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Integration: The rise of Redlining, Suburbia, and Ability Tracking (Black History Series)

Despite Saint Louis' signal for early compliance with the 1954 Brown v Board decision, students remained largely segregated for decades to come, due to significant resistance to integration by the public. Some of which involved separating students while in the same building. “In-tact busing” involved Black students being transported to formerly white schools as entire classes. Schedules for both groups of children ensured that the Black students arrived at a different time than the white students, ate lunch in separate shifts, and used the playgrounds in segregated rotations. In the afternoon, buses returned Black children to their still-segregated neighborhoods. Ability tracking was also born on the heels of integration. Entire classes of Black students were labeled in need of remediation or disabled. “Gifted” or “advanced” distinctions emerged for white pupils.

The prospect of ending segregation became the catalyst for thousands of affluent, white families to abandon the city, taking their tax dollars with them. In part, this was made possible through red-lining, a whole series of intentional, discriminatory real-estate and lending policies. Capitalizing on fears of mixed-race schooling, real estate agents marketed suburban spaces to white families with the means for transportation. With fewer or no loans available to Black families (plus higher rates for those who did borrow), and persistent discrimination in hiring practices and pay, Black families were essentially blocked from areas with newer housing. When some Black professionals did overcome these challenges, they faced overwhelming discrimination and often violence from their white neighbors.

The modern concept of “neighborhoods” and the “neighborhood school” was born. With the suggestion that every family would benefit from having a nearby, neighborhood school, the attempt to keep races segregated had a colorblind justification. Some new schools were built in Black neighborhoods to appease parents. Ultimately, however, the city infrastructure had already been dealt a hard blow in the depleted tax base, and the city would lack resources for investment in the upkeep and maintenance of these schools.

Today, suburban schools are still equipped with better resources and more stable housing markets, while urban schools continue to operate with a diminished tax base, fewer taxes from business properties, and higher numbers of impoverished families.


Anti-Blackness and Public Schools in the Border South, Weathersby and Davis

Color of Law, Rothstein

Color of Mind, Darby and Rury


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