In the years following Brown v. Board of Education, the small town of Tuscaloosa, Ala., had quickly become a model example of school integration and reaped many of its rewards. But within a single generation, the city has managed to become one of the most rapidly resegregating school districts in the country.
So what went wrong?
ProPublica's Nikole Hannah-Jones details in her latest report how gerrymandering of school attendance zones and, surprisingly, support from a small pocket of black elites has transformed Tuscaloosa’s education system into a remnant of its former glory. Central High School today doesn’t have the same caliber of teachers or curriculum as its integrated sister school, Northridge. Central is also on a state watch list and has been plagued with low graduation rates -- all problems associated with segregated schools, which the Supreme Court thought it had addressed 60 years ago.
Hannah-Jones goes on to note that this is not a problem exclusive to the South. In fact, there’s never been real desegregation outside of the South.
“The fight is to keep the South from looking like the North,” she says. “The South actually did manage to integrate its schools and now it’s starting to go backwards and by going backwards it’s looking like the Midwest and the Northeast."
Ironically, New York City is home to some of the most segregated schools in the country. And Hannah-Jones isn't shy about her plans to take the series into her own backyard: "We definitely want to explore segregation up North and also what's happening with Latino students in the West."
Listen to this podcast on SoundCloud, iTunes or Stitcher. For more on Hannah-Jones’ work, read her full report: Segregation Now: The Resegregation of America's Schools.