Michael J. Stolee: An Educator's Career in School Desegregation
Blackstone, Stacey L.
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The historic decision of Brown v. Board of Education (1954) declared that separate schools were inherently unequal, yet the U.S. Supreme Court did not specifically make instructions on how school desegregation would occur. Because of this, many school systems planned to delay desegregation for as long as possible. The passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 finally gave the federal government the right to withhold funds from schools that refused to desegregate. As it became clear that many schools had not made adequate plans for desegregation, Dr. Michael J. Stolee and his colleague, Dr. Harry Hall, of the University of Miami, saw an opportunity to help schools make integration a reality through the creation of a desegregation assistance program. The South Florida School Desegregation Consulting Center became the first federally-funded desegregation assistance center in the country. Through his work at the center, Stolee became one of the first nationally recognized experts on school desegregation. While many historians have covered topics relating to school desegregation, this paper explores the trajectory of school desegregation through the career of an expert. Stolee initially called for wide-scale busing to achieve desegregation. However, over time, his methods changed to accommodate both the general perceptions regarding busing for desegregation purposes, as well as the attitude toward busing by the Nixon administration. Stolee was one of the first widely-accepted experts on school desegregation and through his work with the South Florida School Desegregation Consulting Center, as an expert witness, and as a court-appointed special master, made a huge impact in the field of school desegregation in both the northern and southern United States. The research comes, when possible, from primary sources found in Stolee’s collection of papers at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia.
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