Relationships: The Boston Busing Crisis and MOSAIC
Even before Brown v. Board of Ed. the Boston NAACP demanded school integration. The Boston Public Schools insisted that the schools were not segregated, even though African American and White children sometimes lived on the same block but were zoned to separate and unequal schools. Parents expressed to the superintendent the lack of basic materials in the schools their children were attending, but nothing was done. Throughout the 1960s African American parents and students continued to pressure the city; they organized boycotts and Freedom Schools. They used their own money to pay for buses to send their kids to under-enrolled White schools; they called this “Operation Exodus.” Still, the city insisted that the problem was not segregation but that African American families did not care about education. African American students organized more boycotts, demanding fair school discipline and dress-code policies, more African American teachers, African American studies courses, and an independent study of segregation patterns in the city’s schools.
Finally, after decades of fighting unsuccessfully for integration, in 1972 Black parents filed a lawsuit against the city’s schools. In the 1974 ruling on Morgan v. Hennigan the court agreed with the parents that the schools were systematically segregated, and the court mandated the busing of students to racially balance enrollment. Neighboring White and Black schools were paired so as to minimize the distance that students would have to travel. Prior to this ruling students were already being bussed to their segregated schools, yet the majority of White parents and the White media insisted that “forced busing” was an unfair burden to place on their children. One group called it “kidnapping.” White families organized boycotts of the newly integrated schools, rioted, and physically attacked buses and Black students. For months police had to escort the buses, and snipers were posted on the school rooftops for protection.
This crisis was partly a result of the lack of relationships between White and African American families and the deep history of structural racism. In order to build better relationships in their schools, African American and White students joined to create a literary magazine called MOSAIC. MOSAIC was launched in South Boston High School in 1980 in response to the backlash of the Boston busing crisis. Guided by professional writers and photographers, students produced stories and photos about themselves and their communities. Working together to express their creativity and speak their truths helped to build relationships across intersectional identities of race, ethnicity, age, class and gender. A yearly anthology was published from 1980 to 1988. Exhibitions of the students’ photos were displayed in locations around Boston, sharing their stories and experiences of building relationships across difference.