Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy a life-changer for school trustee

HARLINGEN — The change initiated by Martin Luther King Jr. rippled across numerous sectors of society.

Certainly, the first purpose was to deal with the disenfranchisement of African Americans, said George McShan, who has served on the Harlingen school board since 1988.

Today, as the nation observes Martin Luther King Jr. Day, McShan and so many other Americans consider the influence of the civil rights leader. The significance of King’s movement is very strong to McShan, because he remembers how his life changed.

“We did not have the right to vote, we did not have the right to participate in the American democracy as the Constitution had so stated,” said McShan, who graduated from a segregated high school in 1965.

The Plessy vs. Ferguson decision of 1896 had ruled that blacks must attend schools that were “separate but equal.” However, in the 1950s the Supreme Court ruled schools must be desegregated with all deliberate speed.

That single word “deliberate” was the loophole many states used to drag their feet in desegregating the schools. McShan’s high school in Elgin, Texas, wasn’t desegregated until 1968. This occurrence appears especially peculiar considering the civil rights bill was passed in 1964 and the voting rights act in 1965.

Nevertheless, in spite of lingering inconsistencies and unanswered questions, opportunities suddenly opened for African Americans that had never before been available.

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