After the court’s decision, the city’s school board, led by new president Walter Sondheim Jr., acted quickly. With lawsuits to desegregate Western and Mergenthaler Vocational-Technical high schools already working through the legal system, the Board approved a policy on June 10, 1954 “removing the race of pupil” from school admission consideration. Baltimore became one of the first U.S. cities to desegregate its schools—although much of the state would lag behind until after the 1964 Civil Rights Act.
While hopes of an integrated city school system disappeared as whites fled to the suburbs and private schools, it’s worth noting the impact of desegregation only a few generations later in nearby districts. Baltimore County public schools, with a 39 percent African-American population, and Howard County public schools, with a 21 percent African-American student population, for example, today are considered among the better large school districts in the country.
“Sometimes I think how odd it must be for those people who fled Edmonson Village, which used to be all white, escaping to Ellicott City,” says Keiffer Mitchell Sr., who also shares his story here. “Now, many of those schools that their grandchildren—who have so many diverse friends—are attending in Howard County are more integrated than they ever would’ve imagined.”