A New Desegregation Plan

n the early 1960s, a combination of events on both the local and national level forced Prince George's County to reevaluate its freedom of choice desegregation plan and draw up a new one. On the local level, many black parents started pressuring the school board to change the freedom of choice plan to one that was more fair to black children. For example, in response to a proposed transfer of black students from Lakeland Junior High School to Mary Bethune Junior High in 1961, 500 black parents signed a letter asking why black students had to specifically ask to be transferred to a predominately white school if it were closer to their home when white students did not have to do so. The county board of education was also pressured by the Maryland state board of education, by the Prince George's Citizens Education Committee, and by the county chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) to change its plan.[17]

In addition to local pressures, events on the national scene started to turn Prince George's County away from the freedom of choice plan. Perhaps the strongest force on the national scene was that of the Supreme Court. The Court had initiated school desegregation with its Brown decision in 1954 and it continued to guide school districts on the way towards integration. With each decision, the Supreme Court decided the way school desegregation in the country would go, and by the 1960s it was clearly moving away from freedom of choice plans. As one scholar wrote:

By the mid-1960s the Supreme Court rejected the use of freedom of choice plans, arguing that these plans were a subterfuge for keeping the races separated. . . .Between 1965 and 1971 the Supreme Court made clear that schools must desegregate and desegregate immediately.[18]
Legislative action was also an important force in leading school systems towards integration. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 gave the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare (HEW) the power...