"Work Hard and Do the Best You Can Do"
Research Compiled by: Shayla S., LaShaye BC, and Moises D.
In 1895 Lucinda Gamble (later Mrs. John Williams) was hired as the first African American teacher in the Omaha Public Schools.
The hiring of African American teachers continued to be a rare occurrence over the next 50 years. In the 1960s, Omaha’s school district reached a turning point, and the hiring of African American teachers started to become more fair and frequent, although, improvements in hiring practices can still be made today.
There have been many African American teachers in Omaha schools that have made a significant impact on the community. One of these educators who paved the way for future African American educators was Dr. Eugene Skinner. Dr. Skinner was first hired as a full time teacher in the Omaha school district in 1940. He was the first African American: named principal of an Omaha school in 1947; named principal of an Omaha Jr. High school in 1965; administrator in the Omaha school district in 1968; and assistant superintendent in 1969.
While laws did not mandate segregated education in the North as they had in the South, housing patterns and numerous decisions by policy-makers nonetheless resulted in the de facto segregation of Omaha schools.
In 1971, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that federal courts could order busing to integrate public schools and in 1976 a federal court order mandated busing in the Omaha Public School system. The decision increased racial tension in the city causing some white Omaha residents, who wanted to block the new busing policy, to raise money and distribute "no busing" bumper stickers in protest. During this period, white student enrollment in OPS decreased dramatically, placing the majority of the busing burden on African-American students who were encouraged to travel, often long distances, to predominantly white schools.
Mandatory busing in Omaha ended in 1999 when the district adopted an open enrollment policy based on income instead of race. Yet, evidence of re-segregation in the early 2000s prompted a controversial new plan creating three distinct learning communities controlled by Omaha neighborhoods organized largely around patterns of race and ethnicity. Race and education policy continues to be hotly debated in Omaha to this day.
On January 1 1976, the OPS Board of Education presented a plan to the Federal District Court for student desegregation to that was scheduled to begin in the fall of the 1976 school year. Prior to making this court-ordered presentation, members of the Omaha community were given an opportunity to express their views through several town meetings. Suggestions had been received and studied by the Board and the school-appointed Integration task force. In an attempt to answer the many questions that were posed, pamphlets and material such as “The Plan” (pictured left) and other brochures were made available to explain the major change in educational policy. Formulated in response to a report from the Omaha Community Committee, "The Plan" specified how the OPS could begin to take steps to integrate its public schools.
Evidence of re-segregation began to emerge in some Omaha schools the early 2000s prompted a controversial new plan creating three distinct learning communities. The communities would be controlled by Omaha neighborhoods organized largely around patterns of race and ethnicity. Race and education policy continues to be hotly debated in Omaha to this day. (Photo courtesy of Omaha Public Schools).
Omaha Public Schools
3215 Cuming Street
Omaha, NE 68131
Douglas County Historical Society
5730 North 30th Street
Omaha, NE 68111-1600
Education in Omaha
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What I learned about the education project is how segregation was a big problem and how Omaha public schools treated teachers by the way they looked.
My brain is stuffed with fascinating information. This camp has taught me to fight for what I believe in, and to stand up for my rights.
I learned a lot of interesting information about Omaha’s African American history, especially in the area of education. I found the story that explained how schools were segregated and eventually integrated the most interesting.