The Board of Education heard testimony and received letters from diverse groups and individuals on the Central High crisis from September 1949 to March 1950.  Activists who favored the transfer, argued that since overcrowding existed at Cardozo, more space should be found at the nearest underutilized high school.  They said it was not a matter of race, and they would have taken the same stance if Central had been overcrowded.14  The opponents based their argument primarily on race, sentiment and tradition, along with the need to retain a viable white economic presence in midtown.  All of their testimony and correspondence may have had less influence, notwithstanding, than a single letter from a Congressman.                  

      In February 1950, the president of the Board of Education received a letter from Joseph B. Bates, Chairman of the District of Columbia Subcommittee on Appropriations. Bates explained that when the subcommittee examined the overall budget requirements for the city, it looked very closely at the crisis in the public schools.  The subcommittee decided that immediate steps must be taken to ameliorate overcrowding at Cardozo High School.  This included relocating the Cardozo students to the Central building, since a large number of vacancies existed there.  The students at Central could be transferred to underutilized junior high and senior high schools in the area.  Bates indicated that the transfer of Central would be permanent.15                       

      The subcommittee rejected the idea of expending about five million dollars to construct a new Cardozo High School.  It felt it was unwise to spend that much money for any project at the same time that it had refused to impose a sales tax upon the people of the District of Columbia.  A portion of the sales tax would have paid for the school facilities required by the whole school system.  Bates reminded the Board that the elementary and junior high school levels also had urgent construction requirements which would tax the District of Columbia's resources for years to come.  He argued that the needs of the Cardozo students could be adequately met at Central.16

     The Board, after reviewing all the letters, telegrams, and testimony given at public hearings, met on March 8, 1950.  It was ready to decide the fate of Cardozo and Central High Schools.  In the months before the final vote, the embattled Board had offended or antagonized both opponents and proponents of the transfer.  In the end, the Board voted five to two to transfer Central for the use of Black students effective August 1, 1950.17  Since the Black members consistently supported the transfer, it required only one vote from among the white members for a majority.

     The battle over Central High School was long and bitter, but most of the opponents of the transfer finally accepted the Board's decision.  There were some exceptions. On May 3, 1950, nevertheless, the Board of Education officially approved a recommendation to drop Central from the list of white, city high schools.18                 


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November 2000