Monographs by American scholars on busing do exist, with the latest by Matthew Delmont (Why Busing Failed…) probably being the best (not least because it covers the history of bussing nationally ) whereas this is the very first book about bussing in England, despite the substantial number of essays on race and schooling. Notice that in 2015, American historian Brett Bebber published a great article on the history of bussing in Ealing : “ ‘We Were Just Unwanted’, Bussing, Migrant Dispersal and South Asians in London”, Journal of Social History, vol. 48 no. 3 (2015).

Unsurprisingly then, librarians and archivists contacted across England in areas which operated bussing were often unaware of the very existence of this policy in their own town. The only two places where I did not have to describe what English bussing was have been Ealing (Southall) and Bradford, the two English areas where it was widespread.

With hindsight, what is also astonishing is that for at least ten years after the introduction of dispersal in 1963, the racist name-calling and bullying which many young Asians went through on an almost daily basis was publically invisible. The papers did not report it, education experts (Maurice Kogan, for one) did not lay stress on it, and policy-makers were apparently blissfully unaware of what went on. One of the early official acknowledgments of the dire side-effects of bussing was in the Swann Report (1985), wherein one Asian former pupil recollects :

“… I attended a middle school where approximately 90 per cent of the pupils were white. The results of this situation were terrifying. The group of black children were bussed to the school and then isolated from their neighbourhood. At home they were again isolated from any school contacts. During the four years I spent in that school, not one person attended any after-school activities for fear of walking through the neighbourhood where about ninety-two per cent of the population were white. It would be literally true to say that there was a physical barrier between our homes and our school and the only way in or out was on the coach. At school the situation was the same. The Asians were constantly in fear of being attacked by the several gangs of white boys. As we ran towards the staff room a teacher would come out and disperse the white gang, throw us back into the playground and then walk back in as if nothing had happened. The teachers had no idea what we were experiencing.” (Former Asian pupil, Southall, quoted in Education for All (“Swann”) Report, London, HMSO, 1985, p. 34).

It is this also in this sense that the history of English bussing is almost uncharted territory : hundreds, indeed thousands of individual memories need to be told, and the book hopes to unearth as many of these as possible.

all-smilesThe Telegraph and Argus (Bradford), 12. 11. 1972 : this picture of smiling Asians, like so many others, tends to gloss over racist bullying within the schools, even in articles which do not endorse bussing.

capture-2-girls

BBC (Southall, 1976) : The very few T.V clips about English bussing generally show Asians on buses, not in the (white) schools : they are often dozy, having a good time among friends, etc.

why-our-susan

One reason for the paucity of archival material on bussing / dispersal is that its introduction coincided with the introduction of comprehensive schooling under Harold Wilson. Here a leaflet about comprehensive schooling (George Padmore Institute, Finsbury Park, London)