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Never Silent: Examining Chicana/o Community Experiences and Perspectives of School Desegregation Efforts in Crawford v. Los Angeles Board of Education, 1963-1982


The Crawford v. Los Angeles Board of Education (1963-1982) school desegregation lawsuit is a frequently overlooked part of Los Angeles history. Despite a historically large Chicana/o community presence in L.A., traditionally Crawford has been framed as a Black-White issue. This dissertation study of Crawford seeks to expand the traditional discourse of the lawsuit by better understanding Chicana/o community viewpoints and experiences related to desegregation efforts, as well as placing a special emphasis on the remedy phase of the case (1976-1981). During Crawford’s nineteen year duration, the contentious development and failed implementation of desegregation plans in LAUSD were affected by the outcomes of increasingly politicized school board and judicial elections, recall campaigns of elected officials, a successful statewide ballot initiative to alter the California constitution (Prop.1, 1979), and changes in the interpretation of desegregation law by the courts. This review of Crawford also provides important historical insight into strategies and policies that were effective/ineffective in the struggle to desegregate Los Angeles schools. A Critical Race History in Education theoretical framework is used to guide this study and underscores the historical importance of identifying and acknowledging intersections between race, gender, class and other forms of oppression (e.g. language, phenotype, immigration status, sexual orientation). Additionally, the closely related concepts of racial realism, interest convergence, and legal indeterminacy were utilized to help us better understand and interpret a history of Crawford. Primary source data for this study were found through archival research conducted in special collections from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), and Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF). Additionally, two oral interviews have been conducted with educational experts who were involved in Crawford litigation. As a result of these two robust forms of data, this research on Crawford is able to document and call attention to the ways in which community members, along with socio-cultural and historical context, shape school district educational policy.

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