To understand complicated issues like school inequality, historical context is key, which is what this episode is all about. Chana listens to a mother bemoan the conditions inside her children's (practically) segregated school in this snippet that pulls from the audio archives of the NYC Board of Ed.
Publish Date: Feb 12, 2021
To understand complicated issues like school inequality, historical context is key, which is what this episode is all about. Chana listens to a mother bemoan the conditions inside her children's (practically) segregated school in this snippet that pulls from the audio archives of the NYC Board of Ed. It’s less than a decade after Brown v. Board of Education, amid a growing civil rights movement, and some white parents are pushing for school integration--although expectation and reality never quite connect as one would hope.
New York City was the biggest city in America, with the largest black population in America. And it was saying in films, press releases, public speeches, Brown V. Board, we agree. Separate but equal has no place in the field of public education. No problem here. It was also saying, You know who does have a problem. The South New York City loved comparing itself to the backward south. There are plenty of examples of this in the board archives, New Yorkers bragging about their superiority to places like Georgia or Virginia or Louisiana. This was the story the board of Ed was telling. The South was ignorant and racist. New York City was enlightened and integrated, but here is what it was actually like toe walk into a New York City school in a black neighborhood. At this time, the school had an awful smell. It was, Oh, it smells like this county avatar. This is an archival recording of a woman named May Mallory in the 19 fifties. Mallory's to black Children were students in Harlem, and when Mallory walked into their school, she did not see Children building brotherhood, an interracial classrooms she saw in all black and Puerto Rican school with terrible facilities in disrepair. So my kids told me says, Well, Mommy, this is what we've been trying to tell you all along that this place is so dirty on you. This is why we run home to the bathroom every night. So I went to the bathroom and in 1957 in New York City, they had toilets that were worse. Then the toilets in the schools that I went to and making Georgia in the heart of the South. The toilet was a thing that looked like hostels, and then it had one long board with holes cut in it. And then you have to go and use the toilet. But you couldn't flush it. The water would come down periodically and flush. You know, whatever that now imagine what this is like, you know, dumping waste on top of ways that sitting there waiting, you know, accumulating till the world to come. This was why this place smells the mask. May Mallory says. The school had two bathrooms for 1600 Children. Mallory's family fled racial violence in the South like millions of other black Americans who headed to places like New York City, where everyone was supposed to be equal. Instead of welcoming these new students and spreading them out, creating interracial classrooms, the Board of Education kept black and Puerto Rican students segregated in what were sometimes referred to as ghetto schools, schools that were often just blocks away from white schools. White schools in New York City had toilets that flushed white. Children had classrooms with experienced teachers and principals, people who lived in their communities and looked like them in black and Puerto Rican schools. Half the teachers were not certified to teach by the Board of Education. The buildings were in disrepair and packed sometimes more than 1000 kids in a single hallway. Three overcrowding got so bad the Board of Education decided to send kids to school in shifts. And mind you, this was not in the middle of a global pandemic. This was normal non crisis school for black and Puerto Rican kids. One group of Children would go to school in the morning until noon. The next group of kids would come in at noon and stay until three. The board was literally giving black kids half an education in some schools in Harlem. They had triple shifts. This'll made it harder to learn elementary skills reading. For instance, black parents complained that the schools were not teaching their kids basic literacy that they're white. Teachers didn't care that the summer reading programs were Onley in white communities, that their Children were two years behind white Children. In reading this, at exactly the same time the Board of Education was making a film promoting the virtues of integration, it was effectively running a duel, segregated and unequal school system.