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June Shagaloff on De Facto Segregation

by Matt Delmont

The challenge for civil rights lawyers and activists was that it was extraordinarily difficult expose the illegal discrimination behind "de facto" segregation. Sixty years after the Brown decision, June Shagaloff, who led NAACP efforts to challenge school segregation outside the South, said, “I’ve never really come to terms with whether we made a mistake or not. The reason we called them de facto segregated schools was we didn’t have the manpower to examine the histories of so many individual school systems to prove intent. So we took the position that segregated schools were harmful educationally for all children psychologically, in every way, and that it was the responsibility of school officials, local and state, to reorganize public school systems to eliminate the existence of segregation in fact.” School desegregation lawsuits took months of research and cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. Obtaining evidence of discriminatory actions required first extracting information from often obstructionist school officials and then sifting through decades of meeting minutes, memos, and school board policies. Each lawsuit, moreover, risked alienating donors and politicians who supported school desegregation in Mississippi, Georgia, and Alabama, but not in New York, Illinois, or California. Civil rights lawyers and activists had to overcome enormous barriers to get a northern school district into the courtroom, much less persuade a judge to find a school district guilty of unconstitutional discrimination.

June Shagaloff on De Facto Segregation

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June Shagaloff, who led NAACP efforts to challenge school segregation outside the South, describes the challenges of uprooting de facto segregation

from NAACP Legal Defense Fund (2014)
Creator: NAACP Legal Defense Fund
Distributor: NAACP Legal Defense Fund
Posted by Matt Delmont