LEARN NC was a program of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Education from 1997 – 2013. It provided lesson plans, professional development, and innovative web resources to support teachers, build community, and improve K-12 education in North Carolina. Learn NC is no longer supported by the School of Education – this is a historical archive of their website.

boy watching a protest march

A boy watches protesters march to Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas after federal courts ordered its integration in 1957. About the photograph

In the early 1950s, a series of lawsuits reached federal courts challenging the 1890 ruling in Plessy v. Ferguson that public accomodations for people of different races could be separate but equal. Civil rights groups argued that racially segregated schools were inherently unequal, and in 1954, the Supreme Court agreed. Brown v. Board of Education ordered the end of separate black and white schools, but making integration a reality took years of struggle and protest, and debates over school integration continue to this day.

In this chapter we’ll explore the process of school desegregation from the 1950s through the 1970s — not only the politics and policy but the impact that change had on students, parents, and teachers.