James McMillan Rules on Busing in Schools

April 23, 1969 

On the morning of April 23, Judge James McMillan issued his opinion on Swann vs. Charlotte Mecklenburg-Schools—twenty-one pages that would soon become the national test case for busing and alter the course of Charlotte's racial history.

"The Charlotte-Mecklenburg schools are not yet desegregated," he wrote. Approximately 14,000 of 24,000 Negro students still attend schools that are all-black, or very nearly all-black ... As a group, Negro students score quite low on achievement tests, and the results are not improving… "

Assigning students to neighborhood schools when the neighborhoods themselves were still segregated was simply not enough, McMillan concluded, and he ordered the Charlotte-Mecklenburg School Board to consider "all known ways of desegregation, including busing… "
The school board appealed, but in 1970, the buses had to roll. For McMillan it was a time of lonely isolation, and for the community as a whole, it was a time of racial bitterness and tension—more divisive than the city had ever known.

The above was excerpted from an article that first appeared in the March 1999 issue of this magazine. Frye Gaillard is author of The Dream Long Deferred, an award-winning account of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg desegregation struggle.

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