Dr. Charles Willie
41 Hillcrest Road

Age 62

Interviewed March 23, 1989

Concord Oral History Program
Renee Garrelick, Interviewer.

Dr. Charles WillieSegregated Dallas childhood
Father as Pullman Porter
Mother's influence on education

Spirituals and religion

At Morehouse College, Ga., fellow student with Martin Luther King

Influence of Martin Luther King and Montgomery bus boycott
Comment on national black leadership

Stand against discrimination of women clergy in Episcopal Church

As consultant for school desegregation in
Boston Public Schools
Court appointed master under Judge Arthur Garrity
Appointment by Mayor Raymond Flynn, program of controlled choice

1978 METCO racial disturbance at Concord-Carlisle Regional High School resulting in formation of Concord-Carlisle Human Rights Council

I grew up in Dallas, Texas, before 1954, which was the year in which the Supreme Court gave the Brown opinion which outlawed segregation in most institutions in our society despite the fact that it continued for many years past that ruling. So I experienced segregation as a youngster in Dallas. I am an urban sociologist and like to understand the cities, and I have studied most of the cities in which I have lived including Boston and Syracuse, but I didn't know very much about Dallas because my movement in Dallas was in segregated corridors. There were black neighborhoods and white neighborhoods, and blacks seldom entered white neighborhoods. There were common shopping centers in downtown Dallas, but even in those days department stores had separate toilets for blacks and whites and separate drinking fountains for blacks and whites, and the opportunity to try on clothing especially for black women was not a possibility in the

I grew up then in the black community in a sector of Oakcliff, which was the western part of Dallas which had some paved streets, but also many dirt roads that were unpaved in an all-black community, and I went to segregated schools. The elementary school was about a block and a half from where I lived, but the high school was in the south part of Dallas, and we had to use buses to go from the western sector of Dallas in Oakcliff to the south part of Dallas. Incidentally, in those days, although we had to bypass high schools that were located in Oakcliff in the western sector, we nevertheless had to pay our own bus fare to go to south Dallas to go to high school. I went to Lincoln High School in south Dallas and graduated from there in 1944. I also grew up during the period when blacks had to sit at the back of the bus and at the back of the streetcar. It was always humiliating to me to pay one's fare and then have to push through a crowded streetcar all the way to the back of it, but these were the experiences that one grew up with. I was born in 1927, and of course the great depression came in the 1930's, so my childhood was during the period of the great depression.

My father worked for the Pullman Company for 42 years until he retired. He was from the rural area of Texas. He grew up on the farm in Panola County in a little community called Deberry in a relatively large family, and his parents were without much education at all, although his mother was a person of some interest and foresight, and she died relatively young in life around age 40, 45. My father recalls that before her death she asked him if he and one or two of his other brothers would be responsible for the education of their sister, who was the youngest child in the family. My father took that request from his mother and his response to it very seriously and left the family home in the rural area of Texas to go to Ft. Worth, Texas, one of the cities in Texas, to earn a living, and he got a job with the Pullman Company and later was transferred to Dallas. The Pullman Company was a relatively decent job. It was a service job. The income from it wasn't that much, but there were tips which porters received for shining the shoes of their passengers and making them quite comfortable, and the job with Pullman Company was a relatively secure one because Philip A. Randolph organized the Pullman porters. It was one of the first labor unions consisting only of black individuals, and while that union did not enable my father and his associates to receive more income, it did give them job security so that they could not be fired in an arbitrary and capricious way simply because a passenger may not like the way that the porter looked. I make that point because I am sure that I would not be here today as a professor at Harvard University and with the Doctorate degree in sociology from Syracuse University if my father had not been able to maintain continuous employment. We bought three homes at least, traded in one and moved up to a larger one as the family increased, and we would not have been able to do that had he not had continuous employment. I remember going to the mortgage company that financed our home during the great depression and paying as much as $10 a month on the mortgage. This was not a large amount, and of course mortgages in those days were not great, but the fact that the payment was regular, continuous meant that the mortgage company never foreclosed. So we never had the problems of starts and stops that some families had even though we were relatively without much income. I always say in our household there was bread enough but not much to spare.

Now my mother was a college graduate. She also grew up in Marshall, Texas, which was in the eastern part of Texas like Deberry. Marshall was a little larger community, and it was the trading center where people from the rural areas like Deberry came to purchase goods and to sell the products from the farm, and my father met my mother in Marshall when he was attending a Sunday School convention. They both were officers of that convention and sat together and got to know each other, and over the years they became engaged and married. My mother's father was a blacksmith. He was born in slavery as was my grandfather on my father's side, so I have grandparents who were born before slavery ended in the United States, and the trade that my mother's father learned was that of a blacksmith, which he continued after slavery, and that was the means whereby he supported their family. In Marshall, Texas, there is a small college named Wiley College, and in those days blacksmiths were used to help erect buildings. They didn't have steel beams running through multi-story buildings, but they did use anchor irons that help support the structure of the building, which was fashioned by blacksmiths, and my grandfather helped erect a building on the campus of Wiley College in Marshall, Texas, which was a black school, but the school was unable to pay him all that was due him, and he therefore requested the residual to be placed in a tuition account for his daughter. My mother was the youngest in that family. Her family name was Sykes, and she was the youngest of the Sykes' daughters, and as a result of the school being unable to pay my grandfather all that was due him, she went to school. This was very interesting because my grandfather could figure, as they said in those days, but he could not read, so that payment of my grandfather by reserving funds in a tuition account, in other words the payment in kind, enabled my mother to go to college, and she graduated from Wiley in 1921 when I think she was close to about 29 years of age, and she and my father married and moved to Ft. Worth to set up housekeeping.

I mention that because a woman who was born before the turn of the century as my mother was, and incidentally this is 1989 and she is still alive and is 98 years of age, one born before the turn of the century seldom had a college education, but she did. She did not work outside of the home, although life was certainly severe inside caring for five offsprings with little income, so I never say that she didn't work, but she didn't work outside of the home. She took care of us during the days when there were nothing such as washing machines, vacuum cleaners and central heating. I mention this because the only job that she could get, and we did need the funds, would have been at teaching school, but during the great depression in most city school systems women could not be hired if their husbands had a job, and my father was a Pullman porter; therefore, the Dallas school system would not hire my mother as a school teacher. This means that during the age of segregation and discrimmination the only job available to her as a black woman would have been that of a maid in a private household of a white family, and my parents did not think that was appropriate for my mother to be a maid in the private household of a white family.

Therefore, my mother said that she and her husband decided that she would stay at home and have a school at home for her husband and for her children. I advisedly state for her husband because my father only finished the eighth grade; and she did. We did not recognize the significance of that decision, but all of us as we went to elementary school knew our alphabets and rudimentary ways of calculating. She was a person of great wisdom, had a sense of art and music, although she couldn't play any of those instruments, but had an appreciation of language and poetry. She was our tutor, and she was a tutor for her husband, and I think the accomplishments of her offspring are indicators of the great job that she did. She made sure that there was healthcare. Of course we didn't have funds to obtain it, but if there were free health clinics anyplace in the community she found those.

They stayed in close contact with the schools. They had good relationships in the community. My father was a respected member of the community because he had regular work and also because he was an officer of the church, and she was a member of the church and we all grew up in the church. So we all had institutional supports in the community that came our way, first because there was regular employment for my father and also because my mother put to great use within the family the education that she had nurtured all of us. As a result, my family of orientation as the sociologist would say, that is the family into which I was born, consisted of five children, and all five of those children graduated from college, all five obtained some graduate education, four with masters degrees, and two with doctorate degrees. This was unusual because, as I said, it was a working-class family and there were not many resources, and as a result I think that accomplishment came about because of the unique qualities and contributions which my mother made that was in 1973. I always identify that year as being three years before "Roots," by Alex Haley, was published that I took tape recorder in hand and went to Dallas from Syracuse, New York, where I was working as a professor and administrator at that university to interview my parents. Both my father and my mother were still alive in 1973 to find out how they did it, and from that interview I discovered that my mother had had a tremendous impact upon our family, although the community probably had given more credit to my father than to my mother because he was a very stable worker and took care of his family. He made great sacrifices for them, but I understood that it was my mother who probably was the mainstay and that really was the person who we had to give a great deal of credit to for the achievement of the offspring and for the achievement of my father and her husband.

I grew up as a youngster singing in my church choir, and spirituals were staples of the repertoire of that group, and then in high school I learned to play a trumpet, but I also sang in the high school choir. It was called the Harry T. Burleigh Choir. Harry T. Burleigh was a famous black composer, and then when I went to college, Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia, which incidentally is the same college from which Martin Luther King, Jr. graduated, we by accident were classmates from 1944 to '48. At Morehouse College I played in the football band and also sang in the glee club which toured the country from time to time. During the war years we didn't do much touring, so I went as far as St. Louis from Atlanta, Georgia, but all of this musical background was a very interesting experience for me. Indeed, during high school I played in football band and in jazz orchestras and for two years that was the way I earned my spending money in high school playing in a jazz band on Saturday night at a dance hall. My high school teacher was in charge of the dance band, so my parents let me play in it because they knew that he wouldn't permit us to indulge in alcoholic beverages and that he would look out for us, and that was the kind of relationship, an extended family relationship all the way from home, school, and in the community. Well, I grew up then surrounded by music, playing it as well as singing it and therefore the spirituals became an important part of my knowledge base, and I have analyzed them over the years. One day I am going to write an essay on spirituals and the sociology of knowledge because I think the spirituals have enabled people to endure, to cope, and to transcend, and this has been one of the beautiful aspects about one's history as a racial minority. It is not a history and it is not a background that one is ashamed of, and it is not a history or a background that is full of pain. Yes, there was suffering, but then there were tools for coping with the suffering, and the spirituals that I grew up singing were not only entertainment, they were in my judgment indications of what one ought to do to cope with the hardships that one faced. The spirituals have a theme running through them of humility. One is never raised to be puffed up. The spirituals have running through them a theme of transcendence. The spirituals have running through them a theme of justice, so I commend them to the American public as being basic folk songs from this society that more people ought to know about and really ought to sing and participate in than just black people. I think the spirituals belong to this entire nation, and unfortunately the nation has not recognized them and has not really studied and pondered them enough to really let their secret and wisdom be revealed.

The spiritual about, "Go down Moses way down in Egypt land, tell old Pharaoh to let my people go," that is a song of hope. "When Israel was in Egypt land, let my people go. oppressed so hard they could not stand, let my people go. Go down Moses, way down in Egypt's land. Tell old Pharaoh to let my people go." It is an interesting spiritual. Despite the fact of slavery, despite the fact of oppression, there is the hope that some way, some day people are going to be released from it. Then there are other kinds of spirituals, such as one I like because I think it indicates kind of the humility that is part of the black experience, "Keep a inching along, inching along. Jesus is coming by and by. Keep a inching along like a poor inchworm. Jesus is coming by and by." Now to call oneself a poor inchworm is a very important concept, but despite the fact that one may be a poor inchworm, one is also admonished to keep a inching along. Well, spirituals are like those and others "In that great getting up morning, fare thee well, fare thee well, in that great getting up morning, fare thee well." That's telling one that something is going to happen that's important someday despite what's happening today that is not so important. Or if I had time I could quote to you spiritual after spiritual I have sung over the years, and as I say one day I am going to do an essay on the spiritual and the sociology of knowledge because I think that it is very important for American culture to be aware of this if it's anchored in this kind of a music form.

I include that in some of my speeches: "It's me, it's me, it's me oh Lord, standing in the need of prayer. It's me, it's me, it's me oh Lord, standing in the need of prayer. Not my brother, not my sister, but it's me oh Lord, standing in the need of prayer. Not my brother, not my sister, but it's me oh Lord, standing in the need of prayer." This is a very important song. It doesn't try to attribute one's problems to others. It attributes to oneself, "I am standing in the need of prayer," but also when one is prayed for, one is prayed for by others, and so it connotes an understanding of the community as the support system, and the community both prays for one for one's deliverance and the individual admits that one is in need of deliverance. It is not the self-centeredness. It is not the self-reliant orientation that I think has been probably one of the great impediments in our society. Certainly self-reliance and self-sufficiency give rise to a feeling of arrogance and a feeling of pride, and of course we know that pride is the great sin that makes it difficult for people to rely upon others and to receive their help. So these and other kinds of themes I think have been very important in my own lifestyle despite the number of different experiences I have had in different sectors of the country and in different institutions. I always remember these ideas and themes that came from my childhood.

I was baptized in a church called Elizabeth Chapel CME Church. CME are initials for colored, Methodist, Episcopal church, so the church in which I was baptized was Elizabeth Chapel Colored Methodist Episcopal Church. Later they changed the name to Christian Methodist Episcopal Church, but there are several branches of Methodist Church there. There is the AME Church, the African Methodist Episcopal Church, and there is the AME Zion Church, which is the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, and then there is the CME Church, the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church, which as I say when I was growing up was called the Colored Methodist Episcopal Church. Of course there are Baptist churches, Pentecostal churches, and many other branches of Christian churches found in black communities, but that is the one that I grew up in, and I think it had a very important impact upon me. You know morality and ethics and justice are very important components of the lives of blacks. Joseph Fletcher, a social ethicist, who used to be a faculty member of the Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, once said that the boss principle in life is love, and justice is love in action, and I would say that justice has been an important component of the life of blacks and the capacity to seek justice and to insist on it is an ethical principle that is anchored in their church life, and I certainly think this was true of Martin Luther King, Jr., who grew up in a black Baptist church, and it certainly has been an important part of my experience growing up in the Methodist church. After leaving Dallas and journeying to Atlanta to go to Morehouse College and then to Atlanta University, from which I received a master's degree, I then came on to Syracuse, New York, to study for my doctorate degree and I stayed there 25 years as a faculty member and as a vice-president of Syracuse University after I received my degree, but despite these experiences that whole concept of seeking justice that comes out of one's roots in the black church has been a very important part of my career, and I am very thankful of that history.

We had marvelous teachers at Morehouse College, and we had chapel each morning for about thirty minutes, and both our faculty members, the president of the college, and visitors to Atlanta always addressed us in chapel, and one of the important themes of most of the addresses were that you may live in a segregated society but never have a segregated mind. We were free, and many people did not realize how free we were in our own minds, but not only that we could be free because we had had a range of associations, and most people don't realize that black colleges which had black student bodies also had a substantial proportion of whites on their faculties. At the time I attended Morehouse, I am sure that one-fourth to one-third of the faculty was white, which meant that I had a multi-racial and multi-cultural experience, actually experience that most of the whites who attended school at that time did not have. On white college campuses there were no blacks to be found either in the student body or in the faculty. So this broad base of multi-culture, multi-racial experience was one factor that undergirded my understanding of my sense of myself as someone significant, but the teachings of our teachers and our administrators again helped us to understand our sense of significance. Benjamin Elijah Mays was one of the nation's great educators, and he was president of Morehouse during the time that I was there, and he lectured in chapel each Tuesday morning. He had a tremendous impact upon the student body, and I guess we have to attribute to him as much as to anyone else the belief that we had in ourselves as someone who could do a good job, who could transcend, and who never permitted ourselves to be completely defined by others. We always believed that we had to affirm ourselves while others also confirmed us, but we knew that the South was a function of affirmation and confirmation, and we believed in ourselves, and we believed that we could transcend, and we believed that we could do just about everything we wanted to. Consequently, when I got to Syracuse University, although there was some residual discrimination there, it did not phase me because I had a sense of myself, and the sense of myself had come out of my black college experience. Morehouse College in that respect was a very wonderful experience for me, and I am very pleased that I chose to go to it for my undergraduate education.

Eugene Talmadge in particular had a very negative opinion about blacks. As you know, all citizens of the nation have the privilege of voting in federal elections, but the Democratic and Republican parties were in the 1940's thought of as private clubs as it were, and they retained the right to permit whomever they wished to vote in the elections of their clubs. Now, of course, the candidates who ran at the national level for federal offices came out of these primaries, but in the 1940's blacks and other minorities were not privileged to vote in the primaries where the candidates were selected. I went to the Georgia state house when that proposal to abolish the white primaries was being debated, and the most interesting thing I remember is that I was put out of the gallery. I couldn't even listen to the debate, and that indicated to me how unfair was segregation and discrimination, but what made us all feel good is they had to put us out. There was a certain amount of chutspah, a certain amount of courage that enabled us to place ourselves at risk to see to it that justice was done. Nevertheless, we also did some other things on our own that were not so courageous. Theaters did not permit blacks to sit on the main floor. If there were three balconies, blacks would be housed in the third balcony for performances and even movies. And I recall our president ridiculing us for taking a backdoor step to go up to the roof, we used to call it the buzzard roost of local theaters just to see first-run films, and while most of my colleagues and I would do it, we always felt guilty when we did it because we knew we would hear a speech probably Tuesday when the president addressed the student body ridiculing people who would do that. And so we had these contending forces, the force on the one hand to simply accept segregation and some of the meager enjoyments that one could eke out of it personally, such as sitting up in the buzzard's roost to see a first-run movie and at the same time we had a contending force of an administrator at one's college telling one that's wrong. That kind of conflict set up in us is very helpful, I think, because it never enabled us to accept oppression without having to think about why were we accepting it and also without thinking it was our responsibility to overcome it.

Many people have made funny statements about race relations in the north and race relations in the south, and my attempt to try to understand the different conclusions about race relations in these two sectors of the country led me to engage in some asserts that finally resulted in my principle about the critical mass. It sometimes has been said jokingly that in the south whites do not care how close you get to them so far as you don't get too big, and in the north whites don't care how big you get, that is in terms of reputation, esteem, and prestige, so long as you don't get too close. These seem to be funny ways to describe race relations, but I sort of felt that they really confuse the whole issue. I found that neither of those ideas really made any sense, and I was trying to in my own mind as a sociologist account for the fact that the civil rights movement started in the south but it has continued in the north, and it seemed to me based upon my research that the civil rights movement started in the south because there was a critical mass. You know in the United States blacks used to be about one-fifth of the population back in 1820 and this was during the age of slavery. Now it's about one-tenth or one-twelfth. But even though it was twenty percent of the population in the 1820's, nothing happened. Blacks were enslaved. One reason why nothing happened was because most blacks were slaves. There were few blacks in those days but not many, and of course, there were laws against educating blacks. There was no differentiation in the black population. So it seemed to me that in order to have real movement for liberation one had to have first a critical mass, a population large enough to have an impact upon the society at large, but then that population had to be sufficiently differentiated so that some people were available who could plan for the liberation movement, and that is precisely what happened in Montgomery during the bus boycott that started in 1955 which Martin Luther King, Jr., led. The bus boycott was designed to overcome segregated seating in the Montgomery buses, and Montgomery had a large black population at least the population substantially larger than one-fifth of that city, but it also had a differentiated population. It had people who were college graduates, such as Martin Luther King., Jr., who had a doctorate, it had lawyers such as Attorney Gray and others. These were people who had sufficient knowledge and sufficient time to plan for overcoming discrimination, and it had people of courage, such as the maids and the other workmen who were willing to boycott the buses and walk to work. The critical mass had an impact upon the income of the bus company when there was a boycott, but the bus company would have won eventually because that boycott could not have lasted more than a year. People were getting tired. They had to have some way of going to work. Just as they were about to grow weary and the bus company about to win, the Supreme Court ruled the segregated seating on public buses, common carriers, was unconstitutional. That told me that that bus boycott in Montgomery, Alabama, was won on one hand because there were people, plain people, who were willing to both risk the loss of job and experience inconvenience to walk to work, or to hitchhike to work, or to get to work whatever way they could without using the public transportation that discriminated against them, but it also was won because there were people who knew how to go into the courts, file a suit, and nurture that suit all the way to the Supreme Court, and therefore get segregated seating illegal. It took those two kinds of experiences.

Now in the northern sector of the United States there was always differentiation of the population and a substantial number of people who were middle class and who did have professional roles and who could do the kinds of things that Dr. King and Attorney Gray did in the south, but their numbers were always so small that, even though they had the know-how of what to do, they could not have an impact upon the community. So what one had in years gone by is a differentiated population in the north of blacks that was too small, and you had a large population in the south that was undifferentiated, and the civil rights movement and the haste that it made came about once one had both a critical mass large enough, what I sometimes call sub-dominate population, but also differentiated into different class levels so that there were people who could perform different functions. Once you had both the critical mass and the differentiation, then the movement took off, and that was very important.

As boys together there was no indication that Martin Luther King, Jr., would rise to the heights that he did. He was a good student, a serious student. We were taught at Morehouse College never to accept authority because it was authority. We not only listened to our college president, but we debated him. As a matter of fact Benjamin May said that sometimes Martin Luther King, Jr., would follow him from chapel all the way back to his office in the administration building debating a point with him. And we did this with our teachers too. Our teachers were always alert because if they made a mistake, we would debate them as students. This was part of the teaching that we learned, never to accept authority because it is authority. Well, Martin Luther King, Jr., at Morehouse was a very fine student, but he lived at home. We called the students who lived at home city students as opposed to campus students, and because he lived at home while attending school he therefore was not able to become an important part of campus politics, which was also part of our education, part of our extra-curricular education. So, while he was a good student and was serious and was concerned about issues, he also was a student who enjoyed a good party, and he dressed in a flashy way like the rest of us in those days. We had wide brimmed hats called big-apple hats, and our pants were tapered down, so that when they reached the ankle they were sort of, we called them peg-top pants. He wore those garish costumes the way the rest of us did. That's what teenagers do. But as he moved on through life with the support of a warm family and continued his education he began to see a mission in life, and the mission took him back to the south after he left Boston University where he received his doctorate degree in religion and philosophy, back to Montgomery. Being one of the newest persons in town he simply had no enemies. He hadn't had opportunity to have fights and fusses with the other members in the black community, and when the bus boycott was declared, the persons declared that he be leader because he had no excess baggage. He had no enemies. I usually describe his ascendancy as being a person in a unique place at a unique time who said yes. It was always wonderful for those of us who were his classmates though because we were at Morehouse during the time when World War II was in progress. The only reason we were there is we were pre- draft age, I was 16 and he was 15 when we came to school as freshmen, and the school only had about 300 or 400 students, so we all got to know each other very well. Morehouse being a men's school would have closed if they hadn't recruited youngsters like us who were pre-draft age. And because the student body was so small we got to know each other very well, and one of the enjoyable experiences as Martin Luther King, Jr., ascended to heights of being in effect a number one citizen in this nation. He always made it possible for those who knew him before he was famous to have access to him, and that was one of the kind of special things that I recall of him having gone to school with him, he always really let us have access to him even though his time was very limited and he was called to assume a number of responsibilities as his fame increased.

On the wall in my study there is a photograph of him with me at Syracuse University. I met him several times at the Episcopal Church's general convention where he spoke, and I have several letters in my file that came from him, and of course one of our children carries the name Martin which is in honor of Martin King and Martin Buber. I recall going to Atlanta to lecture at Morehouse College when Martin our middle child was born, and Daddy King and Mrs. King were still alive, Martin's parents, were at the banquet where I lectured, and we took them in to see Martin the namesake. So we kept in contact over the years, and it was one of those unique experiences that isn't repeated often, but I am very thankful that it came my way.

I think that Jesse Jackson's accomplishments during the presidential campaign is a direct outcome of the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr. One must remember that Andrew Young, who has served as the mayor of Atlanta, Georgia, was a Martin Luther King., Jr., lieutenant. There are others spread around the country, Wyatt T. Walker, an outstanding clergy person in New York City, numerous individuals who worked with Martin Luther King, Jr., and then Jesse Jackson. I think the accomplishment of these individuals is an indication of his extraordinary capacities and leadership and his support. Many of the black leaders have been recognized as outstanding, but few have had proteges or lieutenants who have also achieved outstanding things similar to or even in some instances even surpassing their leader, but Martin Luther King, Jr., nurtured these kinds of individuals, and I think Jesse Jackson's scale as a politician is a direct link to the Martin Luther King era and his close association with him.

Blacks have not occupied high office, and I take that as a clear and present example that racism still exists in the United States. I do not link up with those who suggest that the issue now in the United States is class and that is stratification and that being a member of the underclass is the basis why there is discrimination. No, I see discrimination continuing at all levels in the United States. We have never had more than one person who's been a member of the Supreme Court who was black. We have never had but one senator in the United States who's been black. We have never had a vice president or president who was black or any other racial minority. We have never had a governor who's been black, so I think that there is clear and present evidence that discrimination on the basis of race and I would certainly say on the basis of gender is still available and visited upon any who permit themselves to be discriminated against.

One of the things, of course, I have minded over the years is that people can discriminate against me, but I don't tolerate it. People think that sometimes that is a silly statement, but I don't, I just don't tolerate people who discriminate against me. They can try and they can do it, and they will, but I never accept it, so I have given myself the role of trying to reform the whole society, and of course that is a job that is too big for any one individual to take on. But that's what we were taught at Morehouse, and that's why Martin Luther King, Jr., did a long range toward reform in this society, and I think others who believe as he believed who are continuing that process, that certainly is my goals, and anytime I experience injustice, I accept it as my responsibility to put it down to overcome it. I ran into it as a member of the Episcopal church. I later joined the Episcopal church in the United States. As you recall, my boyhood church was Christian Methodist Episcopal Church, but the Episcopal Church which is a branch of the Anglican communion is the church I finally joined after I finished my graduate work. One reason I joined is because the church in Syracuse University had a very fine choir, and I wanted to do something different from reading, and I joined that choir. Incidentally, the person who became my wife sang in that choir, so that was a wonderful experience joining the Episcopal Church, but as I became a member of the Episcopal church and participated in it, I finally was elected to vice president of the house of deputies at the general convention, and I was twice elected vice president and may have been elected president of the general convention of the house of deputies. The decision-making apparatus of the Episcopal Church is divided between a house of deputies consisting of clergy and lay people and the house of bishops. Those two bodies have to concur for any proposal to become church law, and as one can see I was a high official in the Episcopal Church. At that time there were three million members, which was a significant body to preside over, but the Episcopal Church found itself caught up in the tentacles of sexism. It would not permit women to be priests, and at one time women could not even be delegates to its general convention. I thought that was unjust, and when the women decided to overthrow that ruling that they couldn't be priests by seizing the priesthood in effect, and that is what they did in 1974. Eleven women found three bishops who were willing to ordain them. In Philadelphia at the Church of the Advocate which was deep into the black community, eleven women, all white incidentally, I thought that was significant that they had found a black church in which to be ordained, they were ordained to the priesthood. I was an officer of the Episcopal Church at that time, but I opposed the whole hierarchy and I preached the sermon at the ordination of the first women priests of the Episcopal Church in the United States. Of course I resigned in protest and never was elected president, but I think I was carrying out the message that I had been taught during the days of my youth and my undergraduate education that is never to accept injustice. High office and prestige is no basis for knuckling under to injustice, and that's been a tenet of my life over the years. So wherever I find injustice, I am sorry, I have to oppose it. That's why I say I never accepted discrimination. One may discriminate against me simply because I have no power to overcome it, but if I see any opportunity to resist it, I will.

I have been asked by Mayor Raymond Flynn to be a consultant to the City of Boston to help it develop a new student assignment plan, and the invitation came in 1988 to see if we could put together a plan that might be ready to fly in the fall of 1989. There is an interesting background to this invitation. Mayor Flynn came over to the Harvard Graduate School of Education to obtain a degree in education several years ago. He has always been interested in education, and he wants to be recognized as the education mayor of Boston. He was from South Boston at that time, and in the early days of school desegregation back in 1974, '75, '76 he was opposed to integration in the schools. He was not as vitriolic about his opposition to it as some politicians were at that time. Nevertheless he opposed it, but when he came to Harvard to matriculate for a graduate degree he was assigned to me to be his advisor. I was on the faculty at that time. It was an interesting relationship, and I would say we both out of that became friends. Several years after receiving his degree he asked me, because I had served as a consultant in several communities throughout the United States putting together school desegregation plans, to see if we couldn't do something for Boston, and we tried. We have put together a plan for Boston that is receiving a wide amount of support, although there are some people who are still opposing it, and this time the opposition is coming out of the black community, whereas in 1975, '76 the opposition came from the white community, so it indicates that none is immune to protesting major social change. Nevertheless, we put together a plan, one of my graduate students and I, his name is Michael Alves. The plan is called controlled choice, which divides a city like Boston into about three relatively large districts that encompass about fifteen to twenty thousand students each and makes available maybe twenty schools or so from which families may choose, and the fact that they can choose a school means that the parents are running a referendum on the quality of schools because those schools that they don't choose are schools that are known to be in need of fixing. They are not attractive, and so our plan then provides choice.

But you can choose a school only if you are within the racial ratio that is required for the school, and the racial ratio required for each school is the same as the racial proportions of school-going children within each zone, so there is general proportional access to all of the schools. You can choose a school, and the schools that are least chosen are the schools that are least attractive, and in this way the community knows where to put its money to enhance education. You put your money in those schools that are least chosen. So we have a plan that does three things simultaneously. It encourages choice, it promotes and guarantees desegregation, and it enhances education, and the beauty of controlled choice is that it accomplishes all of these goals simultaneously. There have been people who have tried to do the same thing in the past, but they tried to do it singly or serially. They tried to do it with magnet schools only, which would enhance learning environments, but these never could accommodate more than one-fourth to one-third of the students in the city. They tried to do it with voucher systems which may permit students to go to suburban communities and other communities, but it left bereft urban systems of education, and they tried to do it with freedom of choice, and freedom of choice is never desegregated schools. We have taken those three methods and have accomplished them simultaneously, and this is where we think the controlled choice plan is going to have some benefit in Boston. It is receiving the kind of resistance that most major change receives in Boston, which is a very political system and very political city, but I predict that we will see some version of it come into being in the fall of 1989, and Boston which has the reputation of being one of the most violent schools when the court first ordered desegregation in 1975 is probably going to achieve the reputation of being one of the most desegregated big cities as we move into the 1990's.

I have been retained as a planner in San Jose, in Milwaukee, Dallas, Houston and in Boston and in St. Lucie, Florida, and seldom have I come into contact with another planner who is black, and I think this has been one of the problems with school desegregation in the United States from the 1970's on. Blacks and hispanics usually have been members of the plaintiff class that have alleged discrimination, and their allegations oftentimes have been sustained by the court. So they win the court case to achieve desegregation, but then the local school system is obligated to plan for their redress, and the local school system usually retains only white planners to plan a program of desegregation, which means that the planners usually come forth with the techniques that are least offensive to whites instead of techniques that redress the grievances of blacks or hispanics, who are the plaintiff class. I have always retained in my planning group blacks and whites, and I have urged other planners to do so because I think that self-interest is one of the basic motives for social action, and you ought to have a diversified group so that the self-interest of the range of people in society can be taken into consideration in the planning. Most people have tried to approach planning as an intellectual activity, as a logical activity. It is that, but more it is a situation that is planning that fulfills the interests of all of the constituent groups in a community, and some representation of those constituent groups ought to be on the planning team. I have found that planning teams that are diversified racially have a better possibility of fashioning a plan that will do the things that controlled choice will do, that is guarantee desegregation, provide choice, and enhance education all at the same time.

Judge W. Arthur Garrity, of course, is one of the judges in the United States District Court in Boston. There were numerous proposals for dealing with the alleged segregation and the actual segregation which the court found to exist. Because there were so many proposals, the court asked a panel of masters, masters in the legal sense of finders of fact, to evaluate the alternative proposals for remedying the segregation, and if the panel of masters did not find any plan worthy, then they could submit a plan of its own. In submitting a plan of its own the judge asked the panel of masters to take the best features of the many different proposals that had been filed with the court. I served with Edward McCormack, Jacob Spiegel, and Frances Koppel as one of the four on the panel of masters, and we worked with a panel of two court-appointed experts, Robert Denton and Marvin Scott, and together we fashioned the plan that the court ordered back in 1975. Having served in several communities as an expert witness, I consulted to the court or to the defendants, or to the plaintiffs, and having studied school desegregation on a comparative way in about fourteen different communities, I was pleased to have the opportunity to return to the Boston scene more than a decade after I had first helped fashion a remedial plan to see if we couldn't fix it right this time. I think on the basis of a decade of insight, information, and knowledge we probably are going to be able to help Boston become, as I said earlier, one of the most desegregated cities in this nation that also has an enhanced educational system.

Judge Jacob Spiegel was a retired justice of the state supreme court. Frances Koppel was a former commissioner of education for the United States and also a former dean of the Harvard University Graduate School of Education. Edward McCormack was former attorney general for the state of Massachusetts. I at that time, of course, was a professor in the graduate school of education at Harvard.

Busing is a phony issue because in the urban community we use transportation to go to all kinds of activities. Most of us use transportation to go to and from our jobs. Most of us use transportation to go to and from shopping centers. Most of us use transportation to go to and from religious institutions. So transportation is an endemic part of the life of urban communities, and to fixate on the use of transportation that goes to and from school is the basis for accepting or resisting desegregation is silly. Actually, there is no evidence that indicates that the location of a school nearby or far away has anything to do with the quality of education that's offered in that school. So what we have done in Boston realizing that transportation is really a smokescreen and not the real issue in any urban environment, we have devised a plan where neighborhoods are no longer assigned to specific schools. What we say our plan does is break the hostage relationship between real estate interests and educational interests. Now that the whole zone can choose all of the schools within a zone, schools know the professionals in schools are obligated to make themselves attractive, which they did not have to do in the past when the students from a certain neighborhood were assigned to a certain school. That's why we said busing is a phony issue. Transportation has never been the major issue in the urban scene with reference to participation in any institutional system including the schools.

The black members said that they voted against the plan but not for the same reasons. They have not all revealed the reasons that they voted against the plan. Incidentally, there are four black members on the School Committee of thirteen in Boston. Some said they voted against it because they wanted to see funds for enhancing education made available up front. Our plan recognizes that politically no mayor can give the School Committee a blank check for funds to enhance the schools, so our plan places pressure upon the funding sources in the city to make funds available for those schools that are doing least well. We have used the model of the National Basketball Association. The teams that do least well are those that have the first opportunity to obtain the new talent that is coming on the market from graduating from college basketball teams, and the same is true in our plan. The schools that seem to be chosen less frequently are those that are candidates for funds for enhancing themselves. So we had devised a plan where the funds being made available comes after the referendum, after the choice cycle. Many of the black members felt that the funds ought to be up front. We don't object to funds up front, but one of the reasons why we did not include them in our plan is because, if funds were made available without having the choice cycle, it is one way of identifying schools that ought to receive those funds, then they probably would be appropriated the way they have been in the past. Those schools that got extraordinary resources tend to be those schools that had principals who had pull, parents who had clout, and we felt that we ought to be able to overcome that kind of idiosyncratic way of allocating funds, and we ought to have a public documented way of allocating funds to the schools that need it the most. So that was one reason why the black members opposed. I think another reason is they have been against discrimination over the years as many blacks have been, and while their interest in this instance was to lobby the mayor and city officials for more funds, they had not developed tools for doing this, and therefore fell back upon the old tools that they had had, and those were the tools of resisting discrimination. So I think that that was another reason why the black members opposed. They simply were using the tools of discrimination, the allegations of discrimination, as the basis for resisting the plan unless they could get funds appropriated up front.

Text mounted 9th October 2013; image mounted 12 October 2013 -- rcwh.