Interview with Ruth Batson

What was the thinking behind wanting to desegregate the schools? Did you think that Black kids were inferior?


Um, it was very important in our mind to desegregate the, the Boston public schools. Now, we received a lot of criticism. One thing, Mrs. Hicks and other White people would say do the--This was Mrs. Hicks' favorite statement. "Do they think that sitting a White child beside a Black child, by osmosis the Black child will get better?" That was her favorite statement. And then there were Black people and a lot of our friends who said, "Ruth, why don't we get them to just fix up the schools and um, and make them better in our district?" And of course, that repelled us because we came through the separate but equal theory. This was not something that we believed in. And we have s--Even now, when I g--talk to a lot of people they say we were wrong in pushing for this desegregation. Well, I c--We were not pushing for it because of the fatherhood of God and brotherhood of man concept. But I believe that children should be educated with a whole lot of different people because I consider education basic. Not just arith--reading and writing, arithmetic, but the kinds of, of um, learning that you get from learning with a whole lot of people. So that's my philosophy. But it was a very practical reason to do it in those days. When we would go to White schools we'd see these lovely ah, classrooms, small sizes, a, a small number of children in each class. The teachers were permanent. Um, we'd see wonderful materials. When we'd go to our schools we would see overcrowded classrooms, children sitting out in the corridors and so forth. And so then we decided that where there were a large number of White students, that's where the care went. That's where the books went. That's where the money went. In fact, we knew that there was more money being spent in certain schools, White schools--not all of them, but in certain White schools--than there, than there was being spent in Black schools. So therefore, our theory was move our kids into those schools where they're putting all of the resources so that they can get a better education. We never seemed to be able to get that point across. But im--it's important to note that in spite of the fact that there were differences of opinion within the community, as there always are, the community really stuck with us on that de facto segregation issue. I remember one night getting into a cab when they started talking about racial imbalance as the term and not de facto. And the cab driver said to me, "Aren't you the de facto lady?" And I said yeah. He said, "What'd you change that thing for? I just got that thing clear and understand what it means, now you're changing it to racial imbalance." I was never in favor of changing the term because I didn't feel racial imbalance meant what de facto segregation meant. But we were supported by the community, by the Black community. Our membership went up, way up, more than it had gone up in years. And so we always felt supported but it's important to have these differences and to discuss them.


Good. Cut.