Millions of Americans marked Martin Luther King Day yesterday with tributes to the civil rights leader, despite a Harvard University report showing that racial segregation in schools has been increasing since the early 1990s, when the courts made a series of decisions to dissolve desegregation orders.
Yesterday President George Bush and the Reverend Jesse Jackson were among the millions of Americans who paid tribute to King, who was assassinated in 1968. In New York, the mayor, Michael Bloomberg, said he had been inspired by King, and that he hoped for "equal opportunity for all" and "a first-class education for all our children".
Students with candles lit in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. walk in a procession to mass Monday, Jan. 16, 2006, at Loyola University in New Orleans. Hundreds of students from Tulane, Dillard, Xavier, and Loyola Universities gathered at the Holy Name of Jesus Church to honor the fallen civil rights leader. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
However, the percentage of black students attending schools where most students are non-white increased across the US from 66% in 1991 to 73% in the 2003-2004 school year, according to the report by Harvard's Civil Rights Project and released at the weekend. In the south, where the desegregation effort was concentrated, the number of black students in schools where most students are non-white rose from 61% to 71% over a 12-year period. More than three-quarters of intensely segregated schools serve children from poor families, the report said.
"The national segregation levels are back at levels of the late 1960s," said Professor Gary Orfield, director of the project and co-author of the report. "We have lost almost all the progress that came from desegregating our urban communities."
Despite this, some 78% of white Americans and 66% of black citizens believe the country has made significant progress towards achieving King's dream of racial equality, according to an Associated Press-Ipsos poll released yesterday.
But the report suggested that segregation is no longer limited to black v white, but increasingly means that white students are separated in some schools and minority students in others.
In the 1960s, four out of every five American students were white. In the 2003-2004 school year, Latinos were the largest minority, at 19%, followed by 17% black students, 4% Asian students and 1% Native American students. Today, only about 58% are white.
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