Parties Agree to End Higher Education Desegregation Case in Tennessee

In 1968 Rita Geier, an instructor at Tennessee State University, the historically black educational institution in Nashville, filed a federal lawsuit charging that the state maintained a racially segregated dual system of higher education. The case was finally settled in 2001 with an agreement by the state to allocate $75 million toward efforts to diversify the student bodies and faculties at all state-operated colleges and universities in Tennessee.

Under the 2001 consent decree the parties agreed to end the litigation and court oversight of the higher education system if the spending goals were met. This past week the parties to the suit agreed that “Tennessee has reached its goal of operating a unitary system of public higher education.” The parties will now ask the federal courts to end the litigation.

Despite the agreement, it appears that some degree of racial segregation prevails in Tennessee higher education. Blacks continue to make up more than 80 percent of the student body at Tennessee State University. Blacks are only 9 percent of the undergraduate enrollments at the flagship campus of the University of Tennessee at Knoxville.