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Both Sides Now

The Story of School Desegregation’s Graduates

Amy Wells

Publication Year: 2009

This is the untold story of a generation that experienced one of the most extraordinary chapters in our nation's history—school desegregation. Many have attempted to define desegregation, which peaked in the late 1970s, as either a success or a failure; surprisingly few have examined the experiences of the students who lived though it. Featuring the voices of blacks, whites, and Latinos who graduated in 1980 from racially diverse schools, Both Sides Now offers a powerful firsthand account of how desegregation affected students—during high school and later in life. Their stories, set in a rich social and historical context, underscore the manifold benefits of school desegregation while providing an essential perspective on the current backlash against it.

Published by: University of California Press

Title Page, About the Series, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. iii-vi


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p. ix-ix

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pp. xi-xvii

Given the tenacity of his commentary on double consciousness, mixed schools, and the color line, the capacity of W. E. B. DuBois to introduce the significance of the present work should come as little surprise. Writing during a period when school boards across the South were implementing varied forms of massive desegregation and noting unequivocally that the ...

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pp. xix-xxi

This study would not have been possible without the generous support of the Spencer Foundation, the Joyce Foundation, and the Ford Foundation. The first author also benefited greatly from two fellowships while working on this project. She launched the study when she was visiting scholar at the Russell Sage Foundation and completed the final editing of ...

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1. The Class of 1980

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pp. 1-38

On a hot July afternoon, Larry Rubin was sitting on the large wooden deck behind his spacious, newly built suburban home in northern New Jersey.1 Drinking cool water and wearing a T-shirt from the prominent university he had attended two decades before, Larry watched three of his four sons playing on their backyard jungle gym—a well-equipped ...

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2. Six Desegregated High Schools

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pp. 39-76

When this passage was written in the 1960s about the politics of nine American communities undergoing school desegregation, this country was just embarking on what many thought was an effort to dismantle the “institutional complex” of racial segregation.1 Yet we learned, forty years after Mack’s book Our Children’s Burden was published, not only that ...

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3. Racially Mixed Schools in a Separate and Unequal Society

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pp. 77-114

Sitting in her office at a city-run agency in Austin, Texas, Christine Almonte speculated about what she had gained and what she had lost by attending the predominantly white Austin High School instead of the mostly Hispanic Johnston High School more than twenty years ago.1 Like Larry Rubin in suburban New Jersey, Christine does not have ...

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4. We’re All the Same—Aren’t We?

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pp. 115-154

Betsy Hagart grew up in the 1960s and 1970s in a middle-class, all-white neighborhood on the east side of Charlotte, North Carolina. As a middleclass white girl, she blended into her community and her nearby elementary and junior high schools, where there were very few black students and no students from backgrounds of real poverty or affluence. ...

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5. Close Together but Still Apart: Friendships across Race Only Went So Far

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pp. 155-198

Fourth grade at the Robert E. Lee Elementary School in Austin, Texas, was a difficult year for Harriet “Hattie” Allen. It was 1971, and Hattie, an African American child from East Austin, on the “other side of the highway,” had just transferred into the predominantly white and affluent Lee Elementary School in West Austin. Her teacher, a white woman, tried to ...

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6. Why It Was Worth It

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pp. 199-235

When she was a student at Shaker Heights High School in the late 1970s, Maya Deller was passionate about changing the world. By the early 2000s, when we met her, this fiery, redheaded white woman was a successful lawyer in a Cleveland law firm. She was divorced with three young children and lived in a community not far from Shaker Heights. ...

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7. More Diverse Than My Current Life

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pp. 236-263

Henry Delane was born and raised in Topeka, Kansas, where his family had been part of the black community for generations. Like his father and uncle and cousin before him, Henry went to Topeka High School. But unlike prior generations of Delanes, Henry experienced a Topeka public school system that was considerably more desegregated ...

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8. But That Was a Different Time

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pp. 264-291

The history of school desegregation in the United States includes many instances of white students never showing up to their newly assigned racially mixed public schools. This was not at all uncommon in the South, where “segregation academies”—private schools for white children— opened just in time to enroll students who were fleeing desegregated ...

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9. The Souls of Desegregated Folk

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pp. 292-319

Sydney Morgan, an African American graduate of Dwight Morrow High School whom we have quoted several times in prior chapters, has seen racism from many sides now. When we spoke to her, more than twenty years after her graduation from Dwight Morrow, she was a lawyer living in a predominantly white suburb of New Jersey, not too far from ...


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pp. 321-337


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pp. 339-346

E-ISBN-13: 9780520942486
Print-ISBN-13: 9780520256781

Page Count: 368
Publication Year: 2009