Interview with Thomas Atkins
QUESTION 2
JACKIE SHEARER:

Let's start again. And you can tell me again what motivated the parents to wind up in federal court.

TOM ATKINS:

The decision to file the lawsuit in federal court ah, was essentially a decision of last resort. We tried everything else. Black parents were committed to doing whatever had to be done to get our children out of schools we were convinced were killing them. Ah, we met with the school ah, administrators. We met with the school committee. We met with the superintendent. Nothing. We ah, got a state law passed in 1965, the Racial Imbalance Law. Ah, no sooner was it passed when it became clear that it was going to be impossible virtually to apply and implement it in Boston. Ah, we started boycotting the schools. Ah, we started using the open enrollment system. Operation Exodus was formed. Ah. METCO was formed to take kids outside the Boston school system. The Bridge Program was formed to take kids to private schools. An-anything we could do we'd try. We created a whole new school, the Massachusetts Experimental School with state funding. By 1972, it was clear that in terms of dealing with the problems of most of the kids in the Black community, nothing short of a suit in federal court would work and that's why it was filed.