Sarah Robert's long walk
February 24, 2005 1:08 PM   Subscribe

Sarah Roberts vs. Boston In 1848, five-year-old Sarah Roberts was barred from the local primary school because she was black. Her father sued the City (.pdf file). The lawsuit was part of an organized effort by the African-American community to end racially segregated schools. The book "Sarah's Long Walk: The Free Blacks of Boston and How Their Struggle for Equality Changed America" tells the story of the case of Roberts v. City of Boston, that remains a little-known landmark in the civil rights movement.
posted by matteo (4 comments total)
Other interesting fact about Massachusetts schools: Until the middle part of the 19th century, you could be fined for skipping school...on christmas day. Puritans didn't like people reveling and feasting on Christmas, so they made it a school day.

The people who took over at the end of the 19th century who changed the policy were wicked smaht.
posted by u.n. owen at 2:19 PM on February 24, 2005

Yet another interesting fact about Massachusetts schools. They are nearly as segregated today as they were 40 years ago. The segregation has merely moved from schools within towns to schools across towns.

Check out the demographics here.

A very small number of Massachusetts towns have populations of more than 1% Black. Those towns are typically 20% or more Black.

This segregation is now primarily done via economics -- housing prices are kept high, and since Blacks have lagged behind whites economically, they can generally only afford large cities where few others want to live -- even when prices are 1/2 that of the expensive suburbs.

And if there is any kind of proposal to add low-income housnig to an otherwise wealthy town, the NIMBYs pull out every argument they can find -- environmental impact, don't want to overwhelm the school system with properties that are money-losers, don't want to change the "small town character", towns aren't as equipped to handle low-income students as the cities, etc. When that fails they get the state to pony up "conservation money", which means the state buys the land slated for development and mothballs it.

As much as people think that Massachusetts is a bastion of Liberalism, the people are pretty much the same as they were back then.
posted by RalphSlate at 9:53 PM on February 24, 2005

You know, when I first saw this post I read the date as 1948. When I focused and saw 1848, I was sure it was a typo. Then I checked the links... What a story! Lemuel Shaw has joined my gallery of Villains of American History; this series of encomiums to his career somehow fail to mention his role in establishing legal segregation. But then they date from 1930, and none of the distinguished gentlemen making the speeches would likely have had much of a quarrel with his decision.

Thanks for this post; it opened my eyes to yet another depressing landmark in the history of this shining beacon of liberty that we call the United States.
posted by languagehat at 7:06 AM on February 25, 2005

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