May 17, 1954: Brown v. Board ended segregation, causing White Flight out of South Dallas

In 1876, Dallas officially segregated schools, which continued officially until the Brown v. Board of Education decision in Topeka, Kansas on May 17, 1954. The decision stated that the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment outlawed the “separate but equal” doctrine that was put in place by Plessy v. Ferguson in 1896. While Brown was specifically talking about desegregation of schools, it served as a launching pad for broad desegregation in the future (McCorkle, 2008, p. 306).

Brown v. Board gets passed in the Supreme Court on May 17, 1954 (Bettman/Corbis).

Although Brown officially ended segregation in schools, desegregation was not enforced for a long time, with many different districts refusing to merge races outright. Dallas Independent School District (DISD) was one of these districts, leading to future unrest amongst members of different races. Although Dallas refused to desegregate, there were different court cases that challenged this starting in 1955 (McCorkle, 2008, p. 310).

On September 4, 1957, “Little Rock Nine” occurred in Little Rock, Arkansas, where the town protested nine black students as they were walking into a newly desegregated school for the first time. The Arkansas National Guard was called to prevent the students from entering the school, stating that it was for the students’ own protection as violence would break out if they were allowed inside a white school. Eventually, President Eisenhower sent in the National Guard to escort the “Little Rock Nine” into the school for their first day of classes (Smith, 2017).

The Little Rock Nine attempting to enter the all-white school for the first time (Smith, 2017).

Although this was not in Dallas, it is a prime example of how resistant people were to integration, and the lengths they would go to prevent it. Arkansas became a national embarrassment and Dallas was motivated to avoid a similar bad reputation. In response, the Dallas Citizen’s Council created a committee with representation from multiple races “designed to gain white acceptance of limited integration of the schools while simultaneously working to convince blacks that meaningful changes in race relations were going to happen” (McCorkle, 2008, p. 307).

The Committee created the “Dallas at the Crossroads” video that worked to sway white people’s opinions towards listening to the law and supporting integration to be good citizens, and convinced black people that working with the system was more effective than working against it with protests and demonstrations (McCorkle, 2008, p. 308).

To view the “Dallas at the Crossroads video, click the video below:

On July 26, 1961, there was evidence of desegregation in businesses and on transportation, along with more job opportunities for black people. There was also a “grade-a-year” policy that showed some progress towards integration, although the number of black students attending white schools were very small (18 black students per 13,600 white students) (McCorkle, 2008, 308).

While schools were “legally” open to black students during the late 1960s, the black student shad to live within the boundaries of the district, which allowed for geographic segregation to prevent the integration of schools. According to Gerald McCorkle, by 1971 only 3% of African American children were attending all white schools because of segregated neighborhoods, gerrymandering, and regulations (p. 314).

If you want to skip ahead on the timeline to topics related to segregation in education, click on the topic below:

New busing systems created to help integrate schools in Dallas after the end of segregation:


McCorkle, G. S. (2008). Busing Comes to Dallas Schools. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, 111(3), 304–333.

Smith, D. (2017, September 24). Little Rock Nine: The day young students shattered racial segregation. The Guardian.