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The Knotted Line

Evan Bissell, Author

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1957: Laws Follow

1957: Federal troops enforce school integration by the Little Rock 9.  

2011: City council politicians and residents of Yorba Linda, California, insult and allude to violence against Muslim Americans arriving at a fundraising event.

Actions for Self-Determination:
  • 1931: After the principal of Lemon Grove Grammar School refuses to allow in Mexican students, the families refuse to go to the separate school built for them and bring the first successful school desegregation case to the courts.
  • 1956: Clinton Senior High School becomes the first Southern school to desegregate. Originally attempted through the legal case McSwain vs. Anderson County, brought by five black families and the NAACP in 1950, the case was not appealed until Brown v. Board of Education in 1954. 
  • 1960: Ella Baker convenes the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee as an independent student group in the civil rights movement with a direct action and voter registration wing. The group focused on building "participatory democracy."
  • 1965-68: The Carter family is the first to enroll their children in all-white schools in Mississippi—despite losing their jobs, being shot at and receiving death threats. 
  • 1969: The first Black Studies program and the College of Ethnic Studies are created at San Francisco State, receiving official status only after a five-month strike by the Black Student Union, Third World Liberation Front and others. The same year, Berkeley High School becomes the first public high school in the country to have an African American Studies Department.

Discussion Questions:
  • Watch the clip from Eyes on the Prize and read the article "If I Were a Poor Black Kid." Discuss the representations of Black people in education today and the history of the struggle for education for African Americans. Consider this for Mexican-Americans as well.
  • Imagine you have just been told you can no longer attend your school. Would you be willing to fight to go back to school?
  • Consider Mae Bertha Carter's story and the importance of education. Does education still hold the same importance today? Why or why not?
  • The Little Rock 9 and Brown v. Board of Education came three years apart. Why was this so slow in happening? Are there similar examples of laws not being followed today?

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