Chapter 1, “Segregation,” investigates the histories of African American, Native American, Mexican American, Chinese American, and Japanese American students from the earliest public schools through the Brown v. Board of Education ruling in 1954. It demonstrates that white officials intentionally discriminated against students of color first by excluding them from early public schools, then by segregating them as access to public education expanded, and finally by attempting to limit the curriculum for students of color to “manual training” and industrial work. It also highlights how minority educational activists fought back through both direct legal and political attacks on segregated schools as well as more subtle forms of accommodation and resistance. A key finding is that while it was clear to all that segregated facilities engendered unequal opportunities, many activists nevertheless questioned integration as a solution, and some saw enormous value in schools led by Black, Mexican American, or indigenous educators. World War II and the rising postwar civil rights movements centered new attention on segregated schools as a tool of white supremacy that must be abolished.
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