black America and other factors that point to a decline. One thing is for sure, we cannot afford to be in the same place 50 years from now.

On a national level, Bush put out a statement calling for stronger accountability with “Reaching Out…Raising African American Achievement” also stating that “No Child Left Behind” is an unprecedented commitment that focuses not on money, but on results. That is because he put no money in the budget for this initiative.

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