Fragmented Diversity: School Desegregation, Student Activism, and Busing in Los Angeles, 1962-1983
Herbert Sosa

About the research


NAEd/Spencer Postdoctoral Fellowship

Award Year



University of California, Los Angeles

Primary Discipline

In the important but understudied, civil rights and equal educational opportunity case of Mary Crawford vs. Los Angeles City Board of Education, I demonstrated how political and legal institutions shaped debates over the meaning of de jure/de facto segregation, equal educational opportunity, compensatory education, and bilingual/bicultural education. Examining racial inequality in education affecting African Americans, Chicanos, Latinos, and various immigrant groups in Los Angeles, I argued that what began as a school desegregation lawsuit under the framework of a straightforward black-white binary in 1963 transformed dramatically over nearly two decades due to drastic demographic and economic shifts, as well as the decision-making processes within two powerful institutional contexts at the Los Angeles City Board of Education (LACBE) and the courts. These contexts, in turn, generated new political identities, ideologies, and actors through various forms of decision-making during the struggle over school desegregation.Los Angeles’ racial politics had changed markedly by 1982 as racial and ethnic minority groups managed to carve out political spaces and concessions from these two institutions, even as these institutions had delineated who could participate in the political and legal arenas over education policy generally, and Crawford specifically. Moreover, political coalitions in the city were characterized by a condition of fragmented diversity, marked by unpredictable racial and ethnic coalitions that emanated out of political fissures among and within racial and ethnic communities. Given a choice of implementing school desegregation or race- and ethnicity-based educational policies, many powerful self-described “colorblind” legal and political institutions favored the latter, which sustained school and residential segregation and reinforced racial and ethnic identities and cohesion.
About Herbert Sosa
Herbert Sosa received a PhD in United States history from the University of Michigan in 2013. His research interests include civil rights, comparative race and ethnicity, urban and suburban history, social and political history, race and class inequality, identity formation, law, immigration, and education. In his dissertation, he examines how important legal and political institutions influence identity formation and political ideologies within the context of school desegregation efforts.

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