Desegregation of Miami-Dade County Public Schools: 1954--1959

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Educational Leadership and School Counseling

First Advisor

Michael Ward

Advisor Department

Educational Leadership and School Counseling


The purpose of this study was to analyze and describe the process of desegregation in the Miami-Dade County public, schools between 1954 and 1959. The initial year coincided with the decision of the United States Supreme Court in the case Brown v. Board of Education (1954) , which declared that segregation in public schools was unconstitutional. The latter date marked the admission of the first group of African Americans to Miami-Dade's Orchard Villa Elementary School, a school that had previously been reserved for White students. The study employed techniques of history to examine the response of the state government of Florida, the school board of Miami-Dade County Public Schools, and the various public interest groups to the decision of the United States Supreme Court. The public policy process served as a framework by which the actions of the parties involved were examined. Source materials included minutes of the school board of Miami-Dade County, state records, court cases, newspaper accounts, journal articles, and books. The study revealed that the decision of the Supreme Court was a controversial matter which resulted in many people in Florida supporting the preservation of the dual system of public education, while others demanded the integration of public schools. Although the state government was dominated by segregationists, there was no uniformity in their proposed responses to the decision of the Court in Brown v. Board of Education . Conservative legislators and their supporters throughout Florida sought strong measures to prevent the integration of the schools. They even contemplated the closure of public schools. Other segregationists were more moderate in the policies which they sought to implement. Governor LeRoy Collins was the leader of the moderate segregationists who sought to delay the compliance of the state of Florida with the implementation decree of the Supreme Court, but never to abolish the public schools. The study concluded that the response of both the government of the state of Florida and the Miami-Dade County School Board evolved over time. There was an initial cautious optimism of an early compliance with the decision of the Supreme Court in Brown . The 1956 gubernatorial Democratic primary was a pivotal event in the subsequent policy of resistance that was pursued by the state of Florida. The state legislature enacted a number of legislation including a pupil assignment act, and it also launched an investigation into the activities of the NAACP. The Miami-Dade County School Board followed the initiatives of the state government, particularly as they related to the observation of the pupil assignment law that was instrumental in using factors other than race to keep the schools separated. The school board and elements in the state government were, however, fearful that the legal challenges mounted by the NAACP against the pupil assignment law might prevail. These groups put in place a policy of limited integration. The study has implications for policy makers who are seeking to achieve and maintain equity in the operation of schools. Further research is needed on the period 1960-1971 when the Miami-Dade County Public Schools achieved unitary status.