Racial segregation in the admission of students to Massachusetts Public Schools was evident until the mid-1850’s.
Public schools in Salem were racially segregated in 1834 with both an elementary and high school instituted for black students only. By 1843, Salem’s public schools were fully integrated.
Nantucket built a separate public elementary school for black students in 1827, and when Nantucket High School was built in 1838 black students were refused admission. After a series of heated protests, debates, boycotts and petitions, the Nantucket Public Schools were fully integrated in 1846.
Until mid-way through the nineteenth-century, black children were not allowed open admission to Boston’s public schools. Black children were forced to attend the segregated Smith School on Beacon Hill no matter where they lived in the city. After an extended campaign of petition, court cases, boycotts and protests, Boston’s public schools were finally integrated as the result of a law passed by the Massachusetts Legislature in 1855 “prohibiting all distinctions of color and religion in Massachusetts Public School Admission.”
Ironically, this bill was passed during a time when the membership of the Massachusetts Legislature and Governor’s office was overwhelmingly controlled by the Know-Nothing Party.
Salem Maritime National Historic Site. African American Heritage Sites in Salem A Guide to Salem’s History. Salem, MA: Salem Maritime National Historic Site, n.d. National Park Service. Web. 19 Oct. 2013.
“The Integration of Nantucket Public Schools” Nantucket Historical Association. N.p., n.d. Web. 19 Oct. 2013.