The federal district court decision in the case of Reed v. Rhodes in 1976 led to the desegregation of the public schools of Cleveland, Ohio.
In 1954, the United States Supreme Court ruled in Brown v. the Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas that separate schools for whites and African Americans were unconstitutional. As a result of this ruling, school districts across the United States were directed to end segregation in the public schools.
In 1963, ninety-three percent of Cleveland's elementary school students attended segregated schools. Seventy-eight percent of middle school and eighty-three percent of high school students also attended all-white or all-African-American schools. By the mid 1960s, the Cleveland school board implemented busing to end segregation.
Busing did not end public school segregation. African-American students often were placed in classes with other black students. African Americans also ate in the cafeterias at different times than the whites and frequently were unable to participate in extracurricular activities. Although whites and African Americans now attended the same schools, segregation continued to exist.
To protest segregation, the United Freedom Movement helped unite various Civil Rights organizations in Cleveland including the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the Congress on Racial Equality. The group's ultimate goal was to create a school district with no segregation of any kind.
The United Freedom Movement, as well as other Civil Rights organizations, actively protested school segregation in Cleveland in the 1960s and 1970s. The groups actively picketed segregated schools and the Cleveland Board of Education. They submitted petitions to city and school leaders. They also served as plaintiffs in a number of lawsuits.
In 1973, city and school officials made a serious effort to end segregation after an African-American mother sued the Cleveland Board of Education. In the case of Reed v. Rhodes, Judge Frank J. Battisti ruled that Cleveland's schools were segregated and that officials must implement programs designed to desegregate educational facilities in the city. The judge's ruling was issued on August 31, 1976. School officials continued to rely on busing, but they also began to integrate classrooms and extra-curricular activities.
- Patterson, James T. Brown v. Board of Education: A Civil Rights Milestone and Its Troubled Legacy. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2002.