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

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

by Ronald P. Formisano
 

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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

Overview

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.

Editorial Reviews

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.
Booknews
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 (booknews.com)
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.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780807869703
Publisher:
The University of North Carolina Press
Publication date:
01/01/2012
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
376
File size:
3 MB

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher
This book should put to rest the myth that northern resistance to desegregation was less overt and virulent than that in the South. . . . [Formisano's] analysis of what went wrong in Boston is depressing but compelling and should be required reading for anyone concerned with racial equality.—Journal of American Ethnic History

[An] exhaustively researched study of Boston school desegregation.—Boston Globe

A sensitive, compelling account of the failure of forced busing in Boston.—Political Science Quarterly

Formisano addresses the roots of . . . violent expressions of discrimination with sensitivity and objectivity. While the author's remarks are confined to the Boston situation, where the struggle for integration provoked the largest, longest, and most organized protests in a northern city, by implication his observations have a much wider impact, demonstrating how a populist movement established a battlefield over a whole bag of social and economic questions.—Booklist

This work offers a convincing and dispassionate assessment of an emotionally charged subject.—Publishers Weekly

A nuanced treatment that is distinguished by its examination of context and telling detail.—American Historical Review

Formisano has successfully taken on the unthinkable. With a scholar's rigor and a writer's passion, he has pierced the cocoon of myth surrounding matters of race and class. He has painted in, between the stark black and white, the crucial subtle shades of gray that color all social and political turmoil.—Alan Lupo, columnist for the Boston Globe

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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