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Legal Milestone List

  The Great Ferris Fire
  Berrien County Courthouse
  Elloitt-Larsen Civil Rights Act
  Milliken v. Bradley
  Elk, Oil, and the Environment
  Whisper to Rallying Cry
  Poletown & Eminent Domain
  Prentiss M. Brown
  Otis Milton Smith
  Freedom Road
  President Gerald R. Ford
  Mary Coleman
  Committee of One
  Milo Radulovich
  Striking Racial Covenants
  Murphy's Dissent
  Conveying Michigan
  Ending Jim Crow
  Pond's Defense
  Mount Clemens Pottery
  Emelia Schaub
  Rose of Aberlone
  Protecting the Impaired
  Laughing Whitefish
  The Uninvited Ear
  The King's Grant
  Improving Justice
  One Person—One Vote
  Eva Belles' Vote
  Constitutional Convention
  Ten Hours or No Sawdust
  Access to Public Water
  Augustus Woodward
  Sojourner Truth
  Justice William Fletcher
  Roosevelt-Newett Trial
  Cooley Law Office
  Baseball Reserve Clause
  Ossian Sweet Trial


36. Milliken v. Bradley—Desegregation, Busing, and Boundaries

Milliken v. Bradley, a historic 1974 United States Supreme Court case that addressed a plan for desegregation of schools and busing in Detroit and its suburbs, is the subject of the State Bar's 36th Michigan Legal Milestone.

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Milliken v. Bradley—Desegregation, Busing, and Boundaries

School desegregation became the law of the land after the United States Supreme Court's 1954 decision in Brown v. Board of Education. Twenty years later, the Supreme Court issued another landmark decision in a Detroit-based busing case, Milliken v. Bradley, which greatly impacted the city's population and changed the course of school desegregation in the United States.

In 1970, the Michigan legislature approved a bill to decentralize the Detroit school system. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, alleging public officials had intentionally segregated the Detroit schools, filed a lawsuit to overturn the statute on behalf of Richard and Ronald Bradley.

Federal District Judge Stephen Roth ruled integration was not possible within the city's boundaries and ordered a new plan to include 53 of the 85 surrounding, mostly white, school districts. This metropolitan plan set off a series of tense protests, but the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit upheld Roth's ruling.

The United States Supreme Court heard the case in 1974. In a controversial 5-4 vote, it overturned the lower courts and ruled that federal courts, "could not impose a multidistrict, area-wide remedy upon local districts in the absence of any evidence those districts committed acts causing racial discrimination." The judgment recognized the tradition of local control over schools and found the remedy approved by lower courts could alter the structure of public education in Michigan. The decision was a setback for forced desegregation, and it limited the scope of Brown that declared state laws establishing separate public schools for black and white students unconstitutional.

The Supreme Court ruling helped hasten Detroit's racial divide. By the mid 1970s, Detroit schools had lost more than 51,000 white students. After the 2000 U.S. Census, the Detroit area received the dubious distinction of becoming "America's Most Segregated City."

Placed by the State Bar of Michigan and the Wolverine Bar Association, September 16, 2011.

   
 

 

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