The Supreme Court's Brown v Board of Education of Topeka Kansas decision of 1954 yielded unwavering and contentious mass resistance to dismantling the legally sanctioned dual system of public schooling in the United States. Extensive literature exists that focuses on the action of the courts, legislative actions of the federal government, and actions of local politicians and school districts addressing the challenges posed in transitioning from a legalized racially segregated system to a nationally integrated school system. School Desegregation and US Presidents chronicle a different look at the nation's attempt to address the landmark decision...THE POWER OF THE PRESIDENCY...Receiving short shrift in the literature has been the use and effect of the" bully pulpit" of seven Presidents providing leadership to resolve those issues related to the implementation of the mandates of Brown. It examines how the various symbolic and political powers of each President were exercised to advance or stall progress in desegregating the country's schools. Words matter! In accessing the bully pulpits of each of the Presidents, significant examples of their voices are provided through excerpts of their speeches, press coverage, and excerpts with cabinet members or other administration officials and civil rights leaders.
LaRuth H. Gray dedicates herself to improving the quality of education, the quality of life for children(particularly those of vulnerable populations), and social issues that address equity and opportunity. Retired Deputy Director to Pedro Noguera of NYU"s Steinhardt's School of Education's Metropolitan Center for Research on Equity and the Transformation of Schools, Gray is also a retired Superintendent of Schools in Westchester County, NY
Chapter 1: Dwight David Eisenhower
(January 20, 1953- January 20,1961)
Chapter 2: John Fitzgerald Kennedy
(January 20, 1961-November 2, 1963)
Chapter 3: Lyndon Baines Johnson
(November 22, 1963- January 20, 1969)
Chapter 4: Richard Milhous Nixon
(January 20, 1969- August 9, 1974)
Chapter 5: Gerald Rudolph Ford
(August 9, 1974- January 20, 1977)
Chapter 6: James Earl Carter, Jr.
(January 20, 1977- January 20,1981
Chapter 7: Ronald Wilson Reagan
(January 20, 1981- January 29,1989)
Chapter 8: Conclusion
LaRuth Gray’s new volume fills a gaping hole in the story of American school desegregation: what role did post-World War II American presidents play in dismantling or encouraging racial discrimination in the nation’s schools? Historians of the future will find valuable new insights into presidential decision-making in the vivid portraits Gray provides of what was going on in the White House under presidents from Eisenhower to Reagan.
Public education in America is a function of our politics, and few issues have been as controversial as school desegregation. Yet, politics is the art of the possible, and as LaRuth Gray shows in her new book, American Presidents post-Brown used their positions differently to push for a new reality in our schools and communities. Language and leadership matter, and the unique bully pulpit of the President of the United States can further our collective vision for a better society or retrench from it. Dr. Gray’s depiction of how our nation’s top leaders used their positions to spur states and local communities to implement Brown, or allowed them to run from it, offers telling insight into why we’re still fighting over the same issues so many years later. The valuable insight that this book provides into the highest levels of leadership of our past can hopefully spur today’s leaders to use their positions to finally realize the values and ideals that our nation stands on.
LaRuth Gray’s history of US presidents’ views and voices on segregation offers a fascinating account of how the torturous path to integration – still unfinished – has been shaped by our highest elected leaders. She places their use of the bully pulpit in the context of their life experiences and beliefs, as well as the politics of the times, and deepens our understanding of how pitfalls have emerged and how progress can be made. A must read for everyone who cares about where America has been and where it is going with respect to racial equity and the creation of common ground on which we can all stand together.
Dr. LaRuth Gray who, because of her new book, confirms that she is a scholar and master storyteller. In this carefully crafted study she examines the role of each of the seven presidents following the Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board of Education ruling. She shows how each considered whether to use, or not use, the “Bully Pulpit” to influence acceptance of school desegregation. For career educators this is a page-turner that spells out the contemporary factors influencing those decisions, as well as the impact on school children. By doing so, Dr. Gray has further clarified our understanding of this important period in our history.
Gray’s book offers a compelling view of the power of the Presidential “bully pulpit” and its' use over time to influence the course of school desegregation. Meticulously researched portraits of the Eisenhower through Reagan eras provide fascinating insights on how these Presidents chose to use (or not use) words and actions to advance, stall or impede progress on school desegregation. The book provides that rare combination … it both informs and challenges readers’ knowledge and understanding of this complex subject.
Gray’s book is eye-opening and essential to understanding the power of the Presidential Bully Pulpit or lack thereof. It’s an engrossing and expertly crafted breaking down the boundaries of compartmentalized history. She illuminates the insights of these seven Presidents toward school desegregation.
The story of racial integration and desegregation is not one that can be simplified to a person or a moment but rather it is a collection of decisions and at times inactions of individuals and groups. This book very concisely highlights the relevance of how Presidents used tools such as agencies to manage desegregation and integration. Creating a humanized narrative of these
Presidents that includes their background stories, and their discussions with staffers and agencies is a welcomed discussion that will advance our thinking of educational equity.
As a student of history, I found LaRuth’s Gray’s presentation of the influence of The Bully Pulpit on race relations to important, revelatory. It sheds important light on the impact of leadership and administration which was not presented to those of us raised during and after the 1980’s.
For over 7 decades, Dr. LaRuth Gray has been an extraordinary educational leader and a committed advocate for education and civil rights. In this important new book she shares the journey from segregation to local and national level through the lens of the bully pulpit of seven U.S presidents. Read this book and renew your commitment to using education as a vehicle for progress!
What a gift my friend and colleague Dr. LaRuth Gray has given me in this scholarly, yet
culturally-sensitive treatise on an issue which has both paralleled my life and my career. Brown
was decided as I was graduating from high school and its importance followed me through my
years in a teachers’ college, and in my 35 years as a school superintendent in communities as
diverse as the backgrounds of the Presidents whose work is explored in these pages: as a
superintendent in a Midwestern farming community (Eisenhower and Ford), and in a New
England coastal community (Kennedy), in a Southern multi-racial community (Johnson and
Carter), and in a Metropolitan urban community (Nixon and Reagan). Speeches, policies,
legislation, and legal decisions all come to life in this historical analysis of how these Presidents
used their bully pulpit to address the most significant public school issue of our time. Thank
Gray’s book provides a fresh perspective and adds to the lens so frequently used by examining the perspective and actions of the most powerful and influential leader in the land, the individual elected, by the people to reflect the values and soul of the Nation, the President of the United States. What the writing confirms is that, while the “voice” of that individual (the bully pulpit) is powerful and as critically important as the laws and the courts, in promoting equality, they all too often succumb to the temptation of convenience, politics and the egocentric need to sustain/retain power, regardless of the practical or moral consequences it has on the pursuit of equality for All. It underscored for me and confirmed two things: how little progress we have really made over the decades; and how tentative, frail and vulnerable even those modest gains are today. They exist because of the perseverance and sacrifice of a few and because of luck or circumstance. They do not appear to be strongly embedded yet and growing more rooted with each succeeding administration or generation. The bully pulpit seems to be used more for personal ambition that it does for representing the moral conviction of a Nation. As I read, I found myself simultaneously drifting back and reflecting on my personal experiences as a student, young educator and later a professional engaged in “improvement of public education” over the course of those Presidential Administrations from Eisenhower on. What had I done (or not done); what could I have done; why didn’t I? The ride was emotional. The outcome, thanks to this book, is that I am much better informed, more aware, and more deeply committed going forward.