1974 – Violence occurred on the opening day of classes in Boston, MA, due opposition to court-ordered school “busing.”


Valerie Banks was the only student to show up for her geography class at South Boston High School on the first day of court-ordered busing, Sept. 12, 1974. (AP)Valerie Banks was the only student to show up for her geography class at South Boston High School on the first day of court-ordered busing, Sept. 12, 1974. (AP)

First of two parts. Here’s Part 2. Note: Report contains some offensive language.

African-American students board a school bus outside South Boston High School on Sept. 12, 1974 -- the first day of school and the first day of court-ordered busing. (AP)
African-American students board a school bus outside South Boston High School on Sept. 12, 1974 — the first day of school and the first day of court-ordered busing. (AP)

BOSTON — With Boston public school students back in class, we recall a very different start to school 40 years ago. Then, classes began a week late to give students, schools and the police extra time to prepare for the first day of court-ordered desegregation.

Earlier that summer of 1974, federal District Court Judge W. Arthur Garrity ruled that the Boston School Committee had deliberately segregated the city’s schools, creating one system for blacks and another for whites — separate, unequal and unconstitutional.

The remedy to achieve racial balance and desegregate schools was busing. Some 18,000 black and white students were ordered to take buses to schools outside of their neighborhoods.

‘The Words. The Spit.’

Here’s how The Boston Globe headlined that first day of court-ordered busing: “Boston Schools Desegregated, Opening Day Generally Peaceful”. The headline was reassuring, if not exactly accurate. It was only Phase 1 of the federal desegregation plan. Just 59 of 201 schools were desegregated that day, and it was far from peaceful at South Boston High School.

Southie was ground zero for anti-busing rage. Hundreds of white demonstrators — children and their parents — pelted a caravan of 20 school buses carrying students from nearly all-black Roxbury to all-white South Boston. The police wore riot gear.

“I remember riding the buses to protect the kids going up to South Boston High School,” Jean McGuire, who was a bus safety monitor, recalled recently. “And the bricks through the window. Signs hanging out those buildings, ‘Nigger Go Home.’ Pictures of monkeys. The words. The spit. People just felt it was all right to attack children.”

One of those children was Regina Williams.

“I had no idea what to expect [with] this busing thing,” Williams said. “I didn’t know anything about South Boston. I didn’t know anything about, you know, they didn’t like us. I didn’t know anything that was in store for us. But when we got there, it was like a war zone.

“I came back and I told my mom, and I’ll never forget, I said, ‘Ma, I am not going back to that school unless I have a gun.’ At 14 years old. I am not going back to that school.”

To read more … wbur.org/news