Broken Promises,

Unfulfilled Hope

Above: Seventh-graders at the Curley School on the first day of school in 1975. (Ulrike Welsch/Globe staff)

Fifty years ago, a federal judge ordered Boston to integrate its public school system through busing. Black families hoped the decision would lead to better educational opportunities and fairer outcomes for their children. But it never happened. Instead, Boston’s public schools remain segregated and the academic outcomes of the students they serve are unequal. It is the biggest broken promise in the city’s modern history.


A school system still unequal, still segregated

Busing was set in motion by rightfully furious Black parents making modest demands: equal educational opportunity for their children and good schools in their own neighborhoods. It never happened.


They sued for a better education for Black children. Instead, they got busing.

In their quest for better neighborhood schools for Black children, Earline Pruitt and 13 other families, including 43 children, inadvertently landed at the center of one of the most contentious civil rights battles in Boston’s history.


Meet the families whose lawsuit forced BPS to integrate

Some of the plaintiffs behind the 1974 decision to desegregate Boston’s schools were shielded from the limelight and never publicly spoke of their reasons for signing on to the lawsuit – until now.


Latinos were an afterthought in desegregation. They're still fighting.

Latino students, now the largest ethnic group in BPS, also faced systemic discrimination in BPS and were taught in overcrowded schools with limited resources and subpar instruction that did not meet their linguistic or cultural needs.

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The forgotten story of Chinatown's busing crisis

The story of Boston’s busing crisis, the one memorialized in books, films, and podcasts, is typically characterized as a Black and white struggle. What is less known is the story of the Chinese immigrant women who organized a three-day school boycott in 1975 that would change the balance of power in Chinatown for decades to come.


Will BPS’s new curriculum tackle its own turbulent history?

For decades, BPS students have learned more about southern integration battles in schools than they have about Boston's own. Now, the district will roll out new lessons on the city's busing history – but it won’t mandate teaching it.


Could a two-generation approach to education work in Boston?

A program to end poverty in Austin, Texas, could hold valuable lessons for Boston, where Black and Latino students have yet to experience Boston Public Schools as an engine of upward mobility


How some schools are tackling the achievement gap

Experts argue school districts can’t close achievement gaps until they remove, or at least minimize, the societal obstacles that hold so many students back. But can schools alone do enough?


At independent schools, parents offer their own solutions

In the decade before desegregation, schools opened as alternatives for Black students failed by BPS, each formed by residents who had decided to take their children’s education into their own hands.


Boston’s busing era captured through photos

One way to feel the impact of Judge Garrity's desegregation decision isn’t through rehashing political debates, but by looking into the faces of Bostonians — grappling, even warring, with their new reality.

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