Meet The Women Who First Integrated America's Schools

May 29, 2018

After the Brown v. Board of Education ruling, most of the black students who integrated schools were girls and women.

This was because “parents and lawyers were aware that girls tended to receive more instruction than boys in the unwritten rules of decorum”, author Rachel Devlin tells Smithsonian Magazine. As the first African-Americans to go to previously all-white schools, these young women faced isolation and insults. Now in their 60s and 70s, many of these students have shared their stories with Devlin for her new book A Girl Stands At The Door.

But America’s schools are still not fully desegregated. In fact, they seem to be getting more segregated. The number of schools where fewer than 40 percent of the students are white doubled between 1996 and 2006, while the best legal tools to fight school segregation are “aging into their sixth decade” The Atlantic reports.

And the Senate Judiciary Committee approved a nominee for a federal judgeship who would not say whether the court ruled correctly in Brown v. Board.

There’s ample evidence for the positive benefits of integrating schools. So why are students becoming more separated?


Rachel Devlin, Associate professor, Rutgers University Department of History; author, “A Girl Stands at the Door: The Generation of Young Women Who Desegregated America’s Schools”; @racheldevlin9

Marion Greenup, Vice president for administration, the Simons Foundation in New York; desegregated Baton Rouge High School in 1963

Leona Tate, Founder, Leona Tate Foundation for Change; desegregated two schools in New Orleans

Nupol Kiazolu, Head of the Youth Coalition for Black Lives Matter in Greater New York; high school student; @nupol_justice

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