The "Unraveling": Resistance to Desegregation in the Pittsburgh Public Schools, 1971-1998.
William Dodge Rutherford.
- Abstract: Decades of work by Black parents and activists in Pittsburgh preceded the process of desegregation, which was an attempt to break down a racist system that maintained separate and unequal schools. There was never full desegregation in Pittsburgh, and in the 1990s a period of resegregation undid some of the changes made under the 1980 desegregation plan. Three phases of resistance to ... read moredesegregation explain why there was partial desegregation followed by a period of resegregation. The first phase took place at the grassroots level after the Board of Public Education passed a mild desegregation plan in 1971. The main opposition to this plan was a boycott of a predominantly Black school by parents of 47 students from Carrick, a White, working- and middle-class neighborhood. Underlying causes of this boycott included a desire for “neighborhood schools,” racism, and a lack of representation on the Board of Education. No one from Carrick served on the Board, which at the time was appointed by a group of judges. The second phase of resistance to desegregation began with the transition from an appointed Board to an elected Board in 1976. In the new, nine-member elected Board, five White members formed a “conservative faction” that opposed adopting citywide desegregation plan. A more moderate faction of Board members passed a partial desegregation plan in 1980 that focused on magnet schools to create “voluntary” desegregation instead of requiring all students to attend desegregated schools. Part of this plan included “busing” students to schools outside their neighborhoods, which was the target of the third phase of resistance in the mid-1990s. From 1995 to 1998, the Board of Education and state legislature overturned parts of the 1980 desegregation plan. From the early 1970s to the late 1990s, resistance to desegregation mounted what was, in the words of one former superintendent, the “unraveling” of desegregation in the Pittsburgh Public Schools.read less