The Story: Integration

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The first large-scale attempt at integrating Charlotte-Mecklenburg schools came in 1970, when the Finger Plan was implemented. Both black and white students were reassigned to schools and bused there in order to achieve more balanced racial demographics. In 1971, a new plan created by the school board was approved. This new plan put the burden of desegregating on black students and lower-income white students, requiring them to be bused long distances, while allowing most of the students in wealthier southeast Charlotte to attend their neighborhood schools. The board justified this plan by saying it would encourage white parents to keep their children in the public schools, and avoid the negative effects of "white flight". "White flight" refers to the movement of white families opposed to busing from city to suburban school districts.

"Better Education"
- Saundra Davis

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Due to the consolidation of the Charlotte and Mecklenburg County schools into one large school district in 1960, however, Charlotte didn’t experience the "white flight" that many other communities did. White families couldn’t relocate without moving out of Mecklenburg County entirely, which was impractical because most of the job opportunities in the area centered in Charlotte. Some white parents did pull their children out of public schools into private schools, many just recently opened in the fall of 1970 in response to busing. In general, however, the geographic limits of the school district kept most white families in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools.

"Silent Rejection"
- William Hamlin

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Some opponents of busing became more extreme in their protests. Although Charlotte avoided the widespread violence seen by other southern cities in the wake of desegregation, there were incidents of school violence and bus vandalism as well as frequent bomb threats. On the first day of school in 1970, six schools in the district had to be closed due to bomb threats. Later that school year, fires destroyed Julius Chambers’s law office and his father’s business. Although arson was suspected, no one was caught and charged in the crimes.