To rectify the many injustices endured by African-Americans as the result of slavery, three Civil Rights amendments were inserted in the US Constitution around the end of the Civil War. Known as Reconstruction Amendments, the 13th Amendment, adopted by Congress on December 18, 1865, abolished slavery and involuntary servitude. The 14th Amendment, adopted two years later, gave African-Americans the right to receive equal treatment under the law, and the 15th Amendment, ratified on February 3, 1870, prohibited federal and state governments from depriving any citizen of the (right to) vote on racial grounds. Although these three amendments were well intentioned, it soon became evident that many states found ways to avoid compliance in order to maintain the second-class status of African-American citizens who resided in their midst. While further civil rights rulings were approved over the years, the most important rulings that affected schooling took place starting in the 1950s and extended though the early 1970s. The purpose of this report is to discuss the impact of these rulings on the black children who resided in the Jordan Park District of St. Petersburg, Florida.
The first part of the report will focus on the 1931 city zoning regulations that restricted, for over a quarter of a century, the neighborhoods where black families were permitted to reside. The second part will deal with the nature of the Jordan Park District and, through a series of interviews that I was given permission to conduct in 2013, what it was like growing up and attending school there immediately prior to the civil rights era. Next, starting with the 1954 Supreme Court ruling, I will discuss the evolution of this as well as other rulings that eventually led to cross-busing, and how cross-busing affected the schooling of the black children from this area. I will also consider the impact that these rulings had on the Pinellas County School Board since I also received permission to review the Board’s minutes as it attempted to comply with the need to desegregate the St. Petersburg school system. The final part of the report (the Postscript) will examine in some detail the nature of the 1954 ruling and whether cross-busing was necessary, or if the racial unrest and harm that it caused could have been avoided through the operation of several other Civil Rights rulings that were approved by Congress in 1964 and 1965, had these other rulings been given sufficient time to run their course.