By enforcing segregation in Florida’s schools, the state Legislature not only created a separate education system for Black and white students, it also starved the Black schools of resources.[1] Congress’s decision to delete a requirement in the Civil Rights Act of 1875 – which mandated that students of both races have equal access to education – opened the door for Florida to amend its state constitution in 1885 to deepen racial segregation in schools. The amendment required that white and “colored” children not be taught in the same school but that “impartial provision be made for both”.[2]

As a result of this amendment, per-pupil funding for Black students became a small fraction of spending per white pupil. For example, in 1918, the per pupil funding for white students in Volusia County was $138.63, while Black schools only received $13.19 per student. Black students in Jim Crow-era Florida attended schools without basic utilities and materials, were deprived transportation, and given shorter school years and fewer grades than their white counterparts.

Florida’s constitution remained largely unchanged because of the rules governing the apportionment of the state Legislature. Apportionment rules ensured for decades after senators representing small populations carried the same weight as those representing large populations – this ultimately enabled the Pork Chop Gang, a pro-segregation group of senators from North Florida, to dominate the Legislature and delay integration into the 1950s.




[1] Deidre Cobb-Roberts and Barbara Shircliffe, “The Legacy of Desegregation in Florida”, in Kathryn M. Borman and Sherman Dorn, Eds. ‘Education Reform in Florida: Diversity and Equity in Public Policy. Albany, New York: State University of New York Press, 2007.

[2] Gengler, Michael T. (2018). We Can Do It:  A Community Takes on the Challenge of School Desegregation. New York: Rosetta Books.