While doing research for my new book, Jim Crow’s Pink Slip: The Untold Story of Black Leadership from Principal and Teachers, I discovered that the purge of black educators happened even though the black principals and teachers were more qualified than the white educators who replaced them. Proven black principals and teachers were replaced on a quasi-individual basis by whites who had fewer or no qualifications. Even in segregated all-black schools, black educators were more likely to hold bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees, certification, and higher license levels than their white peers. Yet after Brownthey were deemed unfit to teach white students for racist reasons, losing both their jobs and their ability to directly influence education policy and practice.
The loss inflicted four traumas still felt today. The first trauma was economic. As I estimate in my book, the bottom of the calculated wage losses is about $250 million for the elimination of 30,000 black educator jobs. Over time, 100,000 black principals and teachers were left off the payroll due to white resistance to Brown, leaving black educators nearly $1 billion poorer. In addition to wage losses due to layoffs, there are those caused by the lack of hiring. Between 1968 and 1971 alone, a total of 23,000 new principal and teacher jobs were created in 11 southeastern states. Black educators were placed in less than 500 of these new jobs. In these post-Brown equations of firing and hiring, black educators fell prey to desegregation and white educators its beneficiaries. They lost their jobs – and they were blocked from newly created positions, resulting in lost income and wealth transfers from blacks to whites totaling around $2.2 billion today.
The second trauma was the damage done to school systems due to the loss of top-level leadership and teachers. The mass exodus of black teachers and principals has produced school systems run by racist fearmongers manipulating the system to maintain white power and jobs at black expense. The assault on the professional stature of black educators ensured that the desegregated school system would be held captive by the same Jim Crow power structure that had fought vehemently against desegregation for decades.
The third trauma resulted in the “almost total disintegration of black authority in all areas of public education”, according to a 1972 report by the National Education Association. This greatly diminished the aspirations of black educators and youth. It is reasonable to conclude that young blacks, observing the fate of their elders, would worry (and be warned) that they would have a limited future as principals and teachers. The loss of symbols of leadership, symbols of achievement and symbols of aspiration was known and felt in the black community.
The fourth trauma was the most cruel cut of all. If schooling is about kids, as all the sentimental slogans profess, black kids didn’t seem to matter. Introduced into “integrated” schools without black models of intellectual authority who could serve as guides and protectors, black students faced physical violence and emotional abuse, racial intimidation and hostility, and unlawful suspensions. , according to numerous reports from the National Education Association and the American Friends Service Committee, a human and civil rights organization. In 1965 Time The magazine ran an article about the layoffs, quoting then-US Education Commissioner Francis Keppel as saying, “We must not kid ourselves that excluding Negroes is not noticed by children. What can they suppose except that Negroes are not judged by the community as worthy of a place in mixed classes? What can the white child assume except that he is somehow special and exclusive… How can the world of democracy have any meaning for such children? Even today, public school students of all races receive curricula that are almost entirely white in content, imagery, and authorship.
We think of Brown as ancient history. It’s not. School segregation was still in full force until the late 1970s and early 1980s. educating black and white students together, including California, Iowa, and Ohio, among others. At least 17 states fought with all their might against Brown For more than 20 years. In Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, Virginia and West Virginia, all of this could include governors who outright challenge the law, state legislatures, local school boards and superintendents, and white citizen groups who have illegally hijacked state budgets and statutes to divert taxpayer dollars and white students from desegregating schools.
Most people don’t want to talk about failures and failings. Americans seem to particularly prefer stories about the triumphant underdog, the fashionable tale, and any narrative that foregrounds American exceptionalism devoid of perverse intentions and results. It is this psychological persuasion that keeps the nation in racial chasms that some would like to dig, but never dig to resolve and seal. The mythical American stories we are taught and our textbooks tell are filled with outright lies, because our (mis)understandings about Brown exemplify. So what not true that we think is right on Brown? And why does all this matter in 2022?