Urbana Elementary Schools Desegregated in 1966

This weekend the cities of Urbana and Champaign along with Parkland College and the University of Illinois celebrated the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Countywide Celebration. This year, the event honored six community members for their efforts to desegregate the Urbana elementary schools in 1966. The Champaign County Historical Archives has records pertinent to these events, available for use within the Archives Reading Room.

Headline from the Urbana Courier, 27 July 1966

Oral Histories from Paul S. Hursey (1982 & 1983): Mr. Hursey is a lifelong Urbana resident and civic leader. In 1982 and 1983, he spoke with representatives from the Champaign Public Library – Douglass Branch and the Urbana Free Library Archives about his life, work, and contribution to social change in Champaign-Urbana. Oral histories can be accessed by clicking here.

Urbana City Council Meeting Minutes (1963-1964): In 1963, Mr. Hursey began the Hays School Neighborhood Improvement Association in an effort to stem unfair housing practices for low-income African-Americans. Hursey and his neighbors petitioned the city to enforce minimum housing requirements by removing unsightly and unsafe structures from African-American neighborhoods. Meeting minutes detailing this work are available on microfiche in the Archives Reading Room.

The Relationship of Segregation and Financing Practices to Minority Housing Problems in Champaign-Urbana by the League of Women Voters of Champaign County (1961) details practices the Hays School Neighborhood Improvement Association sought to end. The report examines prejudicial housing practices of real estate agents, home sellers, and landlords to keep African-Americans tenants limited to certain neighborhoods.

This Bus Stops by WILL-TV (2005) documents the experience of African-Americans in local school systems from the 1960s to present. A segment about Concerned Citizens Committee emphasizes the group’s efforts to ensure students of color were treated fairly in Urbana schools. This DVD can be viewed in the Archives Reading Room.

Citizen Participation in the Urbana, Illinois Public Schools 1948-49 and 1960-1971 by Gary Loren Howrey (1973) is a doctoral thesis that discusses the work of citizen committees and their recommendations to the school board about educational improvements. It includes a discussion about desegregation, and efforts since 1966 to maintain racial parity in school populations.

“School Integration” Courier Articles Title Listing (1963-1979) provides documentation of school integration, and includes the 1966 Board Statement on Integration. The newspaper is available on microfilm in the Archives Reading Room.

Jean Burkholder championed low-income and minority students and families of Champaign-Urbana. She served on the Urbana School Board, various Parent-Teacher Association workgroups, and the League of Women Voters. The Jean Burkholder Papers (1951-2006) collection details her work, and includes the document “Review of Data Related to Desegregation in Urbana Schools” (1974) which analyzes the performance of African-American students before and after the 1966 desegregation. More information can be found in the online collection guide and in this previous blog post.

“African American Community Leaders in Champaign County" Digital Photo Album contains photographs of key leaders, describing their accomplishments and contributions to the Champaign-Urbana community. It can be viewed online at the Archives' Flickr page.

This is by no means an exhaustive list of resources available about this topic. For more information, check out our online catalog at Local History Online, or stop by the Archives Reading Room.

-Sarah L., Archives Assistant