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Boom for Whom?

Education, Desegregation, and Development in Charlotte

Stephen Samuel Smith

Publication Year: 2004

Bringing a new perspective to Charlotte’s landmark school desegregation efforts, Stephen Samuel Smith provides a multi-faceted history of the nationally praised mandatory busing plan and the court battle that led to its ultimate demise. Although both black and white children benefited from busing, its most ongoing consequences were not educational, but the political and economic ones that served the interests of Charlotte’s business elite and facilitated the city’s economic boom. Drawing on urban regime theory, Smith shows how busing enhanced civic capacity and was part of a political alliance between Charlotte’s business elite and black political leaders. This account of Charlotte’s history has national implications for desegregation, urban education, efforts to build civic capacity, and the political involvement of the urban poor.

Published by: State University of New York Press


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Title Page, Copyright

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List of Maps, Tables, and Figures

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pp. vii-viii

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Preface and Acknowledgments

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pp. ix-xiv

As I complete this book in June 2003, preparations are well under way to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the Supreme Court’s landmark decision in Brown v. Board of Education. A month ago, the attorney general and secretary of education announced the creation of a high-profile commission to...


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pp. xv-xviii

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Chapter 1 Introduction

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pp. 1-22

It seemed a telling moment in Charlotte history, and in many ways it was. There was President Reagan on a 1984 campaign stop denouncing busing because “it takes innocent children out of the neighborhood school and makes them pawns in a social experiment that nobody wants. And...

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Chapter 2 Background Regime Politics and the Purest Strain of the Southern Booster Gene

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pp. 23-56

Education in Charlotte has been shaped by the area’s demographics, political structure, and growth; the economic situation of African Americans; and the overall characteristics of local politics. The relations among education and these other aspects of the Charlotte situation are complex ones with causal...

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Chapter 3 Swann’s Way and the Heyday of Charlotte’s Busing Plan

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pp. 57-90

Most aspects of CMS’ recent history begin with two events in the 1950s, one national in scope, the other primarily of local interest. The first was the Supreme Court’s 1954 decision in Brown; the second was local voters’ approval of a 1959 referendum that led to a merger of the city of Charlotte’s school...

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Chapter 4 Swan Song for the Busing Plan?

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pp. 91-106

As the 1980s progressed, Charlotte’s nationally praised busing plan came under increasing local criticism, as did many other aspects of CMS’ operations. Much of this criticism was rooted in developments that began in the Robinson era. This chapter begins by discussing these seeds of change, then...

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Chapter 5 Political Fluidity and the Alchemy of School Reform

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pp. 107-146

With the start of the 1990s, CMS again attracted the attention of educators nationally, just as it had twenty years ago. But this time it was not for mandatory busing but for a high-profile program of school reform, one aspect of which was the dismantling of most of the mandatory busing plan and its...

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Chapter 6 Desegregation Buried in Potter’s Field? The Reactivation of the Swann Case

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pp. 147-172

With John Murphy’s resignation, CMS quickly ceased being a nationally touted exemplar of the conventional wisdom about school reform as well as of how many aspects of this wisdom and its buckshot implementation could be counterproductive. However, within a few years, CMS was again attracting...

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Chapter 7The Charlotte-MecklenburgCompromise?

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pp. 173-208

Given Potter’s conservative background and anti-busing activities thirty years earlier, his decision in the reactivated Swann case was not unexpected. Nonetheless, the ruling plunged CMS into political turbulence, just as...

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Chapter 8 School Desegregation and the Uphill Flow of Civic Capacity

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pp. 209-246

The themes that emerge from the previous chapters can be grouped under two main headings: school desegregation and civic capacity. Since desegregation catapulted CMS onto the national stage, it is appropriate to begin there. In discussing the consequences of desegregation, I distinguish...


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pp. 247-252


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pp. 253-314


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pp. 315-328

E-ISBN-13: 9780791485583
Print-ISBN-13: 9780791459850
Print-ISBN-10: 0791459853

Page Count: 346
Illustrations: 2 maps, 9 tables, 7 figures
Publication Year: 2004

OCLC Number: 62338577
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Boom for Whom?

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Subject Headings

  • Education, Urban -- Political aspects -- North Carolina -- Charlotte.
  • School improvement programs -- North Carolina -- Charlotte.
  • Charlotte (N.C.) -- Politics and government.
  • Busing for school integration -- North Carolina -- Charlotte -- History.
  • Charlotte (N.C.) -- Economic conditions.
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