Desegregation fight continues

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Gladys Acree says she is disappointed.

Forty-four years after she and others sued the Richmond County school system to force desegregation, she says local schools remain segregated.

"We've been segregated all my life, and we still are," Ms. Acree, 89, said Thursday, citing schools such as Lucy C. Laney and Josey high schools, where the student populations are almost entirely black.

Since 1972, Richmond County has operated under a federal court order resulting from the Acree v. Board of Education lawsuit. In recent months, some school board members have said it's time for the order to be lifted.

Other people, including Ms. Acree, don't agree.

"I don't think it's time for them to drop it until all schools are integrated," she said in an interview with The Chronicle .

Progress has been made, but not nearly enough to warrant ending the desegregation lawsuit, she said.

She's not alone. Eugene Hunt, a 1966 Laney graduate, said it takes time to reverse years of injustices.

"Regardless of why it is segregated, it is still segregated," Mr. Hunt said, hopeful a renewed effort by the school board will right wrongs. "The proof is in the pudding."

First step

In November, board members informally agreed to hire a consultant to audit the school system and determine what needs to be done to meet the requirements of the court order.

Board member Marion Barnes called the effort the most significant step taken in years to resolve the desegregation case.

The challenge will be changing the hearts and minds of those in the community, many say. Decades after the civil rights movement, feelings of bitterness and distrust remain strong.

"It's a trust issue because we haven't fixed it," Mr. Barnes said to explain the feelings among some in the black community. "If you haven't done it in 40 years, we don't trust you to do it in the next five."

Schools weren't equal back then, admits school board member Alex Howard.

"I think as a board we recognize we're going to move forward," he said. "If there are concerns we're not meeting, we're going to address them."

The school system has become majority minority: Its board is half black and half white, and the system is being led by its second black superintendent. But Mr. Barnes, a former school board president, said the desegregation order is still relevant.

"The point is that the courts said you will have this done and we haven't done it," he said.

Mr. Barnes is careful to point out that he doesn't support resolving the court case just to do so.

"I am not ready as an individual board member for us to come from out of this court order until this board does what it is supposed to do," he said.

Demographics

Board attorney Pete Fletcher is looking for someone to audit the school system. Mr. Fletcher said he and Ben Allen, the attorney for the plaintiffs, agree that only two issues remain: Ensuring equitable facilities for all students and making sure the demographics of nonteaching staff reflect the community. He said the same thing in 1999.

The school board is in the third phase of a building program funded by a special purpose local option sales tax. The program was begun to replace deteriorating facilities and ensure equitable schools for all children, Mr. Barnes said.

"I believe after this SPLOST we should be very, very, very close," he said. "I think we're about there with that."

Despite the progress made through the building program, perception remains a stumbling block.

"You can walk into a school and identify a school as white or black based on the people you see when you walk in," Mr. Barnes said. "That's just the way it's perceived."

Nonteaching personnel aren't racially representative of the community, which is what it will take to satisfy the courts.

Board member Frank Dolan is pushing for the case to be resolved, calling it a cloud hanging over Augusta that affects the city's ability to attract businesses.

One of his company's sister companies considered Augusta but passed on it because of the school system, Mr. Dolan said. Aiken County, which was never sued over desegregation, has several large industries.

"We should be drawing companies like no tomorrow," Mr. Dolan said.

The school board is being proactive for a change, Mr. Howard said, and everyone will benefit.

"It hurts everybody when jobs don't come to Augusta," he said. "The growth of Augusta depends on the economy, and the economy depends on big companies coming to Augusta."

Elsewhere

Columbia County also operates under a federal court order. Unlike Richmond County, which was sued by an individual plaintiff, Columbia County is among a group of school systems sued by the Justice Department.

Sandra Carraway, Columbia County's deputy superintendent of student support, said a Justice Department attorney contacted the school system this fall to request information and create movement toward resolving its case.

That information has been compiled and the county could be making headway to resolve its court order, Dr. Carraway said. There is also talk of all the Georgia school systems sued by the Justice Department jointly requesting to have their court orders lifted.

The department contacted Jefferson County, and it was granted "unitary status" in July. This means the school system met the requirements of the court order.

"I think we were working toward a common goal," Jefferson County school board attorney Franklin Edenfield said. "They were interested in closing out a lot of these cases that were not really active."

Reaching unitary status in Richmond County will prove much more difficult because of the size of the school system, Mr. Edenfield said.

"I wouldn't envy Pete (Fletcher) in any way because of the number of schools you're dealing with," he said.

Lift with caution

Among some, there is a fear that Richmond County schools will backslide if the court order is lifted.

Those fears, however, aren't supported by a 2007 report by the Georgia Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. The committee conducted a statistical analysis of the state's 180 school systems and found no significant movement toward resegregating schools after court orders are resolved.

The report, however, comes with words of caution.

"Given the long and sad history of racial segregation in this state, readers of this report should not necessarily conclude that it is time to quickly eliminate all remaining vestiges of court jurisdiction in this matter without careful and prudent deliberation," it states.

Mr. Barnes said he is confident Richmond County can meet the requirements of the court order.

"Until people accept each other as human beings, we're going to have this, but it's getting there," he said. "We're going to get there."

'Strangest place'

Board member Venus Cain recalled growing up in California and watching the racial tensions of the South play out on TV with bewilderment.

She played with children of different races; why couldn't children in the South?

Mrs. Cain joined the Army and was eventually stationed at Fort Gordon.

"I have traveled all over the world, lived in other countries, other states, and Augusta is the strangest place in the world," she said. "It's like we're stuck in a time warp."

Racism and racial bickering are holding back the school system and the community, Mrs. Cain said.

"I'm going to do what I have to do to move the city forward," she said.

Reach Greg Gelpi at (706) 828-3851 or greg.gelpi@augustachronicle.com.

ABOUT THE CASE

WHAT: Acree v. The County Board of Education of Richmond County


WHEN: The lawsuit was filed in 1964. Eight years later, in 1972, the U.S. District Court forced the school system to integrate.


WHO: The lead plaintiff was Robert Acree, whose father, Willie Acree Sr., allowed his son's name to be used on the legal action with about 15 other black community groups as a means to force integration. Willie Acree Sr. died in 1965, never getting to see the how the lawsuit changed the racial landscape of the Richmond County school system.

Comments (59) Add comment
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_SisterAbdullahX_
3
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_SisterAbdullahX_ 12/21/08 - 09:39 am
0
0
formeraugres, just open your

formeraugres, just open your eyes and look at the statistics. How do you know it's a poverty issue? Where's your evidence? How do you recommend fixing the problem? I have a wonderful life, thank you.

formeraugres
0
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formeraugres 12/21/08 - 09:39 am
0
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Sarg - u are soo right. Its

Sarg - u are soo right. Its hard to convince people of that when they are in denial - they can't see that its a class thing.

justthefacts
25463
Points
justthefacts 12/21/08 - 09:45 am
0
0
sister and former, me thinks

sister and former, me thinks you are in violent agreement.

formeraugres
0
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formeraugres 12/21/08 - 09:46 am
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sis - as a kid I went to an

sis - as a kid I went to an all black school during the first eight years of my life - I had to fight like hell because I was dressed better than most kids - not all poor hated me but u had a small percentage that resented their life and wanted to take it out on me - I know that the poor white kids were the same - did not life the ones that were better off - I have worked with some poor whites that had the same mentality.

bailmeout2
0
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bailmeout2 12/21/08 - 09:47 am
0
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Asians, Black immigrants from

Asians, Black immigrants from Africa, Many Eastern Europeans, succeeded in this country within one generation after immigrating. Why? Because they understand that Education=upward mobility.

_SisterAbdullahX_
3
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_SisterAbdullahX_ 12/21/08 - 09:50 am
0
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formeraugres, you can't form

formeraugres, you can't form an educated opinion based on the small window you saw through. Look at statistics, nationwide and you will see that I am right.

formeraugres
0
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formeraugres 12/21/08 - 09:52 am
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Sis - u are correct - not all

Sis - u are correct - not all impoverish people act like idiots nor do all blacks - but I do know that are plenty of ignorants to go around - both B and W.

_SisterAbdullahX_
3
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_SisterAbdullahX_ 12/21/08 - 09:53 am
0
0
I guess we agree then.

I guess we agree then.

bailmeout2
0
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bailmeout2 12/21/08 - 10:00 am
0
0
Sis/Former: Its not just poor

Sis/Former: Its not just poor blacks, poor whites are about the same however, when a white students succeeds by going to AP classes and such, he is not ridiculed. Black students call high performing black students as "acting white".

bailmeout2
0
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bailmeout2 12/21/08 - 10:02 am
0
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I had a black girlfriend in

I had a black girlfriend in high school who was in AP classes with me and she was ridiculed to no end by the other black students.

justthefacts
25463
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justthefacts 12/21/08 - 10:03 am
0
0
told you ya'll agreed!

told you ya'll agreed!

gcap
290
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gcap 12/21/08 - 11:17 am
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Hey, Bail, I am delighted to

Hey, Bail, I am delighted to read your posts. Finally, someone else sees the problem not as racial but as a function of desire and hard work. I made a lot of the common mistakes of youth. When the time came for me jump on one side of society's fence or the other, I returned to school, graduated from college at age 30 and haven't looked back. Those of any race not willing to do the work to achieve simply won't achieve. Don't blame me. I've been on both sides of the fence.

bailmeout2
0
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bailmeout2 12/21/08 - 11:33 am
0
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gcap: Im Asian and have a

gcap: Im Asian and have a different perspective. A lot of Asians think its American culture in general. When I was in high school the other American kids were more into social life than actually studying...its the same way in the media. Asian kids are usually portrayed as the nerd or geek, where as in our culture, you are praised and supported.

WW1949
19
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WW1949 12/21/08 - 12:01 pm
0
0
You should be praised and

You should be praised and supported if you are an achiever no matter what race. So what if someone says you are "acting white". Later in life you can say to them"you were acting dumb" and be right about it. Good for all the students who are "acting smart".

gcap
290
Points
gcap 12/21/08 - 12:30 pm
0
0
Seems that too little

Seems that too little discussion in our area focuses on education as the key to the area's success. I challenge anyone of any background from anywhere to place so-called social justice ahead of personal responsibility through education. Those who are educated, whether monied or not, are least likely to blame others for their lot in life.

jack
11
Points
jack 12/21/08 - 03:38 pm
0
0
Yes, the RC school system is

Yes, the RC school system is in the toilet. However, the majority of the students are black, so what does that tell you? Why would a predominantly black school NOT provide an education? Is it because they also have a majority black faculty/admin that graduated from black diploma mills like Paine? I know a couple of white teachers at black schools and they keep to themselves as they feel threatened by both students and black admin. Public schools, including black schools, were much better off educationally until Brown vs Board of Ed in 1954. The laws that segregated schools were struck down and no longer exist. The fact that there are majority black schools in RC (and elsewhere) is because blacks in general choose to segregate themselves socially, where they live and every other aspect of their lives-even the way they speak (ebonics). You can thank your former Super. Charles Larke for the mess the RC schools are in. Dr Bedden is doing his best with what he has to work with and that ain't much. BTW, Justus4dummies, what were those two black men doing to get themselves shot?

_SisterAbdullahX_
3
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_SisterAbdullahX_ 12/21/08 - 03:42 pm
0
0
Don't count on justus to

Don't count on justus to answer the question, jack...... I already asked, and if he answers, it will reveal his bitter soul.

As It Is
2
Points
As It Is 12/21/08 - 05:26 pm
0
0
Justus4 never answers direct

Justus4 never answers direct questions that negate his disinformation. Neither I nor most intelligent individuals care what color these criminals are that have been shot by the police. Most people of any race understand that if you walk into a restaurant and place a gun to the head of a manager, grab the money and you are running out towards a police officer, you will be shot. Likewise, most individuals with 1/2 a brain understand that if you ram a patrol car in an effort to escape and then drive towards an officer pointing a weapon at you, if you fail to stop, you also will be shot. These officers shot to stop the actions of these criminals, not to kill them. However, again, most people with common sense and a proper understanding of our legal system will simply say good riddance to these thugs who don't value their own lives or the lives of others. Justus4 stands for and supports injustice as he continually supports criminals, at least black ones. His ignorance and rhetoric is a major part of the problem within the black community. Individuals must accept personal responsibility for their actions and friend and family should help them make positive choices in life.

plzgetalife
0
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plzgetalife 12/21/08 - 06:35 pm
0
0
I am a proud graduate of Lucy

I am a proud graduate of Lucy C. Laney and when I was there, we had about 10 white students. I don't ever recall the students being bullied or other students stealing from them. I think, that is what ignorant people who don't want to integrate other cultures what you to believe. I think it would be a great idea and its something that should have happening a long time ago. Not just black and whites but other minorities. Until we integrate other cultures no one will ever know anything about the other. So please stop whining about African Americans need to stop stealing and shooting and Caucasians need to stop judging others and acting like they don't create problems. All races do which means we all are to blame!!

_SisterAbdullahX_
3
Points
_SisterAbdullahX_ 12/21/08 - 07:31 pm
0
0
And I know a white student of

And I know a white student of Lucy C. Laney who was beaten up and stolen from......so who's right?

_SisterAbdullahX_
3
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_SisterAbdullahX_ 12/21/08 - 07:32 pm
0
0
Forced integration causes

Forced integration causes nothing but resentment on all sides.

SargentMidTown
8
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SargentMidTown 12/21/08 - 07:43 pm
0
0
Black or white people who

Black or white people who cannot speak standard English are at an educational disadvantage. Many black people have a hang up about speaking our native English language. Instead they go the way of ignorance. This makes navigating the learning process more difficult. They have ruined themselves out of their own self imposed arrogance and stupidity.

_SisterAbdullahX_
3
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_SisterAbdullahX_ 12/21/08 - 07:52 pm
0
0
Who did you axe about that,

Who did you axe about that, SargentMidTown. Was it someone who stay down the skreet from you, dog?

_SisterAbdullahX_
3
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_SisterAbdullahX_ 12/21/08 - 07:58 pm
0
0
When I served in the

When I served in the military, I knew guys from the north who thought southerners were horrible bigots......until they were forced to live with blacks.....then they changed their mind. Why would that be?

FallingLeaves
27
Points
FallingLeaves 12/21/08 - 08:15 pm
0
0
If your member church is 95%

If your member church is 95% or more black, don't complain about segregation. If it is 95% or more white, don't complain about segregation. When your church is integrated, then you can complain. My church is very diverse, and when I discovered that many of Augusta's churches are one race or another, and not diverse at all, I realized, desegregation was not going to work in those areas. If the church is still segregated, the community will remain segregated, and the schools will remain segregated, no matter where you force busing people around. Until people's hearts and minds change, they are going to be some people that think they are better off with people that "look and act like them" for better or for worse. Otherwise, why would there be whole communities seeking to be "traditionally black" communities. And likewise, white, or Chinese, or Korean? I wish it wasn't so, but that's the way it is in many areas, and this is not exclusive to the south.

KSL
144450
Points
KSL 12/21/08 - 09:14 pm
0
0
How do you desegregate a

How do you desegregate a school in upper Minnesota? How do you desegregate a school in an all black community?

soldout
1283
Points
soldout 12/21/08 - 09:37 pm
0
0
Segregation by choice is a

Segregation by choice is a natural happening in all areas of life. As long as there is equal opportunity and freedom it creates no harm. I prefer to be around people who love Jesus but that doesn't mean I treat the ones that don't love Jesus badly. I go to a restaurant with all black employees and I am treated fine and I am white. I want to be there and have the freedom to be there. Should I not go because they don't intergrate their staff. The dividing line is good and evil; never black or white. Good and evil never mix well and should always be at war with each other. When Christ returns He will fix all this but until then don't expect any different. Only the love of Christ restrains anyone from evil and is the only common ground.

Farful
7
Points
Farful 12/21/08 - 11:25 pm
0
0
I thought that Richmond

I thought that Richmond County schools were integrated in 1965.

GnipGnop1
2
Points
GnipGnop1 12/22/08 - 01:17 am
0
0
Are there any predominantly

Are there any predominantly white schools left in RC?

disssman
6
Points
disssman 12/22/08 - 08:28 am
0
0
I am all for integration.

I am all for integration. Now would someone tell the baboom, baboom, baboom, baboom, baboom on the next street over that he should be in school and at least learn something except dance and basketball! Those subjects will not take a normal person very far.

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