1600s-1700s: The first schools in the United States were established for white children. Native American and African American children were excluded from these schools, and in some cases, it was even illegal to teach them to read.
1800s: Public schools were established in the United States, but many of them were segregated. Schools for African American children were often underfunded and lacked basic resources.
1896: The Supreme Court’s decision in Plessy v. Ferguson established the “separate but equal” doctrine, which allowed for segregation in public facilities, including schools.
1954: The Supreme Court’s decision in Brown v. Board of Education overturned Plessy v. Ferguson and declared segregation in public schools unconstitutional. Despite this ruling, many schools remained segregated for years to come.
1954: The landmark Supreme Court case Brown v. Board of Education declared segregation in public schools unconstitutional, marking a major step forward in dismantling racism in education.
1955: Autherine Lucy became the first African American student to enroll at the University of Alabama, but she was expelled just a few days later due to threats and protests from white students.
1957: Nine African American students, known as the Little Rock Nine, attempted to enroll in the all-white Little Rock Central High School in Arkansas but were met with resistance from white segregationists, including the governor. President Eisenhower ultimately intervened and federalized the National Guard to escort the students to school.
1960s: The Civil Rights Movement led to the desegregation of many schools across the United States, but the process was often met with resistance and violence.
1960: Ruby Bridges, a six-year-old African American girl, became the first African American student to integrate an all-white elementary school in the South when she enrolled in William Frantz Elementary School in New Orleans.
1962: James Meredith became the first African American student to enroll at the University of Mississippi, but his enrollment was met with violent protests and he had to be escorted to campus by federal marshals.
1964: The Civil Rights Act was passed, which prohibited discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin in public schools and other institutions.
1965: The Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) was passed, which provided federal funding to improve education opportunities for low-income students and began to address racial inequities in education.
1969: Alexander v. Holmes County Board of Education was a landmark Supreme Court case that ordered the immediate desegregation of public schools.
1971: Swann v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education was a Supreme Court case that upheld the use of busing as a means of desegregating schools.
1972: Title IX of the Education Amendments was passed, which prohibited sex discrimination in federally-funded educational programs, including sports programs, and helped to increase opportunities for female students and athletes.
1980s: Many school districts across the United States began to re-segregate due to factors such as white flight, housing segregation, and changing demographics.
1990s-2000s: Affirmative action policies were implemented to increase diversity in schools, but they were also met with controversy and legal challenges.
2001: No Child Left Behind (NCLB) was passed, which aimed to close achievement gaps between different student groups and increase accountability for schools and teachers.
2007: The Supreme Court case Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School District No. 1 ruled that the use of race in school assignment plans was unconstitutional in some circumstances.
2010: The Obama administration launched the “My Brother’s Keeper” initiative to address disparities in education and opportunities for boys and young men of color.
2011: The Department of Education released guidance to help schools ensure that all students have equal access to educational resources and opportunities.
2012: The Department of Education launched the Equity and Excellence Commission to examine disparities in education and make recommendations for improving equity in education.
2014: The Department of Education and the Department of Justice released joint guidance on school discipline, aimed at reducing racial disparities in school discipline and promoting a positive school climate.
2015: The Obama administration released the “Every Student Succeeds Act” (ESSA), which aimed to provide more support and resources to disadvantaged students and reduce testing and accountability requirements.
2016: The Department of Education released guidance on the use of race and ethnicity in admissions decisions at colleges and universities, aimed at promoting diversity and addressing discrimination.
2017: The Trump administration rescinded Obama-era guidance on transgender students’ access to restrooms and locker rooms, sparking controversy and opposition from civil rights groups.
2018: The Department of Education launched a new initiative called the “Civil Rights Data Collection,” aimed at gathering more comprehensive data on disparities in education and promoting equity in education.
2019: The College Board announced plans to include an “adversity score” on the SAT exam, aimed at providing context for students’ academic achievement based on their socioeconomic background and other factors.
2020: The COVID-19 pandemic exposed and exacerbated existing inequities in the U.S. education system, including disparities in access to technology and internet, which disproportionately affected students from marginalized communities. The pandemic also highlighted the importance of teachers and the critical role they play in students’ lives.
2020: The murder of George Floyd by police officers sparked a nationwide reckoning with systemic racism, including in education. Many schools and universities were forced to confront their own histories of racism and take action to address it. This led to a surge in anti-racist education initiatives, including curriculum changes, professional development for teachers, and diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) training.
2021: The U.S. Department of Education under the Biden administration released a new “Proposed Priorities” document that outlines the department’s focus on advancing equity in education, including addressing systemic racism. This includes initiatives to increase funding for schools serving marginalized communities, improve teacher diversity, and support anti-racist curriculum and policies.
Despite progress over the years, racism remains a persistent and pervasive issue in the U.S. education system. It will require ongoing efforts and commitment to truly achieve a just and equitable education system for all students.