September 1974 marked the start of a new school year unlike any that Boston had ever seen. It was the beginning of court-ordered school desegregation and Boston was catapulted into a state of turmoil. Forty years later, we are still feeling the reverberations.
In the summer of 1974, District Court Judge Arthur W. Garrity ruled that the Boston School Committee had deliberately engaged in school segregation, an unconstitutional act following 1954’s Brown v. Board of Education ruling. To achieve racial balance in the schools, the court mandated that students be bused to schools in surrounding neighborhoods to alter the racial makeup of those schools.
This included busing students between South Boston, a historic enclave of the Irish working class, and Roxbury, the heart of Boston’s black community. Racial and class tensions came to a head in the tumultuous, and often violent, events that were sparked by Judge Garrity’s order.
Making a simple list of events that occurred during this time, retrospectively remembered as the Boston Busing Crisis, proved to be a challenge — in that there was nothing simple about that time or events.
The effects that busing had throughout the city beyond schools — on Boston’s economics, white flight, racial and class tensions — made incidents that happened throughout the city a spiderweb of connected affairs with impacts lasting decades.
The Boston Globe Archives proved to be a great source of material. The newspaper’s extensive coverage of events made it a target of anti-busing activists at the time. Today, those archives are a significant resource.
Jeremy Wolff, of the Civil Rights and Restorative Justice Project at Northeastern University School of Law, compiled a substantial timeline of events from 1961 to 1985 for the Union of Minority Neighborhoods. The Union of Minority Neighborhoods launched their Boston Busing/Desegregation Project last year. Boston City Archives has a good timeline of events surrounding the various court cases of this era.
- “Guide to Desegregation-era Records Collection,” Boston City Archives
- “A Timeline of Boston School Desegregation, 1961-1985,” Jeremy Wolff
- “School Desegregation In Boston: A Staff Report Prepared For the Hearing of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights in Boston, Massachusetts, June 1975,” University of Maryland Law School
- “Morgan v. Hennigan.” United States District Court of Massachusetts. 21 June 1974