Boston Schools: Past Insights into Present Problems(continued)

by Jeanne Belovitch



future performance of an investment, perhaps this same technique can help us understand why Boston schools perform the way they do in 1991. So let's go back in Boston history – way back.

According to Stanley K. Schultz in his book “The Culture Factory: Boston Public Schools, 1789-1860”, in 1798, a group of Black parents asked for a system of separate schools for their children. These parents believed their children were receiving unequal treatment in white schools and wanted to protect their children from racial prejudices. In 1790, 766 Blacks lived in Boston out of a total population of 18,038. The struggle for segregated schools continued until Boston Selectmen agreed Blacks could start their own private school, however; they denied requests for a segregated system. After two months a yellow-fever epidemic forced the private school to close. Several years after this school reopened, the School Committee agreed upon the idea of segregated schools and tentatively committed public funds of $200 annually to a separate school for Black children. Six years later, the School Committee took control of this Black school and future ones with a solid commitment of public financial support. By 1812, Boston's Black community had secured a separate educational system for its children, taught by Black instructors. This system, however, was dependent on provisions made by the City and the School Committee.

The vitality of Black schools did not proceed as anticipated, and Black leaders found themselves powerless against the School Committee. By 1824, Black parents and some whites were complaining about the quality of education and the building facilities. That same year, the School Committee acknowledged that no one was reporting on the status of these schools. It took nine more years before a sub-committee reviewed the history of Black education since 1798. The report concluded that “the separate educational system for Blacks was not equal to other schools in the City.”

By the early 1830's Black leaders were loudly demanding integrated schools. The School Committee said no and the struggle continued until December 4,


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