Posted on May 20, 2024

70 Years Later, 1 in 3 Black People Say Integration Didn’t Help Black Students

Laura Meckler et al., Washington Post, May 17, 2024

Seventy years after the Supreme Court delivered its landmark decision outlawing school segregation, Brown v. Board of Education ranks as perhaps the court’s most venerated decision. A Washington Post-Ipsos survey shows it is overwhelmingly popular.

That’s the simple part. Most everything else related to the decision — and to school segregation itself — is complex.

Nearly 7 in 10 Americans say more should be done to integrate schools across the nation — a figure that has steadily climbed from 30 percent in 1973 and is now at its apex. But a deeper look into the views of both Black and White people shows skepticism about the success of Brown and mixed messages about how to move forward.

In its unanimous decision in Brown, the Supreme Court ruled segregated schools were unconstitutional and “inherently unequal,” combining five cases in which Black students and their schools had far fewer resources than their White peers — longer commutes, lower-quality classes, overcrowding, fewer opportunities and less money. Yet 1 in 3 Black Americans now say integration has failed to improve the education of Black students, a companion Post-Ipsos survey of Black Americans finds.

Today, about half of Black adults favor letting children attend neighborhood schools, even if it means most students would be of the same race — which, given housing patterns, is often the case.

White Americans also sometimes hold conflicting views. Nine in 10 Whites say they support the Brown decision, and nearly 2 in 3 say more needs to be done to integrate schools throughout the nation. Nonetheless, large segments of the White population oppose strategies that would help make that a reality. Nearly 8 in 10 White adults say it is better for children to go to neighborhood schools over diverse ones.


The views of White Americans are also wrapped in contradictions. A wide majority says they support the Brown decision, but many oppose leading ideas for integration today.

Those include adding low-income housing in the suburbs and other high-income areas (43 percent opposed), redrawing boundaries to create more racially diverse districts (45 percent opposed) and requiring schools to bus some students to neighboring districts (70 percent opposed). Only one strategy enjoys support from a large majority (71 percent) — more regional magnet schools with specialized courses (24 percent of Whites are opposed).

Among Black Americans, there is majority support for all four strategies — with at least 7 in 10 backing the proposals for mixed-income housing, redrawing boundaries and magnet schools.

At the same time, nearly 8 in 10 White people say they support “letting students go to the local school in their community, even if it means that most of the students would be of the same race,” while 17 percent favor “transferring students to other schools to create more integration, even if it means that some students would have to travel out of their communities to go to school.”