Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow

Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow School Desegregation and Resegregation in Charlotte

Edited by Roslyn Arlin Mickelson, Stephen Samuel Smith, and Amy Hawn Nelson
paper, 272 Pages
Pub. Date: February 2015
ISBN-13: 978-1-61250-756-9
Price: 36.00

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Pub. Date: February 2015
ISBN-13: 978-1-61250-758-3

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Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow provides a compelling analysis of the forces and choices that have shaped the trend toward the resegregation of public schools. By assembling a wide range of contributors—historians, sociologists, economists, and education scholars—the editors provide a comprehensive view of a community’s experience with desegregation and economic development. Here we see resegregation through the lens of Charlotte, North Carolina, once a national model of successful desegregation, and home of the landmark Swann desegregation case, which gave rise to school busing.
This book recounts the last forty years of Charlotte’s desegregation and resegregation, putting education reform in political and economic context. Within a decade of the Swann case, the district had developed one of the nation’s most successful desegregation plans, measured by racial balance and improved academic outcomes for both black and white students. However, beginning in the 1990s, this plan was gradually dismantled. Today, the level of resegregation in Charlotte has almost returned to what it was prior to 1971. At the core of Charlotte’s story is the relationship between social structure and human agency, with an emphasis on how yesterday’s decisions and actions define today’s choices.


Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow paints a vivid portrait of the changing realities and daunting challenges facing school districts sixty years after Brown v. Board of Education. This careful analysis of the barriers to opportunity and limits on mobility point toward larger structural forces that must be confronted if we are to fulfill Brown’s promise of equality. — john a. powell, director of the Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society, and The Robert D. Haas Chancellor’s Chair in Equity and Inclusion, University of California, Berkeley

Mickelson, Smith, and Nelson remind us why school desegregation matters for citizens and scholars alike. Their analyses show both the promise and the tragedy of using schools to solve America’s problems. — Jennifer Hochschild, Henry LaBarre Jayne Professor of Government, and professor of African and African American Studies, Harvard University

Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow is a model of interdisciplinary policy analysis covering two long policy cycles of desegregation and resegregation. This excellent work poses important questions about the racial future of our metropolitan society. — Gary Orfield, professor, Graduate School of Education, and codirector, The Civil Rights Project at the University of California, Los Angeles

This book is a cautionary tale—far less about a failed experience than about a rejected success—that deserves serious attention by all who worry about the future of our increasingly diverse democracy. — Jeannie Oakes, Presidential Professor Emerita in Educational Equity, University of California, Los Angeles

Given the breadth of fresh perspectives and the efforts to bridge the resegregation literature with the realities of contemporary politics and education policy, Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow will spark interesting new questions in the field. It is important reading for scholars interested in segregation and educational inequality. — Jeremy E. Fiel, Contemporary Sociology

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About the Editors

Roslyn Arlin Mickelson is a Professor of Sociology, Public Policy, and Women’s and Gender Studies at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. She completed a postdoctoral fellowship in child development and social policy at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. Prior to receiving her PhD from the University of California, Los Angeles, she taught high school social studies in Inglewood, California, for nine years. Her research interests include minority educational issues, desegregation, gender and education, educational policy, and pathways to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). Mickelson has investigated school reform in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools since 1989, chronicling its transformation from a desegregated to a resegregated school system.

Stephen Samuel Smith is a Professor of Political Science at Winthrop University and author of Boom for Whom?: Education, Desegregation, and Development in Charlotte (State University of New York Press, 2004). He received his PhD from Stanford in 1990, having returned to academia after fifteen years doing blue-collar work, most of them in Detroit-area factories. He served as an expert witness in the 1999 reopened Swann litigation and has written about education policy in numerous professional journals and edited volumes. He has published widely about urban civic capacity, urban regimes, and the politics of desegregation. In addition to his continuing interest in the politics of education, he writes about antiwar movements, resistance by U.S. soldiers to military authority during the war in Iraq, and the ideological and analytic shortcomings of the term social capital.

Amy Hawn Nelson is a community researcher and career educator who has served as a teacher, mentor, and school leader in traditional, private, and charter schools. She is a Charlotte native and graduate of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools. She is currently the Director of Research for the UNC Charlotte Urban Institute and the Director of the Institute for Social Capital, Inc., whose mission is to advance university research and increase the community’s capacity for data-based planning and evaluation. She received her PhD in urban education and a master’s in school administration from UNC Charlotte, and a master’s in teaching from Johns Hopkins University. Her research interests include long-term schooling outcomes, data-informed decision making, and integrated data systems.

Table of Contents

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