Charlotte’s Fight to Desegregate Our Schools, From Dorothy Counts to Swann v. CMS: 1957-1971

Roshan Varghese, History, Butler High School

Final Unit (PDF)     Implementing Common Core Standards (PDF)

200 Word Synopsis

For this curriculum unit, we will examine the progression of desegregation within Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools from 1957-1971. Why between those two particular dates? In the wake of the landmark decision of Brown v. Board of Education-Topeka, Kansas (1954), and its subsequent overturning of Plessy v. Ferguson (1896), schools throughout the country were expected to desegregate (and eventually integrate), allowing students of African-American descent to attend classes with their white counterparts and vice-versa. However, for nearly three years, that decision’s effects were not visible throughout the Jim Crow-dominated South. Then, the events of 1957 began to directly challenge the status quo. First in Little Rock, Arkansas, nine African-American students (appropriately named the “Little Rock Nine”), through the assistance of President Dwight D. Eisenhower and the 101st Airborne, were able to desegregate the all-white Central High School. In the wake of those few days, it finally seemed that the crippling walls of segregation were beginning to crumble. However, that type of enthusiasm was very short-lived, yet still actively pursued. For also in that year of 1957, the city of Charlotte saw its first African-American students (four in total) attempt to desegregate its district. Among those students were Dorothy Counts (now Counts-Scoggins) at all-white Harding High School.