The Burden of Busing

The Politics of Desegregation in Nashville, Tennessee

  • Author(s): Pride, Richard A., and J. David Woodward
  • Series:
  • Imprint: Univ Tennessee Press
  • Publication Date: 0000-00-00
  • Status: Active
  • Available in Paper: Price $27.00 | Buy Now

What effect have twenty-five years of school desegregation had on Nashville? Richard A. Pride and J. David Woodard evaluate the city’s efforts at integration and systematically examine the crucial issues involved. They argue that the controversy has little to do with costs, bus routes, or achievement test scores. Instead, they claim, it strikes at fundamental cultural issues.

Nashville’s white citizens, the authors observe, resisted busing from the beginning. After nine years’ experience, blacks had become equally hostile to the notion, arguing that they, and they alone, bore the burden. Their schools had been closed, their offspring had had to travel farther for instruction, and their institutions and culture had been disrupted. Blacks rejected assimilation, demanding schools in their neighborhoods in which their children would predominate and would be supervised and taught by people of their own race.

A federal judge heard the case. He agreed that the costs of the experiment had outweighed the benefits. In 1980, in the first such decision made in the nation, he ordered an end to busing. His opinion explained his concern that busing was creating two school systems – one private, white, and middle class, one public, black, and poor. The legal impact of the case was blunted when, on appeal, the Sixth Circuit Court ordered busing be re-established in Nashville.

Richard A. Pride is associate professor of political science at Vanderbilt University.

J. David Woodard is assistant professor of political science at Clemson University.