School Desegregation in New Orleans - a hot-button topic in 1960.
School Desegregation in New Orleans – a hot-button topic in 1960.

Eyewitness To History – School Desegregation In New Orleans – December 2, 1960 – Gordon Skene Sound Collection

School Desegregation, even 6 years after the landmark Supreme Court ruling in Brown v. Board of Education, schools were loathed to follow the ruling, balking at the notion of integrating public schools, considering busing or even approaching the subject without heated argument, protest and invariably, violence.

The South was the worst – but resistance to the idea of integration in public schools was prevalent in other parts of the country – it was just that the Southern states were most vocal and most violent.

So on this day in 1960, the big story was the court-ordered de-segregation of public schools in New Orleans. Naturally, you’d think that New Orleans, being a pretty integrated place going back generations, there wouldn’t be much resistance to the concept of an integrated public school. But there was – a lot. And it was nasty and the amount of venom and hate spewed forth at otherwise civilized Town hall meetings was palpable and downright staggering, by the sounds of this documentary.

But like most communities in the South during these years, Civil Rights was no easy goal to achieve, and the violence and bloodshed – bombings and burnings of buses and churches, gave further proof racism in America wasn’t going to disappear by the snap of a finger or the scratching of a pen on paper.

For the next 23 minutes, CBS News, with narrator/reporter Charles Kuralt, spends time in New Orleans, talking to the players, the ones on both sides of the integration fence – and lays it out for the audience to decide.

Even after 55 years, you would think all of this would be behind us, and that new issues and new problems facing our society would take center stage. But no – racism and resistance to change is still very much with us, very loudly proclaimed and very violently acted on. It begs the question of progress – or is it an imaginary state of mind? You wonder.

Here is that Documentary, part of the Eyewitness To History series from CBS News for December 2, 1960.

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