NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

How Black Teachers Were Hurt by School Desegregation

April 28, 2004

One of the unintended consequences of school desegregation in the 1950s was the massive firing of black teachers, according to USA Today. After the Brown vs. Board of Education court ruling, the black teaching and administrative force dwindled and continues to do so today. National Education Association data reveals:

  • In 1954, there were 82,000 black teachers; however, during the 11 years after the court ruling, some 38,000 black teachers and administrators lost their jobs.
  • After desegregation, 90 percent of black principals lost their jobs, mainly in southern states.
  • Qualified black teachers were often replaced with less qualified white teachers according to researcher Carol Karpinski; indeed, 85 percent of black teachers had college degrees compared to 75 percent of white teachers.
  • As recently as the year 2000, 84 percent of teachers were white, compared to only 61 percent of the students; blacks comprise less than 8 percent of public school teachers although 17 percent of students are black.

Observers cite two reasons for the firing. First, school boards assumed that people would not want white children to be taught by black teachers. Second, many black schools were closed down and integrated with white schools. As a result, teachers from the black schools were let go.

In spite of the 1964 Civil Rights Act that was designed to protect black teachers from being fired, the enforcement was lax. Moreover, the National Education Association did little to help, as they themselves were "controlled by prejudiced people," said former NEA president Helen Pate-Bain.

Source: Greg Toppo, "Brown vs. Board of Education: Thousands of Black Teachers Lost Jobs," USA Today, April 28, 2004. "Horizons of Opportunities," National Education Association. Carol Karpinski, "Faculty Diversity: Brown and the Demise of the Black Principal." New York City Department of Education.

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