If school integration in the South were to continue at its 1959 rate, it would take four thousand years for all Southern Negro children to achieve their right to equal educational opportunity. Between 1954—when the Supreme Court ruled that such equal opportunity was in fact guaranteed them by the Constitution—and 1958, a total of 376,000 Southern Negro schoolchildren were enrolled in integrated schools, and almost all of these were in the border states. In 1959, the total of 376,000 went up by only 511 additional children—despite the desegregation of 87 more school districts. To date, counting the progress initially made in the border states, only 6 per cent of the South’s Negro schoolchildren are attending integrated schools—and further progress has now been slowed to a trickle.
In its efforts to circumvent the Supreme Court’s ruling and prevent or retard integration, the South has tried many approaches: school-closing laws, “interposition,” scholarship aid for those parents who preferred to send their children to all-white schools, anti-NAACP laws, economic reprisal, intimidation, and violence. But only one technique—the pupil placement law—has met with substantial success in the courts. The technique is now clearly emerging as the South’s major weapon in maintaining school segregation.
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