Segregation for Other Minorities?
January 30, 2011 7:53 PM   Subscribe

Where did non-black minorities go to school before desegregation in the US?

My friend visited schools recently teaching about Brown v. BOE. A student asked her "Where did Asian kids go to school before Brown?" My friend couldn't answer.

I know there were significantly less non-black minorities before the 1960s, but they did exist. Where did they learn?
posted by sandmanwv to Society & Culture (15 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Schools weren't legally segregated everywhere in the US before Brown, so obviously in the majority of the US it wasn't an issue.

In the states where schools were legally segregated, there were differently worded laws and different applications of the law by local authorities regarding other minorities. Lum v. Rice was a famous case in which a Chinese-American girl was forbidden to attend a public school in Mississippi.
posted by Sidhedevil at 8:08 PM on January 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

I think that in some areas Chinese were not allowed by law to own housing other than in designated Chinatowns, and their children therefore would only go to school in their neighborhoods. Chinese immigration quotas were very limited until well into the 60s.
posted by Melismata at 8:17 PM on January 30, 2011

Melismata makes two extremely good points--a) there were other earlier laws in place relating specifically to barring Chinese and Japanese immigrants and regulating the activities of the immigrants from those countries already in the US (the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 and its extensions; the Immigration Act of 1924; various California state laws); b) even though the majority of US states did not have de jure segregation, de facto segregation was even more the norm than it is today because there were even more small "neighborhood schools" than in today's US.
posted by Sidhedevil at 8:23 PM on January 30, 2011 [2 favorites]

Also, The Concubine's Children is a fascinating read about what was going on with the Chinese both in Canada and China from the 1920s to the 1980s (it includes statistics about the U.S. as well). Among other things, the protagonist's daughter wanted to be a doctor, but didn't bother applying because medical schools "had yet to admit a Chinese, male or female".
posted by Melismata at 8:26 PM on January 30, 2011

California did, I believe, have de jure segregation for Asian-American students who weren't Japanese. (The Japanese government objected and had some clout, so Japanese-American kids were not required to attend segregated schools.) There was also some de facto segregation of Mexican-American kids in parts of California, although that was ruled illegal by the courts in the late '40s, around the same time that the legislature overturned the statute mandating segregation of Asian-American students. It's also important to note that Mexican-Americans were legally classified as white in the US at the time.
posted by craichead at 8:30 PM on January 30, 2011

Small town school class pictures taken in California in the early 1900's often show a mixture of ethnithities - Anglo, Asian and Latino together in the same class. My mother's California school class photos in the pre WWII era included numerous Japanese and Mexican kids . My own California school class photos from the 1950's - early 1960's include Anglos, Latinos & Blacks, but for some reason there aren't any Asian kids.
posted by X4ster at 8:31 PM on January 30, 2011

The key case in California was Mendez vs. Westminster
posted by craichead at 8:36 PM on January 30, 2011

When my grandfather was growing up in East Texas, it was usually "white" and "everyone else" -- and "everyone else" included Hispanic and Italian kids.
posted by katemonster at 8:41 PM on January 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

I have only anecdotes to offer, but my father (Japanese-American) was the first to integrate his formerly white-only elementary school in Texas in the 60's. Prior to then, he would have been sent to the black school, but from the way he describes it, there really was no standard treatment for Asians in the South. He ended up being a reasonably big deal for his town, and I suspect the only reason he was even living in that district was because his father was stationed at the nearby military base. His school ended up receiving special funding because of his minority presence, so the principal would take great pains to make sure he was always in class, including coming by my grandparents' house one day when my dad was sick with the flu to beg my grandmother to send him to school. She didn't, and they moved to California not too long after.

Melismata makes a very good point about housing, since even in "integrated" California, there were a lot of areas where Asians were simply not allowed to live. I've heard plenty of stories from family friends who were denied home ownership in certain neighborhoods up into the 70's, despite being affluent American-born and educated professionals, simply because they were Asian.
posted by Diagonalize at 8:47 PM on January 30, 2011

My grandmother was born in 1919 and grew up in rural Montana. If I remember correctly, she once told me that the only non-white family in town was Japanese, and I believe their kid or kids went to school with her.
posted by Neofelis at 9:12 PM on January 30, 2011

When I was in middle school, an older member of a local Native American tribe came to speak to our class. One of the things he talked about was his memory of school segregation and the Jim Crow era in our town (this may have been part of a unit about Civil Rights and multiculturalism?). He told us that Native Americans were thrown in with African Americans at that time, and did not attend white schools.

One thing that may be a factor is that most non-Black minorities at that time lived in either urban areas or dominated entire localities in rural parts of the country. Since both of those scenarios meant that a neighborhood or village would be predominantly one ethnicity or another, they were de facto segregated. For instance if you lived in Chinatown and went to school in your neighborhood, you were for all intents and purposes attending a segregated school - even though there might be no laws on the books requiring you to attend a special Chinese school. If you lived on the Navajo reservation in Arizona, you were going to go to a reservation school.
posted by Sara C. at 9:40 PM on January 30, 2011

IIRC, Mexican-Americans in Texas sued for the right to be considered caucasian under the law just so they could get in to white schools. I'm sure this is something that varied from state to state, and probably even from county to county.
posted by Gilbert at 10:25 PM on January 30, 2011

Part of your answer involves boarding schools for Native Americans in the U.S. and Canada.
posted by gimonca at 5:59 AM on January 31, 2011 [3 favorites]

This may not be exactly what you're looking for, but you should look into the Indian Schools run by the government for Native Americans.
posted by soy_renfield at 9:18 AM on January 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

Mexican-Americans went to school with white kids in my mother's school on the western slope of Colorado. Not sure about other races/ethnicities.
posted by the young rope-rider at 5:19 PM on January 31, 2011

« Older Bald Patches in Beard - Harbinger of Cancer?   |   Vanilla bean's dream of playing for the other team... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.