This photograph from the Brooklyn Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) collection shows the Bibuld family: parents Elaine and Jerome, and their three children Melanie, Carrington, and Douglass (L to R).
The Bibulds, an interracial family, lived in Crown Heights in the early 1960s and the children attended a neighborhood school that had a Gifted and Talented program and enrichments like art, music, and field trips. After their home caught fire in the fall of 1962, the Bibulds moved to Park Slope, and the children’s new neighborhood school had substandard academics and few enrichments — and the student body was more than 70% African American and Puerto Rican.
Elaine and Jerry Bibuld, both members of the Brooklyn chapter of CORE, were angered by this educational inequity and concerned for their children who were very bored at their new school. So, they pulled their children out of this racially segregated public school and sat them in an all-white school in the Bath Beach section of Brooklyn. Technically, the children were not enrolled in school and the City considered them truants, which opened the parents up to imprisonment for parental neglect. For roughly three months, the Bibuld protest was the most important desegregation case in the city.
Dr. Brian Purnell, professor of Africana Studies at Bowdoin college, writes at length about the Bibuld family’s fight to desegregate Brooklyn’s public schools in his new book, Fighting Jim Crow in the County of Kings: The Congress of Racial Equality in Brooklyn, which was just released in May 2013. This book describes the interracial, nonviolent direct action phase of civil rights activism outside the South. Brooklyn CORE was a real leader of that movement, and its history reveals a great deal about the history and legacies of racial discrimination in a place like Brooklyn.
While some racial justice activists, such as Reverend Dr. Milton Galamison and the Parents’ Workshop, advocated for Black children to integrate white schools in order to receive an equal education, Dr. Purnell writes that, “Brooklyn CORE adopted a different strategy… Rather than fight for a policy that racially integrated some schools, Brooklyn CORE hoped to make the entire school system more equitable and just, so that it would not matter if a Black student attended an all-Black school or a predominantly white school: the education would be the same for all students throughout the city.”
In 1962, when the Bibuld family was organizing for school equity in Brooklyn, an interracial marriage like their own was still illegal in 21 states.
By 1967, interracial marriage would be made legal in all states thanks to the Loving family and their landmark civil rights Supreme Court case Loving v. Virginia.
Join BHS in celebrating Loving Day this year to celebrate the anniversary of the Loving decision, fight racial prejudice through education, and build multicultural community.
Saturday, June 15th
3:00 – 7:00PM
East River Waterfront at 23rd Street, Manhattan
Many thanks to Dr. Brian Purnell for his contributions to this post.