Today we highlight a post written by Pamela Grundy, author of Color and Character: West Charlotte High and the American Struggle over Educational Equality, published last fall by UNC Press. Her post is in response to a recent Newsweek feature story on the state of school segregation in America today.
Drawing on nearly two decades of interviews with students, educators, and alumni, Pamela Grundy uses the history of a community’s beloved school to tell a broader American story of education, community, democracy, and race—all while raising questions about present-day strategies for school reform. At a time when race and inequality dominate national debates, the story of West Charlotte High School illuminates the possibilities and challenges of using racial and economic desegregation to foster educational equality. West Charlotte opened in 1938 as a segregated school that embodied the aspirations of the growing African American population of Charlotte, North Carolina. In the 1970s, when Charlotte began court-ordered busing, black and white families made West Charlotte the celebrated flagship of the most integrated major school system in the nation. But as the twentieth century neared its close and a new court order eliminated race-based busing, Charlotte schools resegregated along lines of class as well as race. West Charlotte became the city’s poorest, lowest-performing high school—a striking reminder of the people and places that Charlotte’s rapid growth had left behind. While dedicated teachers continue to educate children, the school’s challenges underscore the painful consequences of resegregation.
This post first appeared on the author’s blogsite. Here’s a short excerpt from the post:
Resegregation: Where Do We Go from Here?
Late in August, 2002, North Carolina researcher Jack Boger stood before a gathering of colleagues and described the “perfect storm” gathering above southern schools – a convergence of racial resegregation, high-stakes testing, and inadequate funding that was poised to blast away the hard-won gains in educational equality made after the region was forced to abandon its system of separate and decidedly unequal schools.
A generation of schoolchildren later, the wreckage that storm produced lies bare for all to see, chronicled in painful detail in articles such as this week’s Newsweek cover story: “School Segregation in America is as Bad Today as it Was in the 1960s.”
Newsweek singled out Charlotte, North Carolina as a dramatic example of resegregation’s ills, documenting the gaps between the system’s wealthy, predominantly white schools and its low-income, predominantly black and brown schools. Stark inequalities in teacher experience, staff stability, advanced classes, and extracurricular offerings all underscored the persisting truth that separate will never be equal.
Not, of course, that we here in Charlotte didn’t already know. The story has unfolded right beneath our eyes.
You can read the post in its entirety here.
Historian, author, and activist Pamela Grundy lives in Charlotte, North Carolina, where she pursues a variety of writing, teaching, and museum projects. Her previous books include the award-winning Learning to Win: Sports, Education, and Social Change in Twentieth-Century North Carolina. Learn more at her website.