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Unit Two: Charting, Graphs, and Primary Sources

Boston is a city made up of neighborhoods, which from their founding, have often been segregated based on culture, religion, ethnicity, and socio-economic status. When busing was mandated, people in some neighborhoods were outraged at the thought of moving their children out of their neighborhood schools and into the surrounding communities’ schools. This unit allows students to investigate deep into the neighborhoods, and the schools within them to get a better understanding of the racial make-up and economic standing of their residents.

Classroom Activities

Neighborhood Profiles: 

Students will be responsible for creating a profile about select neighborhoods in Boston using both primary and secondary sources, highlighting who lived in the community in the 1960s and 1970s. The students will be able to investigate races in the community, in the public schools, and the status of the public schools before busing. Students will be responsible for sharing the information with their classmates in a presentation of their choosing, and then brainstorming how they believe these public schools could/should be integrated. After their brainstorming, students can read (or read more) about Phase 1 and busing, and see the changes, or maybe lack thereof, that were made in their assigned neighborhood schools. Have them investigate adult’s viewpoints, students’ viewpoints, and help them to understand the effects of this decision in the neighborhoods, especially in the public schools.

This project can be connected to the present by investigating schools of today, and seeing if there have been major changes in these neighborhoods or schools since desegregation and court-ordered busing was implemented.

1. Chose the neighborhoods you would like your students to investigate. (Consider the main neighborhoods that were effected during busing; South Boston, Roxbury, Charlestown, and Dorchester.)

2. Split your class into groups and assign them a neighborhood.

3. Allow students to create a profile about their neighborhoods. Information they can include in their descriptions can be when the neighborhood was founded, who lived there then and in the 1970s, where the neighborhood is located, and key people and attractions. All profiles should investigate the races in the public schools before busing. (Depending on time of lesson, this can be narrowed to focus on only high schools, middle schools, or all school levels.)

4. Students will be using a variety of sources for this assignment.

a. Have students look at reports from schools detailing the percentage of black, white, and other students in the schools.

b. Have students consult websites, newspapers, and school websites to create their narrative. (Like this website, created using documents from our archives by graduate students from University of Massachusetts Boston.)

c. Have students look at books about the neighborhoods, travel brochures, etc.

d. This will also be a PERFECT time to discuss difference in sources, and how to cite these sources in their presentations. Consult the Chicago Manual with any questions.

5. Once they feel like they have an understanding on their neighborhood, they should create a profile page detailing the information they learned. This should include paragraphs on the neighborhood itself, but also charts and graphs detailing the breakdown of schools before busing.

a. Profile pages can be student designed poster board, student designed neighborhood brochure, student designed neighborhood newsletter, etc.

Discussion Questions

  • How did your documents and other sources help you understand the make-up of neighborhoods in the 1960s and early 1970s? What groups of people are involved?
  • How would you describe the schools within the neighborhoods you researched?
  • Did the implementation of desegregation affect the neighborhoods? In what ways did it affect the lives of the people who lived there?
  • In response to the order for desegregation, what should the city officials have done?
  • What could have been an alternative solution to the segregated schools? Could you design another plan to desegregate schools?

Unit Specific Resources

Chicago Manual of Style:

Primary Source Set

Distribution of White and Non-White Pupils in the Public Schools: 0405004-001-005-003

School Committee Hearing with the NAACP: 0405004-001-008-001

An Analysis of Students by Race by Grade: 0245001-020-073-001

Daily Boston Police Blotter: 0245001-020-075-001

Controlled Transfer Policy of the Boston Public Schools: 0405004-002-018-001

Departmental Communication to Mayor Kevin H. White’s Office: 0245001-020-071-004

Because it is right – Educationally: 0405004-001-004-001

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