Date of Award


Document Type

Senior Scholars Paper (Open Access)


Colby College. Sociology Dept.


Christine Bowditch

Second Advisor

Rob Weisbrot

Third Advisor

Tom Morrione


This paper examines the contemporary school desegregation controversy from a sociological perspective. Sheff v. O'Neill, a contemporary school desegregation case, is used as a context in which to study the opposition to racial integration. Through close examination of the arguments people use to frame their resistance, the racist subtext of contemporary school desegregation opposition is exposed. The data for this analysis come from legal briefs, newspaper accounts, and in-depth personal interviews with Connecticut citizens and various key actors in the Sheff case collected between January, 1993 and March, 1994. This paper looks at each of the major arguments people use against desegregation and examines the assumptions on which these arguments are based. The study shows that although people attempted to base their opposition in apparently 'race neutral' arguments, the subtext of these arguments was race-related. Racism, although vehemently avoided in explicit discussion of the Sheff case, was implicit in the subtext of the discourse.


School integration, United States, Racism, United States, History, 20th century

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