Sheff vs. O’Neill is a relatively unknown case that addressed the schooling differences between the City of Hartford, CT and the surrounding suburbs. Although Brown vs. Board had outlawed intentional segregation, it did not address the growing problem of de facto segregation. The Sheff vs O’Neill case claimed that because Hartford schools served a disproportionally poor and minority population, Hartford students were receiving a both separate and vastly unequal education when compared to their suburban peers. This, according to plaintiffs, was a violation of Connecticut’s constitution. Two of the plaintiffs, sisters Wildaliz and Eva Burmudez recount their stories in the video below. The Latino students discuss their memories and perceptions of the Sheff vs O’Neill case, their education in Hartford, and the continuing effects both have in their lives.
Wildaliz and Eva Bermudez, June 30, 2011 from Trinity College on Vimeo.
(Bermudez, Wildaliz and Eva. Oral history interview on Sheff v. O’Neill school desegregation by Anique Thompson for the Cities, Suburbs, and Schools Project, June 30, 2011. Available from the Trinity College Digital Repository, Hartford Connecticut (http://digitalrepository.trincoll.edu/cssp/).)
The photograph below (which significantly pre-dates the video above) is representative of one strategy used to provide Hartford students with a better, more equitable education. This group of African American students is standing next to a bus going to “suburbia.” The Hartford students are being bused out to a nearby suburb in the promise of a better education, likely as a part of Project Concern (an program that places urban students in suburban schools). This is representative of the racial divide between Hartford and its surrounding towns. While urban schools have been overwhelmed by the effects of racial isolation and concentrated poverty, “suburbia” represents promise and success to these smiling students.