Busing and the broader question of what courts and communities should do to create integrated schools has been back in the news after a tense exchange between U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris and former Vice President Joe Biden during the Democratic debates.
Biden strongly opposed efforts by the courts to integrate schools in communities that had not previously had mandatory segregation. Harris rode a bus as a little girl as part of local school integration.
Memphis schools used busing in an attempt to create integrated schools under a court-ordered desegregation plan that went into effect in 1973.
Many historians argue that busing as a way to desegregate schools failed largely due to opposition from white families, even as it offered important educational opportunities to black students, something backed up by research. But the massive white-flight that unfolded in response to busing in Memphis prevented the plan from desegregating schools to the extent that it did in other cities.
By 1974, over 30,000 students had left Memphis city schools, a move that directly contributed to Memphis’ distinction of having the largest private school system in the country.
To this day, Memphis schools remain starkly segregated by race.
If you were a student, parent, or teacher during the period that Memphis relied on crosstown transportation to desegregate schools, we’d love to hear about your experiences and how you think it shaped your life.
Please take a few minutes to complete our survey. We’ll publish a selection of responses.