Home > Uncategorized > Voting Rights and School Desegregation Inseparable in the South

Voting Rights and School Desegregation Inseparable in the South

October 26, 2020

Today’s New York Times features a long article by Nicolas Casey that describes a half century of fighting in Sumter County GA over a fundamental question:

Should a school district that was 70 percent Black be governed by a board that was 70 percent white?

Mr. Casey’s article manages to be both discouraging and heartening.

The article was discouraging because of the fact that despite court decisions in the middle of the 20th century that provided rights for blacks to govern the schools their children attend by dragging their feet and using gerrymander voting maps the whites in Sumter County prevented the integration of schools. Worse, one court decision— Shelby County vs. Holder— effectively rescinded those rights and enabled the newly elected white board members to create a charter school named for a Confederate soldier that was almost completely white.

The article was heartening because despite the odds stacked against them the blacks in Sumter County persisted and, at least for now, there is good news for the black majority in that county:

This year, Judge Louis Sands of Georgia’s Middle District federal court ordered a new voting map to be drawn and voted on in November

The map, produced by Mr. Grofman, the university professor appointed by the court, signified a major reversal of the last one: Four of its seven seats would be in places where African-Americans were more than 60 percent of the population. It was the kind of map Mr. Wright, the head of the local N.A.A.C.P. branch, had long sought.

But, as is all too often the case in the the fight to integrate schools, the victory may be short lived:

The new map won’t permanently settle the matter. Next year, after the 2020 census, Georgia’s legislature will approve maps for its 159 counties based on the new data.

“It took years for this case to be won,” said Sean J. Young, the legal director of the Georgia American Civil Liberties Union. “And there’s nothing to stop them from drawing the same discriminatory map all over again.”

It was “only” 66 years ago that Brown v. Board of Education ended “separate but equal” schools… and “only” 157 years ago that the Emancipation Proclamation was issued. My heart goes out to the generations of blacks who have struggled in the decades since both of these landmark cases to get what was promised to them.

%d bloggers like this: