When you think of the Civil Rights Movement, you automatically think of the South. History classes teach us about what the southern parts of the United States of America were like during this time period, but they never talk about what the north looked like. I know I did not know what really happened in the northern states when it came to the movement. Jeanne Theoharris’ chapter called Long Movement Outside the South brings to light what happened in the north, focusing on New York City and Boston. The Civil Rights struggles for Black families carried their way into these cities as well.
Although the north was seen as more liberal, they still had their fair share of problems surrounding segregation. From school segregation and inequality, housing segregation, police brutality, job and union exclusion, and the inequality in public and social services, people started to protest and attempt to fight back for a change. Within the public school system, there was a big issue with segregation. This segregation came into play because of gerrymandering- predominantly Black and Latino schools. The issue was that there was overcrowding in the school and the cities refused to do anything helpful about it. These areas tried to justify this segregation with different words to make it not seem as though it was on purpose. One word they used was de facto, saying they did not try to segregate the schools, so they were not rushed to fix anything. Others such as: racially imbalanced, culturally deprived, busing, problem children, and cultural handicaps, were used to “discreetly” describe the segregated schools. The term “neighborhood schools” was also used.
In both cities, “neighborhood schools” helped the city justify not ‘busing’ the school kids from the overcrowded schools to, let’s say, a “white school.” This aided them in continuing the segregation within these schools. There was a protest on February 3, 1964, where 460,000 students and teachers stayed out of school to protest the New York Board of Education’s choice not to desegregate schools. This protest was bigger than the March on Washington. Even though Brown v Board of Education was already in place, these cities did not want to desegregate. This is all something that was protested and fought for years and years.
Was I surprised by this? Yes and no. I was surprised to hear about it in general. I never learned that there was an issue in the north like there was in the south. Of course, I knew it was an issue throughout the country, but it was never shown. I am not surprised in the sense that it was there. This country has had issues with this for years, and it does not surprise me at all that New York and Boston also went through the same things. For them being some of the largest cities in the U.S., it is difficult to understand why it is not shown more and why it is so covered.