In 1954, the St. Louis Public Schools Instruction Department drafted a report outlining the city’s integration plan following the Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board of Education decision. Although the report acknowledged that total desegregation was possible for the 1954-1955 school year, its authors proposed a more gradual integration schedule for the city’s 90,000 students. Using Washington, D.C. schools as a model, St. Louis’ schools would be desegregated in “orderly steps.” The report recommended the city’s special education schools and junior and teachers’ colleges to integrate immediately, while its secondary and primary institutions would follow suit the following year. To justify its schedule, the authors emphasized that this approach would prevent confusion caused by rapid integration of such a large student population.
Although this “orderly plan” was in place, it was never meant to achieve true integration. The district’s reluctance, alongside a decrease in student population and a tax revenue loss as a result white flight deepened racial segregation in schools. Black families, however, challenged continued disinvestment and the inequities in educational opportunities. In 1983, as part of Lidell v. Board of Education, a federal court mandated the St. Louis Public Schools to address segregation. This new court-enforced desegregation plan bussed more than 70,000 Black students to schools in the white suburbs. Despite being the longest running and the largest desegregation plans in the nation, the plan failed to bring equal resources to urban schools. Today, St. Louis public schools remain largely divided along racial lines.
Creator: St. Louis Public Schools Instruction Department
Subject: Desegregation in education ; Education--Integration ; Integration in education ; School desegregation
Collection Name: Irving Alexander Williamson, Sr., Papers, 1952-1963
Contributing Institution: Missouri Historical Society
Region: St. Louis Metro