|photo by Kevin Surbaugh|
The State of Texas instituted a public school system for African-American students during reconstruction. This segregation of students was further established through the 1896 United States Supreme Court decision in Plessy v. Ferguson, which established the legality of the doctrine, “separate but equal.” Desegregation of schools began after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka in 1954 that segregated schools were unconstitutional. By 1957, more than 100 Texas school districts had made progress toward desegregation. Throughout the proceeding decades, school districts integrated; in some cases, the Supreme Court provided desegregation plans. While many schools desegregated without incident, others experienced a difficult transition.
The method of desegregation varied from district to district. Some integrated one grade per year; others gave students “freedom of choice,” allowing them to select which high school they would attend. In the end, the movement led to the closing of most African-American schools across the state, including L.C. Anderson High School, a noted institution in Austin. Many of the former school buildings were demolished or left idle, while some were used for various community or educational programs, like Head Start. The closure of these schools affected many residents, since the institutions were often centers of pride for African-American communities. Many of the students from the schools became leaders in their communities, and on state and national levels.
Integration was a slow and often difficult process in Texas, as well as throughout the rest of the United States. Today, desegregation is remembered in Texas as a pivotal event in the civil rights movement, and as the end of the era for African-American schools.
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