Morgan v. Hennigan: Desegregation of Boston Public Schools

Today’s Blog was written by Dr. Tina L. Ligon, Supervisory Archivist at the National Archives at College Park, Maryland

This record of the week was a part of a presentation on the role of the federal government in black education, given at the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH) Conference in Atlanta, Georgia on September 25, 2015

Well into the twentieth century, many public schools in America were still segregated by race. The ruling in Brown v. Board of Education in 1954, forced public schools in both northern and southern states to look for ways to balance the racial disproportions in its schools. Several of these schools, including the public schools in Boston, Massachusetts turned to busing as a method of desegregation.

Tallulah Morgan et al. v. James W. Hennigan et al. Complaint (NAID 4713867)

Tallulah Morgan et al. v. James W. Hennigan et al. Complaint (NAID 4713867)

In 1965, the Massachusetts legislature ordered all of its state public schools to desegregate. The legislation was opposed by many working-class whites in Boston and was not truly enforced. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) filed a class action lawsuit (Morgan v. Hennigan) on behalf of the black community against the Boston School Committee in 1972 for allowing segregation to exist in the public schools.  The United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts found a pattern of intentional racial discrimination in the public schools. The court ruled in 1974, that Boston public schools must be desegregated.

 

 

 

The documentation related to the lawsuit filed in the District Court for the District of Massachusetts is found in RG 21 Civil Action Case Files, 1938-1998 (NAID 568007). This series contains petitions, bills of complaint, transcripts of testimony and of record, decrees, court orders, and decisions regarding cases appearing in the District Court within the Massachusetts district. The file unit Tallulah Morgan et al v. James W. Hennigan et al Case File (NAID 4713835) consists of letters, complaints, transcripts of hearings, and judgments regarding the case against segregated public schools in Boston for the years 1972-1991.

Letter from Hyde Park High School Building Representative William Maher to Boston Police Commissioner Robert DiGrazia (NAID 12161210)

Letter from Hyde Park High School Building Representative William Maher to Boston Police Commissioner Robert DiGrazia (NAID 12161210)

The solution to the segregation problem in the Boston public schools was to bus students to different schools in order to offset the racial imbalance. Phase one of the desegregation plan required black students from the Roxbury neighborhood to be reassigned to the predominantly white schools in South Boston. Residents in this neighborhood resisted the plan and reacted violently towards the black students by yelling and throwing rocks or rotten eggs at them.

Letter from the Massachusetts Black Caucus to Judge W. Arthur Garrity, Jr. (NAID 4713898)

Letter from the Massachusetts Black Caucus to Judge W. Arthur Garrity, Jr. (NAID 4713898)

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One Response to Morgan v. Hennigan: Desegregation of Boston Public Schools

  1. Stephanie says:

    During the summer of 2014, a group of educators from across the country spent a week at the National Archives at Boston studying civil rights and digitizing documents from the Boston schools desegregation case, Tallulah Morgan et al. v. James W. Hennigan et al. You can find online teaching activities that they created using these newly digitized materials on our Education Updates blog: http://education.blogs.archives.gov/2014/10/17/boston-schools-desegregation-case/

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