The Effects of Brown vs. The Board of Education in Montgomery County
Integration actually began in the summer of 1955, when a few black students enrolled in summer school at B-CC High School. The process began in earnest that September, with the closing of the four down-county substandard black elementary schools – Linden, Ken Gar, Takoma Park, and River Road – which had not yet been consolidated into a modern school. Students and teachers were sent to the closest all-white schools that had room to accept them (six of the ten black teachers went to white schools, while the other four were transferred to black consolidated schools up-county). In addition, secondary students living in the Wheaton, Blair and B-CC High School districts were allowed to transfer to their nearest white school, if they chose. One hundred and sixty junior and high school students availed themselves of this opportunity. Adult and special education classes were officially desegregated in October of 1955.
The next year, more schools were added to the list of open schools, again depending on the capacity of the existing building. The school system issued numerous reports on the present and projected enrollments, and improvements and additions were planned for those schools that were over capacity. Originally the intent was to turn the consolidated black schools into integrated schools, although only one black school was ever used as such.
Black students were offered the opportunity to transfer to their nearest school upon recommendations to the Superintendent, based on their grades and their perceived ability to handle an integrated situation. The final decision was left to the parents. A stumbling block was the capacity issue at the white schools; parents were often unwilling to split up siblings based on whether or not there was room for each child at the new school. Edith Throckmorton, principal at Longview, was able to convince the principals at the white schools in her district that making room for a black student was no different than making room for a white student who had moved here from another county.
It wasn’t until 1961 that the Montgomery County Public School System was declared fully integrated. Even then – as the School Board admitted – there were still a number of all-white schools, and some schools considered “integrated” only by the black faculty assigned to them. Although schools were now desegregated, housing and most other public services were not. School districts remained segregated for several years, and even after Maryland’s Fair Housing law was passed in 1971, neighborhood integration is a problem that our schools face today.
Headlines dating from the post-Supreme Court decision, pre-integration time period show the division within the county. School Board files contain petitions, dating from March, 1955 and signed by almost 300 up-county residents, opposing any action taken on integration “at this time.” Another petition, cited by the Sentinel, called for gradual rather than immediate integration; 3,000 people, mostly up-county, signed it.