A Concerned Citizen’s Change of Heart
A letter written by a concerned citizen offers an insight into the public reaction to school desegregation as it was carried out under the Nixon Administration. The author had previously submitted a letter consisting of 204 signatures protesting the school’s desegregation, and resisted federal desegregation efforts. This letter, however, tells of his change of heart. His initial stance expressed the opinion held by many during the turbulent desegregation period, and is a reflection of the thousands of parents across the country who were dissatisfied with what was seen as big government meddling in family affairs.
“I have fought integration everywhere I could…I rebelled the same as thousands of other parents and attended rally after rally seeking some form of relief.”
After receiving the news that schools were to be desegregated, parents throughout the nation, but particularly the South, objected to the perceived threat. Rallies were held all over the country to voice the public indignation, and groups of resistance formed in the hopes of raising enough pressure on the government to effect a change. When individual court orders came into effect, and the deadline to desegregate arrived, many took their objections a step further.
This parent, like many others, received the court order enforcing desegregation in their school zone. That their children would now be attending an integrated school with a large black student ratio went against the grain of a deeply embedded bigotry. Many parents took a stand.
“I had made up my mind to defy the courts and you if need be in order that my children may not be guinea pigs for the Supreme Court. For several weeks I kept my children out of school.”
The battle had come down to affecting the education and lives of the children themselves. When schools opened after the desegregation deadline of the fall of 1970 many areas saw nearly empty classrooms. Despite this public demonstration the courts remained resolute, and slowly but surely parents began to submit to the change by sending their children back to school. Here too the parents ultimately came out in favor of compliance.
“Several weeks passed and nothing ever happened to equalize the system…I was growing more restless and paid a visit to one of my two Churches. After kneeling in prayer for some time I had my answer… we are to obey those in authority over us…I was wrong for trying to fight the system…”
This letter shows us the religious change of an individual, but the justification for his change came later.
“My children have been in school now for quite sometime and they have many new friends. The fear that I had built up inside my mind was not materializing and my children are happy in school. I see now that I have been wrong in so many ways…”
The author, a World War II veteran, a father, and the leader of two religious congregations, had converted. He ends the letter by expressing his apologies, and the hopes that he will be able to change the minds of those around him for betterment of racial relations in the United States.