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'A Fear Of Going To School': 5 Former Boston Students Reflect On Busing

This year, we've been looking back at the 40th anniversary of court-ordered busing to desegregate Boston's public school system.

In June 1974, Judge W. Arthur Garrity ruled that the Boston Public Schools had failed to integrate, and so, as a temporary fix, thousands of kids were ordered to take school buses across town to different neighborhoods, with the goal of creating racial balance in city schools.

You've probably heard other recent stories about this episode in Boston's history, and often they focus on individual interviews with former students. We wanted to hear what it would sound like if these former students were actually talking to each other. So we reached out via social media, the radio and community organizations to find willing participants. And here we bring together five former BPS students who agreed to meet at WBUR and share their collective, yet incredibly personal, stories. Click the audio player, and scroll down for portraits.

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At this spot on Cummins Highway, Bobby Jenkins says white kids from Hyde Park would hide behind trees and throw rocks and bottles at the school bus Jenkins and other black students took after football practice on their way back to Mattapan. He still lives in Mattapan. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
At this spot on Cummins Highway, Bobby Jenkins says white kids from Hyde Park would hide behind trees and throw rocks and bottles at the school bus Jenkins and other black students took after football practice on their way back to Mattapan. He still lives in Mattapan. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

"It was almost like [being] embedded in a war zone. You get used to it."

Bobby Jenkins, who was 14 when he was first bused from Mattapan to Hyde Park

Paul Murphy stands in Boston International High School in Dorchester, which was Thompson Middle School when he attended. He says white students bused from Hyde Park would run into classrooms to avoid altercations with the neighborhood kids from Dorchester. He now lives in Rhode Island. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
Paul Murphy stands in Boston International High School in Dorchester, which was Thompson Middle School when he attended. He says white students bused from Hyde Park would run into classrooms to avoid altercations with the neighborhood kids from Dorchester. He now lives in Rhode Island. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

"It was just a matter of grouping up and trying to stay mutually protected. ... We just sort of grouped up with the biggest, toughest kids you had. And, honestly, just hope for the best."

Paul Murphy, who was 12 when he was first bused from Hyde Park to Dorchester

Christine Boseman gets emotional returning, for the first time, to what was Roslindale High School. She says she witnessed sometimes-violent confrontation between whites and blacks. She still lives in Dorchester; a child and now a grandchild have been BPS students. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
Christine Boseman gets emotional returning, for the first time, to what was Roslindale High School. She says she witnessed sometimes-violent confrontation between whites and blacks. She still lives in Dorchester; a child and now a grandchild have been BPS students. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

"Once busing kicked in it was more of a fear of going to school as opposed to an excitement of going to school."

Christine Boseman, who was 15 when she was first bused from Dorchester to Roslindale

JoAnne Coon says she left the Boston school system because she had been beaten up. Her family moved to Walpole where she says she never felt at home. Now living in Plymouth, she wishes she could move back to Boston. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
JoAnne Coon says she left the Boston school system because she had been beaten up. Her family moved to Walpole where she says she never felt at home. Now living in Plymouth, she wishes she could move back to Boston. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

"I call it the lost class of '78. The statistics are astronomically bad. ... I didn't graduate from college until 2001. I should have graduated in 1983."

JoAnne Coon, who was 15 when she was bused from Roslindale to Boston Tech, then West Roxbury High

Elaine Ng wasn’t bused; she only needed to walk three blocks to the Mozart School (in the background on the right). But she says older white students waiting for their buses at this corner tormented her with racial slurs. She still lives in Roslindale, and her two kids attend Boston public schools. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
Elaine Ng wasn’t bused; she only needed to walk three blocks to the Mozart School (in the background on the right). But she says older white students waiting for their buses at this corner tormented her with racial slurs. She still lives in Roslindale, and her two kids attend Boston public schools. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

"We still make decisions based on the baggage that we carry. I think it’s more than lost years, it’s kind of like we lost a generation."

Elaine Ng, who walked to her Roslindale neighborhood's Mozart School

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