United Freedom Movement

From Ohio History Central

The United Freedom Movement, as well as other Civil Rights organizations, actively protested school segregation in Cleveland, Ohio in the 1960s and 1970s.

In 1954, the United States Supreme Court ruled in Brown v. the Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas that separate schools for whites and African Americans were unconstitutional. As a result of this ruling, school districts across the United States were directed to end segregation in the public schools.

In 1963, ninety-three percent of Cleveland's elementary school students attended segregated schools. Seventy-eight percent of middle school and eighty-three percent of high school students also attended all-white or all-African-American schools. Beginning in the mid 1960s, the Cleveland school board implemented busing to end segregation.

Busing did not end public school segregation. African-American students were often placed in classes with other black students. African Americans also ate in the cafeterias at different times than the whites and frequently were unable to participate in extracurricular activities. Although whites and African Americans now attended the same schools, segregation continued to exist.

To protest segregation, the United Freedom Movement, which consisted initially of primarily African-American women in Cleveland, helped unite various Civil Rights organizations in Cleveland, including the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the Congress on Racial Equality. The group's ultimate goal was to create a school district with no segregation of any kind.

The groups actively picketed segregated schools and the Cleveland Board of Education. They submitted numerous petitions to city and school leaders. They also served as plaintiffs in a number of lawsuits.

In 1973, city and school officials made a serious effort to end segregation after an African American mother sued the Cleveland board of Education. In the case, known as Reed v. Rhodes, Judge Frank J. Battisti ruled that Cleveland's schools were segregated and that officials must implement programs designed to desegregate educational facilities and opportunities in the city. The judge's ruling was issued on August 31, 1976.

The United Freedom Movement continued its work in Cleveland after the schools desegregated. Members of the group opposed discrimination in the workplace, in restaurants, and in other places, in an effort to create a truly equal environment in Cleveland.

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