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Before Desegregation: The Education Migration
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Before Desegregation: The Education Migration

Before Desegregation: The Education Migration

In Difficult Choice, Children Sent Away to Integrated Schools

Before Desegregation: The Education Migration
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Web Extra: Sisters Walt Swanston and Bettye Snowden and Childhood Friend Harriett Pitcher Recall Life in Clinton, La., During Segregation
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Walt Swanston and Bettye Snowden

Walt Swanston, left, and sister Bettye Snowden, in a 1948 photo in Clinton, La. The picture was taken just before Walt was sent to Oakland, Calif., to live with her aunt and uncle and attend desegregated schools. Courtesy Jackson Family hide caption

toggle caption Courtesy Jackson Family

Before the landmark 1954 ruling of Brown v. Board of Education, black parents were faced with the prospect of sending their children to inferior schools. But some Southern families found a way to avoid the segregated system, delivering their children to relatives in other states that offered integrated classrooms.

NPR's Debbie Elliott reports on the story of Walt Swanston and Bettye Snowden, two sisters from Clinton, La., who were put on trains for Oakland, Calif., where they lived with an aunt and uncle so they could attend integrated schools.

Swanston, now director of diversity management at NPR, is bitter about a system that caused her to lose time with her family. "Even though I enjoy a lot of the riches and enjoy a lot of the opportunities that I might not have had [in Clinton], I question the value of breaking up a family. Even though it was for a good cause, I still see that my family was broken apart — was torn apart."

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