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Lesson Plan

The Civil Rights Movement Expands: Busing

About this Video
This 10-minute video shows students why the U.S. Supreme Court authorized the use of cross-town busing to accelerate school desegregation, and how that decision affected communities and students in the American South. The video is useful for any lesson exploring the implementation phase of the civil rights movement. It clarifies why landmark decisions like Brown v. Board of Education often required additional efforts to achieve integration. The video also brings the topic of busing into modern times by showing how the integration achieved through busing has recently unraveled, and how the rise of racially homogenous schools poses new challenges for policy makers.
Content Advisory: This video includes archival footage of protesters using racist language.
  • How the U.S. Supreme Court allowed the use of busing in 1971 as a tactic to hasten the delayed implementation of the 1954 Brown v. Board ruling.
  • How the court’s decision created both social conflict and temporarily successful integration of many school systems.
  • How the integration achieved through busing has been replaced by a trend toward racially and economically homogeneous schools.
  • Social Studies
  • U.S. History
  • Law
  • Black History
  • Race in America
  • Civil Rights
  • The Civil Rights Movement
  • Brown v. Board of Education
  • Supreme Court
  • The Postwar Era (1945-1980)
  • 1970s America
For Teachers
Introducing the Lesson

The 1954 U.S Supreme Court’s historic decision Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka ruled that segregation in public schools was unconstitutional, but the court failed to provide a remedy to achieve educational equality.

Seventeen years later, the Court had an answer when it affirmed the principle of busingschool children to desegregate schools.

That decision placed Charlotte, N.C., in the spotlight. The Charlotte-Mecklenburg district was already under federal orders to desegregate its schools. Despite angry protests from white parents, it had implemented a plan with success.

To stop white flight, most of the bused students were black but there was one exception: white students were bused to West Charlotte High, the pride of the black community. After a rough first year, marred by racial fighting and boycotts, students – black and white – adjusted to one another. Three years later, West Charlotte was being hailed as a model of successful busing.

Despite that acclaim, busing was still being hotly debated across the country and in Charlotte. In 1997, several white parents sued the Charlotte-Mecklenburg district, claiming its quota system discriminated against their children.

A federal judge essentially agreed, saying that the district had met its constitutional obligation to integrate, so there was no longer any need for busing or quotas. Some black parents agreed, saying that busing was taking a toll on their families as well. The district soon put an end to busing, with striking results.

By 2007, the district that once prided itself on being a national model for racial integration – 40 percent black, 60 percent white – had become 88 percent black, and 1 percent white.

Essential Questions
  • What caused the U.S. Supreme Court to approve the use of busing in 1971?
  • How did parents and students respond to the tension created by busing?
  • Was busing successful as a method of achieving integration?
  • In recent decades, why have some school districts chosen to move toward less busing and a less integrated student population?
Lesson Procedure
  • Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka struck down racially segregated schools in 1954, but by 1971 most schools in the South weren’t integrated. Why do you think so many schools did not integrate after the 1954 decision?
  • Do students benefit educationally from a racially integrated school environment? Does society benefit from racially integrated schools?
  • Busing was authorized to quicken the pace of school integration in 1971. Does the government need to take action today to reverse the trend towards less racially integrated schools?
  • Consistent with federalist principles, schools in the United States are administered largely by state and local governments. What are the advantages and disadvantages of this arrangement? Would policy goals like integration be easier to achieve if schools were administered by the federal government?
Additional Resources
Transcript for "The Battle for Busing" Retro Report
“Desegregation and the Public Schools” Retro Report

Integrate and evaluate multiple sources of information presented in diverse formats and media (e.g., visually, quantitatively, as well as in words) in order to address a question or solve a problem.

Analyze a complex set of ideas or sequences of events and explain how specific individuals, ideas, or events interact or develop over the course of a text.

Evaluate public policies in terms of intended and unintended outcomes, and related consequences.

Evaluate how historical events and developments were shaped by unique circumstances of time and place as well as broader historical contexts.

Analyze multiple and complex causes and effect of events in the past.

· Skill 5.B: Explain how a historical development or process relates to another historical development or process.

·Theme 8: Social Structures (SOC)

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