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Equal Rights for All
In 1954, the Supreme Court decided that states could not make laws that made public schools racially segregated. But in many towns and cities, white and Black people lived in different neighborhoods. Because of this, they went to different schools.
In 1960, New Rochelle’s Lincoln School had 454 Black students and only 29 whites. Many parents thought the school was not as good as the schools for white students. Some families decided to boycott Lincoln. They tried to register their children at white schools. They were not allowed. One parent, Hallie Taylor, called a lawyer named Paul Zuber. Zuber filed a lawsuit in federal court on October 20, 1960.
He claimed that the school board had rigged Lincoln’s neighborhood zone. They made sure that the Black students would be assigned to the school. The school board had also let white families transfer children out of Lincoln, even though it was against the rules. Black students had not been allowed to transfer. The board said that allowing Black students to transfer would go against “equal treatment for all.”
The court’s ruling in 1961 made history. The judge claimed that sometimes you must give “unequal treatment” in order to achieve equality. Black students were allowed to transfer out of Lincoln to the white schools.
The New Rochelle case encouraged other schools in the North and West to make changes to how students were assigned to schools. Gradually, the numbers of students learning with children of other races grew. The Taylor case is one of the reasons why.
Did You Know?
- New York State made it illegal to segregate students by race in 1938.
- After 1938, parents in New York had to petition the New York State Commissioner of Education if their local school district continued to segregate students based on their racial identity.
- A Supreme Court ruling, Brown vs. the Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas make school segregation illegal in the United States in 1954.
- After 1954, parents in the United States had to sue school districts in court if they continued to segregate students based on their racial identity.
- Visit the New Rochelle Public Library to see more primary sources about the Taylor Case. https://nrpl.org/
- Look up the school zones for your school district. What roads or landmarks are used to determine the boundaries for the different zones?
- Attend a school board meeting in your school district. What topics are discussed and how might they affect you?
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