MR. JUSTICE BLACK delivered the opinion of the Court.
In this action the United States District Court at Montgomery, Alabama, ordered the local Montgomery County Board of Education to bring about a racial desegregation
Fifteen years ago, on May 17, 1954, we decided that segregation of the races in the public schools is unconstitutional. Brown v. Board of Education, 347 U.S. 483 (Brown I). In that case we left undecided the manner in which the transition from segregated to unitary school systems would be achieved, and set the case down for another hearing, inviting the Attorney General of the United States and the Attorneys General of the States providing for racial segregation in the public schools to present their views on the best ways to implement and enforce our judgment. We devoted four days to the argument on this single problem, and all the affected parties were given the opportunity to present their views at length. After careful consideration of the many viewpoints so fully aired by the parties, we announced our decision in Brown II, 349 U.S. 294 (1955). We held that the primary responsibility for abolishing the system of segregated schools would rest with the local school authorities. In some of the States that argued before us, the laws permitted but did not require racial segregation,
The record shows that neither Montgomery County nor any other area in Alabama voluntarily took any effective steps to integrate the public schools for about 10 years after our Brown I opinion. In fact the record makes clear that the state government and its school officials attempted in every way possible to continue the dual system of racially segregated schools in defiance of our repeated unanimous holdings that such a system violated the United States Constitution.
There the matter stood in Alabama in May 1964 when the present action was brought by Negro children and their parents, with participation by the United States as amicus curiae. Apparently up to that time Montgomery County, and indeed all other schools in the State, had operated, so far as actual racial integration was concerned, as though our Brown cases had never been decided. Obviously voluntary integration by the local school officials in Montgomery had not proved to be even partially successful. Consequently, if Negro children of school age were to receive their constitutional rights as we had declared them to exist, the coercive assistance of courts was imperatively called for. So, after preliminary procedural matters were disposed of, answers filed, and issues joined, a trial took place. On July 31, 1964, District Judge Johnson handed down an opinion and entered an
Based on his findings, Judge Johnson ordered that integration of certain grades begin in September 1964, but in this first order did not require efforts to desegregate the faculty. The school board, acting under the State's school placement law, finally admitted eight Negro students out of the 29 who had sought transfers to white schools under the judge's July 31 order. The judge refused to order admission of the 21 Negro students
The 1964 initial order of Judge Johnson was followed by yearly proceedings, opinions, and orders by him.
In his 1968 order Judge Johnson provided for safeguards to assure that construction of new schools or additions to existing schools would not follow a pattern tending to perpetuate segregation. The order also provided for the adoption of nondiscriminatory bus routes and for other safeguards to insure that the board's transportation policy would not tend to perpetuate segregation. The order provided for detailed steps to eliminate the impression existing in the school district that the new Jefferson Davis High School and two new elementary schools were to be used primarily by white students. The order also included a requirement that the board file in the near future further specific reports detailing the steps taken to comply with each point of the order. Nearly all of these aspects of the order were accepted by the school board and not challenged in its appeal to the Court of Appeals. Of the provisions so far mentioned, only one aspect of the provision relating to Jefferson Davis High School was challenged in the Court of Appeals, and after the Court of Appeals upheld Judge Johnson's order on this point, the school board accepted its decision and did not seek review on the question here.
The dispute in this action thus centers only on that part of the 1968 order which deals with faculty and staff
He therefore concluded that a more specific order would be appropriate under all the circumstances to establish the minimum amount of progress that would be required for the future. To this end his order provided that the board must move toward a goal under which "in each school the ratio of white to Negro faculty members is substantially the same as it is throughout the system." Id., at 654. In addition, the order set forth a specific schedule. The ratio of Negro to white teachers in the assignment of substitute, student, and night school teachers in each school was to be almost immediately made substantially the same as the ratio of Negro to white teachers in each of these groups for the system as a whole. With respect to full-time teachers, a more gradual schedule was set forth. At the time the ratio of white to Negro full-time teachers in the system as a whole was three to two. For the 1968-1969 school year, each school with fewer than 12 teachers was required to
It was the part of the District Court's order containing this ratio pattern that prompted the modification of the order by the Court of Appeals. Agreeing that the District Court had properly found from "extensive hearings. . . that desegregation of faculties in the Montgomery County school system was lagging and that appellants [the school board] had failed to comply with earlier orders of the court requiring full faculty desegregation," and noting that the testimony of school officials themselves indicated the need for more specific guidelines,
Judge Johnson's order now before us was adopted in the spirit of this Court's opinion in Green v. County School Board, supra, at 439, in that his plan "promises realistically to work, and promises realistically to work now." The modifications ordered by the panel of the Court of Appeals, while of course not intended to do so, would, we think, take from the order some of its capacity to expedite, by means of specific commands, the day when a completely unified, unitary, nondiscriminatory school system becomes a reality instead of a hope. We believe it best to leave Judge Johnson's order as written rather than as modified by the 2-1 panel, particularly in view of the fact that the Court of Appeals as a whole was evenly divided on this subject. We also believe that under all the circumstances of this case we follow the original plan outlined in Brown II, as brought up to date by this Court's opinions in Green v. County School Board, supra, and Griffin v. School Board, 377 U.S. 218, 233-234 (1964), by accepting the more specific and
It is good to be able to decide a case with the feelings we have about this one. The differences between the parties are exceedingly narrow. Respondents, members of the Montgomery County school board, state clearly in their brief, "These respondents recognize their affirmative responsibility to provide a desegregated, unitary and nonracial school system. These respondents recognize their responsibility to assign teachers without regard to race so that schools throughout the system are not racially identifiable by their faculties . . . ." Brief for Respondents 11-12. Petitioners, on the other hand, do not argue for precisely equal ratios in every single school under all circumstances. As the United States, petitioner in No. 798, recognizes in its brief, the District Court's order "is designed as a remedy for past racial assignment . . . . We do not, in other words, argue here that racially balanced faculties are constitutionally or legally required." Brief for the United States 13. In short, the Montgomery County school board, and its counsel, assert their purpose to bring about a racially integrated school system as early as practicable in good-faith obedience to this Court's decisions. Both the District Judge and the Court of Appeals have accorded to the parties and their counsel courteous and patient consideration; there is no sign of lack of interest in the cause of either justice or education in the views maintained by any of the parties or in the orders entered by either of the courts below. Despite the fact that the individual petitioners in this litigation have with some reason argued that Judge Johnson should have gone farther to protect their rights than he did, we approve his order as he wrote it. This, we believe, is the best course we can take in the interest of the petitioners and the public school system of Alabama.
The judgment of the Court of Appeals is reversed, and the cases are remanded with directions to affirm the judgment of the District Court.
It is so ordered.
"Q. Well, under your plan, when do you estimate that faculty desegregation will be finally accomplished in terms of the objective of the court order removing—
"A. Well, now, that is something I don't know, because I don't know what the objectives of the court order are. That has never been laid down in any percentage fashion that I know of. It says that you will have reasonable desegregation of faculty and that you will strive toward having each faculty not recognizable as being staffed for a particular race. That is what I get out of it.
"Q. Well, let—
"A. So I— I can't— this court order is in fairly general terms; I can't answer that question.
"Q. Well, you made the statement about having schools staffed so that they will not be recognizable as for a particular race; when do you expect that that will be accomplished?
"A. Well, that would depend on what the Board's definition of that is, the court's definition of that.
"Q. Do you have a definition of that?
"A. Not at this point; we have discussed that many times, and I do not have a definition of— of what that would mean.
"Q. No one has told you, given you a definition in terms of mechanics, in terms of numbers, none of your superiors?
"A. No, as far as I know, no other school personnel man in America has. I have talked to many of them. What we are striving to do is to make progress and keep going and hope that somewhere along the line we will have achieved the— what the court has in mind. But if you will look at that court order, you will see it doesn't lay down the precise terms exactly what that means; it is a broad definition."
"There is no universal answer to complex problems of desegregation; there is obviously no one plan that will do the job in every case. The matter must be assessed in light of the circumstances present and the options available in each instance. It is incumbent upon the school board to establish that its proposed plan promises meaningful and immediate progress toward disestablishing state-imposed segregation. It is incumbent upon the district court to weigh that claim in light of the facts at hand and in light of any alternatives which may be shown as feasible and more promising in their effectiveness."