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The Courts, the Legislature, and Delaware’s Resegregation: A Report on School Segregation in Delaware, 1989-2010

  • Author(s): Niemeyer, Arielle
  • Ayscue, Jennifer
  • Kuscera, John
  • Orfield, Gary
  • Siegel-Hawley, Genevieve
  • et al.
Abstract

Delaware’s desegregation story is one of the most important in the nation. As the

northernmost of East coast states segregated by law at the time of the Brown decision, Delaware

hardly promised to become a national leader in school desegregation. Yet because it was one of

only two states where the federal courts ordered a district merger and full desegregation of what

had been separate school districts in a large metropolitan area, Wilmington became a test of the

possibility and durability of city-suburban desegregation policies. The scope of these policies

went far beyond individual districts in fragmented metropolitan areas and affected the great

majority of the local housing market. This happened in only one other major metropolitan

area—Louisville-Jefferson County, Kentucky. Because in both cases the dominant metropolitan

area served most of the state’s students of color, the plans produced rapid, sweeping and longlasting

declines in school segregation. Kentucky and Delaware became the most desegregated

states in the nation for black students, with very few schools segregated by race and color--a

record that lasted for decades. That both states had a long history of mandatory segregation

under state law made this record all the more extraordinary.

Delaware’s desegregation story is one of the most important in the nation. As the northernmost of East coast states segregated by law at the time of the Brown decision, Delaware hardly promised to become a national leader in school desegregation. Yet because it was one of only two states where the federal courts ordered a district merger and full desegregation of what had been separate school districts in a large metropolitan area, Wilmington became a test of the possibility and durability of city-suburban desegregation policies. The scope of these policies went far beyond individual districts in fragmented metropolitan areas and affected the great majority of the local housing market. This happened in only one other major metropolitan area—Louisville-Jefferson County, Kentucky. Because in both cases the dominant metropolitan area served most of the state’s students of color, the plans produced rapid, sweeping and longlasting declines in school segregation. Kentucky and Delaware became the most desegregated states in the nation for black students, with very few schools segregated by race and color--a record that lasted for decades. That both states had a long history of mandatory segregation under state law made this record all the more extraordinary.

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