When Brown v. Board of Education, the 9-0 Warren Court ruling came down 60 years ago, desegregating America's public schools, this writer was a sophomore at Gonzaga in Washington, D.C.
In the shadow of the Capitol, Gonzaga was deep inside the city. And hitchhiking to school every day, one could see the "for sale" signs marching block by block out to Montgomery County, Maryland.
Democratic and liberal Washington was not resisting integration, just exercising its right to flee its blessings by getting out of town.
The white flight to the Washington suburbs was on.
When this writer graduated in 1956, all-white high schools of 1954 like McKinley Tech, Roosevelt, Coolidge and Anacostia had been desegregated, but were on their way to becoming all black.
Across the South, there was "massive resistance" to Brown, marked by the "Dixie Manifesto" of 1956, Gov. Orval Faubus' effort to keep black students out of Little Rock Central High in 1957, and the defiance of U.S. court orders to desegregate the universities of Mississippi and Alabama by Govs. Ross Barnett and George Wallace.
While he has received little credit, it was Richard Nixon who desegregated Southern schools. When he took office, not one in 10 black children was going to school with whites in the Old Confederacy.
When Nixon left, the figure was close to 70 percent.
For nearly half a century, no black child has been denied entry to his or her neighborhood school because of race. Ought we not then, with Stephan and Abigail Thernstrom in the Wall Street Journal, celebrate Brown "as a truly heartening American success story"?
Certainly, by striking down state laws segregating school children, Brown advanced the cause of freedom. But as for realizing the hopes of black parents, that their children's educational progress would now proceed alongside that of their new white classmates, it is not so easy to celebrate.
For despite half a century of desegregation, three in four black and Hispanic children are in schools that are largely black and Hispanic. And the old racial gap in test scores has never been closed.
A May story in the Washington Post reports that not only has there been no gain in U.S. high school test scores in reading and math -- the USA has been steadily sinking in rank in international competition -- the disparity between black and white students has deepened.
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