Reading, Writing, and Race

The Desegregation of the Charlotte Schools

By Davison M. Douglas

374 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 16 halftones, 2 maps, notes, bibl., index

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-0-8078-4529-5
    Published: August 1995
  • E-book EPUB ISBN: 978-1-4696-0648-4
    Published: January 2012
  • E-book PDF ISBN: 979-8-8908-6971-5
    Published: January 2012

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Using Charlotte, North Carolina, as a case study of the dynamics of racial change in the 'moderate' South, Davison Douglas analyzes the desegregation of the city's public schools from the Supreme Court's 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision through the early 1970s, when the city embarked upon the most ambitious school busing plan in the nation. In charting the path of racial change, Douglas considers the relative efficacy of the black community's use of public demonstrations and litigation to force desegregation. He also evaluates the role of the city's white business community, which was concerned with preserving Charlotte's image as a racially moderate city, in facilitating racial gains.

Charlotte's white leadership, anxious to avoid economically damaging racial conflict, engaged in early but decidedly token integration in the late 1950s and early 1960s in response to the black community's public protest and litigation efforts. The insistence in the late 1960s on widespread busing, however, posed integration demands of an entirely different magnitude. As Douglas shows, the city's white leaders initially resisted the call for busing but eventually relented because they recognized the importance of a stable school system to the city's continued prosperity.

About the Author

Davison M. Douglas is associate professor of law at the Marshall-Wythe School of Law at the College of William and Mary. He is editor of The Development of School Busing as a Desegregation Remedy and The Public Debate over Busing and Attempts to Restrict Its Use.
For more information about Davison M. Douglas, visit the Author Page.


“Provocative and engaging. . . . A remarkably balanced and well-written study, one that is sure to place [Douglas] in the forefront of scholars studying the history of school desegregation.”--Southern Cultures

"Douglas's intelligent, comprehensive examination of this critical period makes his book important reading today."--Charlotte Observer

"Douglas writes concisely and clearly about the extent and limits of integration and persuasively about how it came about."--Journal of Southern History

"A fine book; it joins a small group of careful, scholarly studies of single communities' attempts to grapple with the problem of race over time."--Georgia Historical Quarterly

"Davison M. Douglas's exhaustively detailed, yet eminently readable, chronicle effectively captures the dramatic events surrounding the desegregation of Charlotte's schools. . . . [A] significant contribution to the literature on the second reconstruction."--American Journal of Legal History

"An important contribution on the cutting edge of scholarship about the civil rights movement, examining in detail how civil rights claims were developed and enforced in the city that produced the Supreme Court's major decision on busing as a remedy in desegregation cases."--Mark V. Tushnet, author of Making Civil Rights Law: Thurgood Marshall and the Supreme Court, 1936-1961