« Revisionist History

Miss Buchanan’s Period of Adjustment

2017-06-29

A landmark Supreme Court case. A civil rights revolution. Why has everyone forgotten what happened next?

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This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
On account of the University of Michigan. That's a gorgeous building called the rack M auditorium built in the nineteen thirties in the classical renaissance style and in January, two thousand and four on one of those cold Michigan days, a woman takes the stage in front of a big crag she's in her sixties. Her name is MRS Thompson. It evening is indeed a pleasure to be with you this evening here on the campus at the University of Michigan. The whole mother would arrange that right, and I heard you had a game. Last night, you only lasted by two point: TAT she tells a funny story about how she was once invited to speak at NASA and thought she was going to the Bahamas, only discover that it was NASA County, long island. She talks a little bit about her childhood family. Then right in the middle of her talk, she said
Its reading, a notice of termination sent many years ago to a teacher named dollar Buchanan Dear miss you can do to the present uncertainty about in Rome next year. It is necessary for me to notify you now that your services will not We need it for next year. The students in the auditorium are wrapped. This is not what the expected, but me His Thompson goes on and reads all the way to the end. I think I understand that all of you must be under considerable strain and I sympathise with the uncertainties and inconvenience which you must be experiencing during this period of adjustment. This period of adjustment remember that line
It's a nice bit of condescension and understatement. My name is welcome global you listing the revision. Is history, my podcast about things overlooked and misunderstood This episode is about that euphemism. In the letter read by MRS Thomson, this period of adjustment not that long ago, Americans out to do something revolutionary chain. The world, but we botched- and we didn't want to admit that fact, so we swept the whole episode under the rug. And wrote letters to everyone concerned to try and absurd ourselves of the whole business. I believe that whatever happens will ultimately turn out to be the best for everyone concerned.
Yeah right the letter, termination to dollar began was written by the superintendent of schools in to pick a Kansas, the capital of Kansas. I mean size city in the upper right hand, corner the state, like lot of cities and towns in the United States, particularly the in the south to peek a had segregated public elementary schools and Jim Crow Europe wide children went to neighbourhood schools. Black children went to a separate system of schools scattered around the city with their own black teachers and black
suppose. In the years after the Second World WAR, the leading civil rights group of the day, the endeavour, Lacy P, decided to start challenging segregation. Topeka was one of their test cases. They found thirteen black families and asked him to go down to their neighborhood white school and try and roll their children. One of the couples they asked was Oliver and Lila Brown. Oliver brown work for the Senate, Railroad later he was a pastor. This is Ojala Brown from an interview she gave in ninety ninety one to the Kansas State, historical society Oliver Brownie was a heavyweight biter used to buy golden blows the Brown said a seven year old named Linda the black. Country school. She was supposed to go to a common row to get there to walk seven blocks, often in freezing weather and cross a busy road, and get on a bus, the local white.
Country school was Sumner, just four blocks in the Browns Linda? Playmates in the all went there. So what day, as instructed body and W C p. Oliver Brown took daughter by the hand and walked over two enrolled at Sumner, Elementary S, Linda State when they got over their baby. Don't look so good being a little kid gonna stick and and when the guy we need to talk Sit on the outside of the office. Babylonian must understand. You can imagine how uncomfortable the conversation was. Oliver Brown was not supposed to be there. Principle would have had no idea what to say to him other then I'm sorry, This is the way it is into Picker with little Linda, weeding out in the hall she said she you're the boss, he's gotta get allowed me. She was damaged as the year schoolboy. There was a see the school board. He can do nothing about it. You know he couldn't awaken,
we could not in land at school without they approve all the blocks. He's got the same answer your child is not welcome. Local and W C chapter sued the school board Browns name was put first brown verses to peek a board of education It was bundle with a number of other desegregation cases from all around the country more than two hundred plaintiffs and all when all the way to the Supreme Court And on May seventeenth, nineteen, fifty four in the most famous legal decisions in american history. The court ruled in Oliver Browns favour. The practice of educating black and white schoolchildren separately was ruled unconstitutional, was a unanimous decision and add the broadest possible language which showed that Europe wants to all the problem of the weather
not second class citizens. Segregation could be consistent any longer with the law of the country sing. You were taught about the brown decision in school or watched a documentary on it, it's a milestone, but at the same time it is strange case could fill in auditorium with all the scholars who have a quarrel with Brown. I mean just go back and read it it's supposed to be a ruling in favour of Oliver and Lila Brown and families of Topeka, but What actually says something entirely different from what the black people of two people were saying where to school here, any bigger brains. When, through eight listening, until all grounds interview with the Kansas State, historical society, unsafe occasions. Lila is ass. Bout Monroe, the black school that her daughter been attending Lila grew up into. She went to Monroe's Well and Lila Brown makes it very clear that she loved but
all of this wonderful, a yearly. What wonderful I've had it not been through this? you're, not going too far to school. We firstly need a widow then what we later, In our view, the issue comes up again, the interviewer. Ass. Lila. Specifically, you didn't want your dad to go to the White School, because the White School was better than the black School and Lila is adamant. Oh no, that never came up. We were getting a quality at. JANET Monroe waiting any longer. First gooseberries education, witness the teachers because they will qualify and maybe but the response Four Leona and Oliver Brown, the loss was a matter of principle. They didn't think there is anything wrong with the quality of education at Monroe, the all black school. They just thought that, to peek a school board shouldn't be telling them where they could. I couldn't send Linda to school, particularly
if the only reason the school board could come up with was the color of Linda skin Now, listen to the argument the Supreme Court makes in the brown decision they agreed at. The browns ought to be able to send it to Sumner, but their reasoning is different. Quoting segregation of white and colored children in public schools has a detrimental effect upon the colored chill The court's conclusion was that segregation was de facto unequal that simply the act of educating black children separately from white children caused arm serious harm. The cook goes on segregation with the sanction of law has a tendency to retard the educational and mental development of negro children. This was light years away from Lila Browns position.
Lila Brown said that black run schools like Monroe, we're good schools, but it's a matter of principle. She ought to be two in road and at some the court said. Actually, Monroe is not a good school at all. It can't be a good school, because segregation makes it inherently inferior. Leona Brown said we're. Fine. We just once control over our lives? The court said you not find it all. Your educational and mental development has been retarded by your inferior schooling. Now the court could have said something much more straightforward about this schools. Our people make the connections at them to get ahead in the world? You cannot lock black people out of the place where social power and opportunity reside. That argument would have done the job right, but the court doesn't say that.
In order to condemn the discrimination browns face. The court instead makes the case tat. Black people are psychologically crippled. The historian, Darrell Scott wrote a brilliant book. Awhile back call contempt in pity, in which he points out it's been a long history. Behind this talk of psychological damage, it goes back to the days of slavery. It's all. Has been incredibly useful for white people to explain problems of black people as the result of something personal internal. It makes their problems their fault. If you go even backed and Annabel impure, you would see planners who would talk about how they handle since a family. Now course. These people who are selling people, families at the auction block irregular the destroying families, but they would justify in their minds by saying the handle sense of families. Another historian, Charles Pain, makes it.
Similar argument in his essay the whole United States, his southern, which you should read by the way if you ever want to be grabbed by the lapels pain, argues that in the decade after the civil war, southern whites attempt to sell the rest of America on this way of thinking about race. They basically imposed apartheid on the south through brute political and economic force, but they want I am quoting pain to frame the issue in a language of separation, customs, our way of life and social equality, language that constructed race in interpersonal and not structural terms. They want to pretend racial conflict is justice, a problem. So what does the Eu S Supreme Court do in nineteen fifty four and brown decision? It buys into southern way of thinking about race on the Brown and the other plaintive say we have a structural problem.
We don't have the power to send it to the school down the street. The court says no, no, no! It's a second lodge Robin little Linda has been damaged in her heart. It may seem like a small distinction. Believe me, it's not we're still dealing with the consequences. This is a little bit of attention but I think it helps to explain why personalizing racial discussions is so problematic. It's about a wonderful but of research done by two political scientists at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Jason, Grissom and Christopher Redding, Grissom and Redding start with a well known fact. White students are far more likely to be in gifted in town to programmes than black students. If your kid is in a gifted in town to program, you ve probably observed where the black kids right now, you might say well that simply reflects the fact that white kids, for whatever reasons have higher test scores on average and blankets
so, Grissom in writing. Look at a large national sample of elementary school kids and say: let's equalizer, test scores. In other words, let's Compare two students, one black and one white, but they both are very high. Achieving this is Grissom. Would that difference in probability that they are identified by the system, as gifted with that persist in the answer? Is that it does? in Fact- Ninos, it still the case that, even when you look at two students who are similar on math and reading achievement in elementary school white student and a black student white stewed and still more than two times as likely to be receiving gifted services. As that black student is gifted, programmes are supposed to be meritocracy. This is where the brightest children are given a chance to shine. Grissom saying that's not the way things work in practice and you can go a little further because you can throw other things into the equation that aren't just achievement. You can look at differences in income. The data have how healthy the parent says that child is. We know what
it's that child entered kindergarten on average white students and black students, entertained or garden at different ages because of the phenomenon of red shorting white parents are more likely to hold their kids back at the start of schooling than than black students. Aren't that doesn't explained the gifted gap. In other words, you match up bright black kids with equally brightly Kids, then you make sure the two groups are similar in age class and the health of their parents, and you still find that the white kids are far more like it to be admitted to gifted. In town, two programmes have a puzzle right: Finally, Grissom and Redding say look in many cases. Teachers play a big in which students get into give two programmes. They encouraged they recommend them. So they think. Maybe the answer here lies with not who the child is, but who the child's teachers In the overwhelming majority of school districts and the United States, the way that it kid ever gets too identified as gifted
If someone in the school, usually faster and teacher- has to look at that kid and say I think this kid might be gifted. So Grissom does something really simple healed said the race at a teacher and we find it for white kids there's no effect. It doesn't matter, but not for black students. For a black student. The world looks different. So if I am a black student and I a black classroom teacher the probability that I'm a sign to gifted nests in it in the next year. It looks very much like the problem, quality for a white student. But if I am a black student- and I have a white classroom teacher
my probability of being identified, as gifted is substantially lower. How much more, ok so for very high achieving black students, the probability of being assigned to gifted services under a white teacher is about half the probability as an observer, feebly, similar black student taught by black teacher, if your black having a black teacher, makes a difference and not just for getting into gifted programmes. Having a black teacher raises the test scores of black students, it changes the way black students behave and it dramatically dick. Is, the chances of blackmail student would be suspended. A group of social scientists recently went over the records of a hundred thousand black students in North Carolina over a five year period. Founded having even one black teacher between the third and fourth grade reduced to chance had enough
American boy would later drop out of high school by how much they thirty nine percent. One black teacher. Nor does this mean that white teachers are diabolical racist. Trying to hold down black students know this isn't conscious discrimination. The point is that teachers have power the gatekeepers they control classroom they decide who gets recommended for prizes like give two programmes in who doesn't they decide who, These new get suspended by direct, their attention to a child. A teacher can inspire by ignoring another or sending him more often to the principal's office. Teachers can discourage. Listen to Leona Brown again about why she liked Ter Elementary School Monroe so much I left it Left the teachers were banned testing. We got a fantastic institution, there wasn't any say this case wasn't based on them because we had been tested.
Georgia, we learned a lot may regret, was more like an extended I've. Matters is therefore to be interesting. You know when they took an interest in you, that's what all the research on blacks and whites and gifted programmes comes down do you need to have someone who takes an interest in you. If you want education to work and be fair, They made one serious mistake which I ever have to hold them responsible for I came across another archive of interviews from the Brown Euro Duke Universities, behind avail oral history project the interview. Your hearing is from Richmond Virginia its with an African Americans. Your name, Celestin Porter, and she says that once grant this idea that a teacher is a gatekeeper and then child need someone to take an interest in them than that
in integration should be pursued very differently. They may still do the integration they should head teachers verse and you didn't do that at every one of those by schools that everyone of the blacks. If there were some white German, the bicycle is very like teaches. If ever those had black children under the high schools, they should read some black teaches. Now the first people that should have an integrated should have been taken is an immense patients first, but they didn't do that. They move the job she's, absolutely right, read the brown decision for yourself. The court goes on on about kids, but they have virtually thing to say about teachers. The word teacher comes up in the main text and a few times in the footnotes. That's it! How on earth can you undertake the greatest trends for me?
a public education in american history and barely mentioned teachers. Young people, the manual Disney Spin Moon, far have borne the brunt of segregation process and it is certain that the assets it did something to it made him hey, it gave them a sense of nobody's farming and most The stones it moved from the blacks goes into them. The situation we have taken had been there to nurture their decked out, never lol read it. Their difficulties to work with them When they moved into the white situation, did you didn't know, then notations teaches afraid of it The brown decision was all about children You can try. Memories of the brown era are all about black children. Being
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now get all details on three for thirty dollars by going to the great courses plus dotcom, Slash Gladwell, that's the great courses plus dot com, Slash Gladwell, about three and a half hours due east to Topeka on I. Seventy theirs little town called modeling. Really is in the area of misery called Little Dixie because it was settled by migrants from south before the civil war. There was lot of slave owning a little Dixie compared with the rest of Missouri, a lot of racial hostility in that part of the state, and I don't think understand what happened after the brown decision without first understand What happened in a moment, in the early nineties, fifties globally school system employing around a hundred teachers across its schools. One of those schools was black. It was called Lincoln Lincoln, had eleven teacher
the year after the brown decision, morbidly integrates they do that, by closing the one black school Lincoln Bussing, all the black students there to white schools have for closing. Lincoln Mobile school system then says weight. We combine all the students in mobile into one school system. We dont think we needed teachers, as we had before. So they say, that's evaluate All the teachers from the two newly combined systems keep the best ones The mediocre ones go. I think you can see. What's coming, they decide to fight every one of the eleven black teachers who used to work at Lincoln, so the black teachers sue and they lose the appeal they lose in nineteen thirty nine, they asked the Supreme Court.
It is the case the Supreme Court says no Brown is the great victory. Mobilise is the great defeat and their connected. Let me give you a flavour of the case that teachers say you can't possibly say that we were the absolute worst of all the teachers in the combined system, we ve been a valley. Well for years by our superintendent given high marks the white schoolboy counters with sure, but you are being compared to other black teachers. You need to be compared to white teachers, so the black teachers say yeah, but we stuck up really well against white teachers and by the way this was not a stretch virtually every profession, except teaching was closed to educated african Americans in those years. If you were smart and liked learning in that era, you became a teacher. The court then says so what I'm quoting human, capable
these cannot be reduced to a mathematical formula, intangible factors such as personality character, disposition, industry and adaptability, vitally effect the work of any teacher. I think there's one intangible factor missing in that list: don't you be dispose. It begins with an r. Forgive me for going on and on about this one obscure case, but you have to get the flavour of the plaintiff say wait what MRS superstar graduate degrees qualifications. Greetings to the roof, her Miss Mary Ellen timidly and the White superintendent agrees she's a star, but he says I'm still not. Hearing her because and am quoting here from the judges decision, because she gave me
impression that she considered herself superior to other teachers and was resentful towards authority resentful towards authority. You think he just got fired. The judge simply can't get Mary Ellen Jiminey out of his head. According again, it is unfortunate when teacher have an attitude such as this teacher has, and I do not mean to say that such attitude is limited to any race or color, but when it does exist, it vitally affects the teaching ability of the individual she's uppity, an uppity negro. Of course, I don't want to keep her because they understand the same thing that Lila Browned understands and all the many academics who have studied what actually happens to block kids in the classroom, understand which he said, educational equality is a function of who holds the power in the classroom.
So mobile misery gets rid of its black teachers and, by the way so does almost everybody else across the entire south. Black teachers just get fired, left and right. It wasn't something done secretly. It was done right out in the open. There was something like eighty two thousand african american teachers in the south before the brown decision within a decade, as the decision was slowly implemented across the country about half had been fired. What a surprise me is the kind of historical amnesia there is. Surrounding that issue- that many many people today. Who are searching for black teaches have no understanding of the fact many of them lost their jobs, one of them You scholars, who has paid any attention to what happened, is Michel Foster an education professor at the University of Louisville twenty years ago, Foster tracked as many black teaches from that area as she could find what we might what why
all did Bluff teachers did black women play in the south relative to children. They were nurse, they were housekeepers, they were domestics, that's what the role they play. You know I every seven right. I mean a lot of thought. They said I had a black somebody who took care of them, but that's a mug yeah- that's a little different position- you when you're a teacher Europe, value waiting, your judging even those who got to keep their jobs. One story after another of humiliation. It was too much one of the teachers foster interviewed, went for a meeting with the superintendent, with all of the other black teachers who are being kept on. I'm quoting there were fifteen of us and not a single one of them in their ass dark. As I am not one that ought to tell you something by the way the remaining black teachers couldn't use, teachers bathroom, they do use the children's bathroom
To this day, the ranks of black teachers in the United States have not recovered from the humility actions and mass firing the nineteen fifties and Sixtys as a percentage? There are far fewer black teachers in there are black students and when you think, back to studies on how important black teachers are for the performance of black students, that's a tragedy. Georgia, so Carolina Florida Alabama, one class who, after another, was purged of its black teachers and to peek a Kansas, of course, to be made a show of it. The assigned a black teacher to a half time position at the formerly all White Randolph School and then the principle a man named standing Salter had the task of calling up white parents to see if the objective two one half time black teacher and of course they did a more output know some of them
very peculiar reasons for not wanting style child in the black teachers room. That's the principal stouter interviewed by the Kansas Historical society another. One said my child is now twelve years of age and is beginning her menstrual period, and that is not the time of her life to be put in here with a black teacher mail. That won't talk for every country. There is a limit to how many times a scoreboard is gonna. Try and talk. White taxpaying parents,
their fear of placing a menstruating adolescent in class with a black teacher, far easier, just not to hire any black teachers at all dear miss you can and due to the present uncertainty about in Rome next year in schools for Niggro children, it is not possible at this time to offer. You imply for next year. If the court ruled that segregation in the elementary grades is unconstitutional, our board will proceed on the assumption that the majority People to people will not want to employ Niggro teachers next year for white children, I said at the beginning, the woman reading that letter, the conference of the University of Michigan was his Thompson. That's her married name. Her first name is Linda. Her maiden name is Brown Linda Brown, the Brown of Brown V to peek, a board of education.
This is a little girl. Oliver Brown tried and fail to unroll, Sumner Elementary School. She was in two Michigan to speak in celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of the Supreme Court decision and what does Linda Brown Thompson? In the middle of her talk. She interrupts her eye. Witness account too mind her audience who the cost of integration, not white people, black people I think I understand that all of you must be under considerable strain and I sympathise with the uncertainties an inconvenience which you must be experiencing during this period of adjustment. I believe that whatever happens will ultimately turn out to be the best for everyone concerned. Sincerely yours window, Godwin Superintendent of Schools,
A revisionist history is produced by mail about Jacob spits with Camille Baptista. Daniel and see Amara Martinez. Why are editor, is Julia Barton, flawed Williams is our engineer original music by Luis Kara special thing, two Andy Bowers and Jacob Weisberg of I'm by. Angela tenth twenty fifteen, a young woman named Sandra Bland, was stopped by a police officer on a highway in rural Texas. Then everything went wrong
I have written a book called talking to strangers. It starts with that encounter, but I didn't just right. For the page, I recorded an audio books as well. New kind of audio book that allows you to hear the voices of the people. I talk to and come with me to the places I go because you shouldn't just listen to an audio book. You should experience it talking to strangers the audio experience available now, where ever audio books or sold.
Transcript generated on 2020-01-12.