Timeline of School Integration

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Teaching Tolerance offers activities and resources about the winding road toward, and away from, integrated schooling in the U.S.

Timeline of School Integration
This timeline chronicles key events in the quest to integrate U.S. schools, 1849 to 2007.

Activity Ideas

Creating Context (All Grades) History sometimes seems distant from students' lives. Ask students to select the decades on the timeline when their parents, guardians, grandparents or other elders were in K-12 schools (or the grade they are currently in.) Work with students to create a list of interview questions that interest them. Some ideas to get started:

  • What were the names of the schools you attended? Where were they located?
  • What kind of music did you listen to? Who were your favorite artists?
  • When you were my age, did you have any friends who were of a different race or ethnicity? If so, who were they? Are you still friends with them? Why?
  • As a kid, did you ever think about the issue of integration? Why?

Using this information, students can construct a contextual timeline, blending key school integration events with narratives from their family's experiences.

X-Y Graphs of School Integration (Grades 5-10) Because timelines typically are charted in a linear fashion, moving in time from point A to point B, they tend to send an implicit message of progress. Ask students to chart events on an X-Y graph instead, illustrating visually how the school integration movement has experienced both advances and setbacks. Download the School Integration Charting Handout (PDF).

Companion Timelines (Grades 7-12) The Timeline of School Integration primarily focuses on racial and ethnic integration. Ask students to construct timeline(s) focusing on school access for girls and women, students whose home language is not English and/or students with disabilities. Juxtapose those timelines against the Timeline of School Integration. How did the movements build on one another? How are they distinct?