Fifty years after the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed the constitutionality of busing children to achieve racial integration in schools, The Tower Road Bus revives the unresolved stories of African-American students and educators thrust into all-white schools during the 1970s.
Against the backdrop of violent anti-busing protests across the nation, Dotson Burns, Jr, a child of the Jim Crow South, lands on the frontlines of school integration, first as a teacher and then as the first Black principal of a majority-white school in Prince George’s County, Maryland. Mindful of the eyes of white parents and the suspicions of Black students and families, he must oversee the busing of frustrated Black students from the historically-Black community of Tower Road to the mostly white Crestview Elementary School.
It was a sweeping integration experiment that created more questions than answers. “Why did you need to move me so that you could diversify another school so they could say that they had Black students?” asks a former Black pupil caught up in the difficult transition. “You didn’t do anything to help me.”
While debates over racial justice and equity reach a boil in 2021, The Tower Road Bus brings Burns, his teachers and students, and the audience face to face with the ambitious yet controversial integration measures that appeared on the nation’s unfinished road to racial justice.
Were there winners on the frontlines of integration? The Tower Road Bus seeks an answer.