Boston Against Busing: Race, Class, and Ethnicity in the 1960s and 1970s / Edition 1

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Perhaps the most spectacular reaction to court-ordered busing in the 1970s occurred in Boston, where there was intense and protracted protest. Ron Formisano explores the sources of white opposition to school desegregation. Racism was a key factor, Formisano argues, but racial prejudice alone cannot explain the movement. Class resentment, ethnic rivalries, and the defense of neighborhood turf all played powerful roles in the protest.

In a new epilogue, Formisano brings the story up to the present day, describing the end of desegregation orders in Boston and other cities. He also examines the nationwide trend toward the resegregation of schools, which he explains is the result of Supreme Court decisions, attacks on affirmative action, white flight, and other factors. He closes with a brief look at the few school districts that have attempted to base school assignment policies on class or economic status.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Formisano's analysis of race relations in Boston is extended into the present day in this revised edition. Formisano explores the sources of working and middle-class white opposition to school desegregation, which contained elements of racism, class resentment, ethnic rivalries, and the defense of neighborhood turf.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
This work offers a convincing and dispassionate assessment of an emotionally charged subject: court-ordered school desegregation in Boston and, most particularly, the white backlash associated with it. Calling the conflict a ``war that nobody won,'' Formisano ( The Transformation of Political Culture: Massachusetts Parties, 1780s-1840s ) examines the social and economic roots of what he terms ``reactionary populism,'' concluding that more than simple racism underlay it. Class was an important issue, as evidenced by the frustration of city residents dictated to by legislators and members of the media whose own children attended schools in the ``lily white suburbs,'' beyond the reach of the controversial desegregation plan. He describes the variety of white responses to the court order, for example, South Boston's collective hard-core resistance in marches and clashes with police and West Roxbury's more individualist (white flight) and legalist approach. Here, too, are the public characters, such as Boston School Councillor Louise Hicks, and the street theater of protest, such as a mothers' prayer march led by Hicks counting her rosary beads. (Mar.)
Library Journal
Sailing in the wake of Common Ground , J. Anthony Lukas's prize-winning study of Boston's busing crisis ( LJ 8/85), Formisano focuses upon the white antibusers who, he believes, were more diverse in motivation and tactics than the rock-throwing mobs on television. Using interviews, press accounts, and the enormous secondary literature, he argues, as have Lukas and others, that race and class were knotted together in this ``war nobody won.'' Formisano writes with empathy for the antibusers yet doesn't dismiss their racism; he finds little to praise between both sides' principals and concludes that school desegregation must confront ``suburban residential apartheid.'' Lukas's journalistic tour de force is still the book to read on busing in Boston, but this, the most accessible scholarly work, may be the book to study. It is recommended for most academic and many public libraries.-- Robert F. Nardini, North Chichester, N.H.
Formisano (history, U. of Florida) contends that racism alone cannot account for white reaction against the desegregation of Boston Schools, and identifies a social movement that combined conservative and populist elements. He analyzes the tactics used, and explains why Boston schools are now more segregated by race and clan than ever. Paper edition (unseen), $12.95. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780807855263
  • Publisher: The University of North Carolina Press
  • Publication date: 2/28/2004
  • Edition description: 1
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 376
  • Sales rank: 1,021,283
  • Product dimensions: 5.80 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Ronald P. Formisano is William T. Bryan Chair of American History at the University of Kentucky and author of The Transformation of Political Culture: Massachusetts Parties, 1780s-1840s

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