We Can Do It: A Community Takes on the Challenge of School Desegregation

We Can Do It: A Community Takes on the Challenge of School Desegregation

by Michael T. Gengler
We Can Do It: A Community Takes on the Challenge of School Desegregation

We Can Do It: A Community Takes on the Challenge of School Desegregation

by Michael T. Gengler


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How black and white school administrators, teachers, parents, and students in a Florida county shifted from segregated schools to a single, unified system.

After Brown v. Board of Education, the South’s separate white and black schools continued under lower court opinions, provided black students could choose to go to white schools. Not until 1968 did the NAACP Legal Defense Fund convince the Supreme Court to end dual school systems. Almost fifty years later, African Americans in Alachua County, Florida, remain divided over that outcome.

A unique study including extensive interviews, We Can Do It asks important questions, among them: How did both races, without precedent, work together to create desegregated schools? What conflicts arose, and how were they resolved (or not)? How was the community affected? And at a time when resegregation and persistent white-black achievement gaps continue to challenge public schools, what lessons can we learn from the generation that desegregated our schools?

“A Gainesville, Florida, native focuses on his hometown and Alachua County to examine that state’s challenging task to end segregation. . . . A thick, thorough history as only an attorney could present.” —Kirkus Reviews

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781948122177
Publisher: RosettaBooks
Publication date: 10/01/2020
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: eBook
Pages: 574
Sales rank: 876,244
File size: 5 MB

About the Author

Michael T. Gengler graduated from Gainesville High School in Florida in 1962. He received his AB degree from Columbia College (New York) in 1966, magna cum laude, and was elected to Phi Beta Kappa. He was a member of the managing board of the Columbia Daily Spectator. In 1969, he received his JD degree from Harvard Law School. Until 1974, he served as an assistant staff judge advocate in the USAF. For most of his career, he was a corporate lawyer in Boston and Chicago. He also worked for a few years as a full-time volunteer lawyer for Legal Action of Wisconsin, Madison, representing clients who could not afford counsel. He lives in Gainesville and is a vocal advocate for public school education.

Table of Contents

Map of Alachua County, Florida with School Sites, 1965-1973 vii

Map of Gainesville, Florida with School Sites, 1965-1973 viii

Preface ix

Tiny Talbot, John Dukes 1

Prologue: Gainesville in the Sixties 19

Florida's Segregated Past 36

Why Were Public Schools Desegregated? 47

Alachua County's First Steps to School Desegregation 63

Desegregation Under Freedom of Choice 75

The Judges' Turn I: Beginning of the End of Freedom of Choice 89

Toward a Unitary System: School Board Responds to Financial and Accreditation Pressures 101

Lincoln High School: We Wanted Them to Make it Equal 121

The Judges' Turn II: The Supreme Court Orders Alachua County to End its Dual School System in February 1970 145

Last Roundup for The Fighting Red Terriers 165

The Fruitbasket Solution 191

Into the Fire 213

Searching for Answers 237

The Judges' Turn III: Lincoln High School's Day in Court 253

Reaction, Rebuilding 268

Racial Balancing: The Ideal Meets Reality 295

New Leaders, New Challenges 308

The Teachers 330

The Students 367

Afterword 399

Acknowledgments 422

Appendix 424

Notes 439

Bibliography 519

Index 538

About the author 558

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