Nearly everyone who experienced school desegregation has a story to tell about crossing racial lines. Together they reflect an era marked by struggle and hope, anger and idealism.

American RadioWorks traveled to Louisville, KY and Charlotte, NC to talk with people about their memories of integration. Here are some of their stories.

Benetha Ellis
"I don't see the benefits of desegregation."

Mae Clark Orr
"For the first year or two of busing I carried a gun."

Read the transcript of this documentary.

The Effects of Integration
In the 1970s, for the first time, large numbers of white children and black children began attending school together. It was an experience that shaped them for life.

How did school desegregation happen?
In June 2007, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down school desegregation plans that look at students' race. It is the capstone of 50 years of shifting laws that shape the racial mix of public schools.

Links and Resources


Tim Gibbs
"I think what's helped us to achieve the things that we've achieved in our lives is the fact that we don't see color."

James "Smudgie" Mitchell
"We never saw ourselves as black kids and white kids. At West Charlotte you were just WC."

Alice Carmichael Pitzer
"At the end of the day we got on the bus, we went home and everybody went their separate ways."

Providence High School
Students at Providence High struggle to find diversity in a school that's 80 percent white.

West Charlotte High School
Students at West Charlotte High worry they are not getting the preparation they need to live in a diverse world.

Sharon Starks
"People were so focused on diversity that no one was focused on education."

Were you part of this "Imperfect Revolution?" How do you remember it? Share your story.

Top photo by Michael Coers, © The Courier-Journal