Still from "Dallas at the Crossroads."

Education

64 Years After Brown v. Board of Education, Are Dallas Schools Any More Integrated?

A podcast from the Commit Partnership looks back at the desegregation of Dallas schools in 1961, and asks how much has changed in the years since.

Got to hand it to the Commit Partnership, the local education nonprofit, for having at least the second best podcast in town. The latest episode of the Miseducation of Dallas County, published Thursday on the 64th anniversary of the Supreme Court decision that kicked off the desegregation of public schools, is especially strong, and especially timely as the city is trying more often lately to reckon with the ugly and persistent reality of segregation.

Hosted by Josh Kumler, of Bar Politics fame, the podcast explores how Brown v. Board of Education played out in Dallas, and leads us into the present day, closing with an interview with Dallas ISD Superintendent Michael Hinojosa. Its premise, that federally mandated desegregation has failed to create integrated schools, holds up, and it’s worth exploring why.

The podcast features clips from a 1961 “pseudo-documentary” produced by the Dallas Citizens Council and aired the night before desegregated classes began, ostensibly to help what was once the most racist city in America integrate peacefully. But, as Kumler puts it,

…peaceful integration was never really the intention of this massive public relations campaign.  It was, instead, the perception of peaceful integration, conveyed through carefully monitored newspaper editorials, overwhelming police presence, and, of course, a movie, meant to reassure an anxious city that:

“The changing face of Dallas will remain unscarred.”

All this, because the next morning, white elementary students at eight select schools would be joined by eighteen African Americans, all of whom were six years old.

The film, “Dallas at the Crossroads,” is striking in that it avoids any talk of “integration,” or the city’s moral duty to provide opportunity for all its residents. The Dallas businessmen who produced it, being Dallas businessmen, only urge the protection of private property, a stiff upper lip, and a little decorum to avoid the violence that accompanied desegregation in places like New Orleans and Little Rock. Violence is bad for business.

You can listen to the podcast below, or go here for a full transcript and accompanying images.

Comments