I spent most of the morning advising a potential applicant for the Rhodes
Scholarshipsomething that I do on the side because I feel that Maryland
students need coaching. (We haven’t won since the mid-1970s.)
In the afternoon, our class at Northwestern
High School interviewed two people for our oral history project
on the desegregation of Prince George’s County schools. One interviewee
was the first African American student at the school. (He was still the
only one when he graduated three years later). He said: "Initially
I was actually hoping that it wouldn’t work. My parents had said that
if there was a lot of violence, we would back up. Instead of violence,
there were three years of hostility." His main motivation was to
be "part of something bigger," the Civil Rights Movement. He
later became a successful chemical engineer. I found him enormously appealingand
easily understood what he meant in his understated way, but the kids took
his reticence about his own emotions as evasiveness.
The second interviewee was a current member of the County Council, a
white man who was formerly a civil rights lawyer. He had sued to force
bussing in the county schools and then arranged the settlement that ended
bussing. He moved to the County in 1971, and his family was the only White
one in the local community. At a community meeting, "I said I was
a civil rights lawyer and I wanted to be active in the community."
A community leader said, "Man, you are a phenomenon. Most white people
are trying to move out of here." In the 1970s, roughly 100,000 African
Americans relocated to Prince George’s County (mostly from Washington),
and roughly 100,000 White people lefta pattern that continued for
the next 20 years. "Those folks who moved in the seventies were running
from black folks In the eighties and nineties, it had more to do
with the aging of the population and the changing of circumstance."
People left for upper income housing and better schools.
"My dream in the early eighties was that this is the place where
we would make it work. This is the place where we would demonstrate to
America that it can work like it says in social studies books. Today I
would say that we are still working on that."