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Letter Requesting a Study of Racial Isolation as a Barrier to Quality in Education.

November 17, 1965

Dear Mr. Chairman:

The future of our Nation rests on the quality of the education its young people receive. And for our Negro children quality education is especially vital because it is the key to equality.

In the past decade this Nation has moved with increasing speed toward the elimination of discrimination and segregation in education, and in housing, employment, voting, and access to public facilities and accommodations. However, long after we have done all we can to eliminate past inequities, we will continue to pay their costs in stunted lives. Because millions of Negroes were deprived of quality education and training in basic skills, because they were given to believe that they could aspire only to the most menial and insecure places in our society, they are seriously handicapped in taking advantage of opportunities afforded by new laws, new attitudes and an expanding economy. We can no longer tolerate such waste of human resources.

Although we have made substantial progress in ending formal segregation of schools, racial isolation in the schools persists--both in the North and the South--because of housing patterns, school districting, economic stratification and population movements. It has become apparent that such isolation presents serious barriers to quality education. The problems are more subtle and complex than those presented by segregation imposed by law. The remedies may be difficult. But as a first and vital step, the Nation needs to know the facts.

These problems of race and education fall within the responsibilities which Congress has assigned to your Commission, and I request it to gather the facts and make them available to the Nation as rapidly as possible. I know that the Commission will wish to consult with Secretary Gardner and Attorney General Katzenbach to obtain the benefit of their experience, and I am sure they will make the facilities of their Departments available to assist the Commission.

I trust that the task can be completed expeditiously and that your findings may provide a basis for action not only by the Federal Government but also by the states and local school boards which bear the direct responsibility for assuring quality education.



[Honorable John A. Hannah, Chairman, United States Commission on Civil Rights, Washington, D.C.]

Note: Mr. Hannah's reply to the President, made public by the White House on November 20, follows:
Dear Mr. President:

I write in reply to your letter of November 17, requesting that the Commission on Civil Rights conduct a study of problems of segregation in education and make the facts available to the Nation as rapidly as possible. The Commission will meet on December 2 to review plans and to assess the additional resources that may be needed to carry out adequately the program you have requested. In the meantime, I wish to assure you of our complete cooperation.

From its past studies the Commission has become convinced that the problem of securing equal educational opportunity for American citizens is one which faces the entire Nation rather than any particular region. We also believe that the segregation or racial isolation of children in schools, whatever the causes, does serious harm to all children--harm that demands the urgent attention of the Nation.

We hope that our studies will make a contribution to the goal you have articulated--education of a quality that will enable each child in this Nation to develop his mind and his skills to the fullest, and that it will help to point the way to additional action on the local, state and federal levels to achieve this goal.
Respectfully yours,

Lyndon B. Johnson, Letter Requesting a Study of Racial Isolation as a Barrier to Quality in Education. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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