Lesson Plan

Brown v. Board of Ed and Busing Promised Integration. Why Are Schools Still Segregated?


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.

Brown v. Board of Education (1954) is a landmark U.S. Supreme Court Case that declared that school segregation was unconstitutional. The Supreme Court announced its unanimous decision on May 17, 1954. It held that school segregation violated the Equal Protection and Due Process clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment. The following year the Court ordered desegregation “with all deliberate speed.” At the surface level, Brown v. Board of Education is viewed as a success. This lesson combines the Library of Congress protocol for analyzing primary sources as a means for examining integration efforts after the court’s ruling in Brown v. Board of Education. The activities are designed for students to complete on their own or in small groups.


Students will:

  • Examine primary and secondary sources related to school integration.
  • Evaluate the consequences of the Brown v. Board of Education ruling.
  • Analyze how busing was used as a tactic to hasten school desegregation in 1971.
  • U.S. History
  • Civics & Government
  • Social Studies
  • AP U.S. History
  • AP U.S. Government & Politics
  • Black History
  • Race in America
  • Civil Rights
  • The Civil Rights Movement
  • Brown v. Board of Education
  • Supreme Court
  • The Postwar Era (1945-1980)
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 busing school 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.

Today, the student population of West Charlotte High is made up of 98.5% minorities: 80.3% Black, 12.2% Hispanic, 3.6% Asian, 2.1% two or more races, 0.1% American Indian/Alaska Native and 0.1% Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander.

Essential Questions

  • How successful was school integration and desegregation after Brown v. Board of Education?
  • What were the unintended consequences of the Brown v. Board of Education ruling?

Additional Resources

Transcript for "Why Are Schools Still Segregated? The Broken Promise of Brown v. Board of Education"Retro Report 
Teacher’s Guide and Analysis ToolLibrary of Congress 
Mrs. Nettie Hunt and daughter Nikie on the steps of the Supreme CourtLibrary of Congress Brown at 50 Exhibition 
Segregation's Citadel Unbreached in 4 YearsLibrary of Congress Brown at 50 Exhibition 
"...One Nation...Indivisible..." Herblock political cartoonLibrary of Congress Brown at 50 Exhibition 
Interactive Map: School Segregation MapThe Century Foundation 

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

·Theme 8: Social Structures (SOC)

Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources, attending to such features as the date and origin of the information.

Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary of how key events or ideas develop over the course of the text.

Assess the extent to which the reasoning and evidence in a text support the author’s claims.

Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources, connecting insights gained from specific details to an understanding of the text as a whole.

Integrate information from diverse sources, both primary and secondary, into a coherent understanding of an idea or event, noting discrepancies among sources.

Explain how supporting questions contribute to an inquiry and how, through engaging source work, new compelling and supporting questions emerge.

Distinguish the powers and responsibilities of local, state, tribal, national, and international civic and political institutions.

Evaluate citizens’ and institutions’ effectiveness in addressing social and political problems at the local, state, tribal, national, and/or international level.

Use maps, satellite images, photographs, and other representations to explain relationships between the locations of places and regions and their political, cultural, and economic dynamics.

Analyze the reciprocal nature of how historical events and the spatial diffusion of ideas, technologies, and cultural practices have influenced migration patterns and the distribution of human population.

Evaluate the consequences of human-made and natural catastrophes on global trade, politics, and human migration.

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

Analyze change and continuity in historical eras.

Analyze how historical contexts shaped and continue to shape people’s perspectives.

Use questions generated about multiple historical sources to pursue further inquiry and investigate additional sources.

Integrate evidence from multiple relevant historical sources and interpretations into a reasoned argument about the past.

Questions? Tips? Concerns? Reach out to our Director of Education, David Olson: dolson@retroreport.com