Boston’s Struggle for Equal Schools

One early way to become involved in the struggle against racism was presented by the METCO program, Boston’s one-way plan to enroll city students in receptive suburban school systems. Serving on its Board for several years, I was inspired by Jean McGuire, and led to Ellen Swepson Jackson, Ruth Batson, other leaders of the larger struggle for school desegregation. On the METCO Board I met with representatives of the cooperating suburban systems, and worked on committees often with Superintendents and METCO staff who were assigned to serve students in the program.

Community Change conducted many workshops in the suburban schools, with an emphasis on ways in which administrators and teachers could more sensitively serve the urban black students who often felt and/or experienced racism in the suburban systems.
While the workshops focused mostly on individual prejudice, experience in METCO became one more place where I saw the forms which racism took in the functioning of the larger educational system.

My admiration for Jean McGuire expanded, and in the days when she first ran for the Boston School Committee, at one point I was driven through Roxbury, in the back of a sound truck, announcing support for her campaign. I worked often with Jean and John O’Bryant, as they became School Committee members. Both were immensely inspira-tional, and Jean continues to astound me with her devotion to equal education.

The desegregational struggle became one in which Community Change became involved with many other local non-profit organizations, meeting regularly with city-wide coalitions which monitored the efforts which culminated in the 1974 court desegregation decision. As one of the smaller organizations in the coalitions we could not claim a major impact, but for me it was an important “school” for observing and learning about institutional racism.

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