Through interviews and historical footage, Leveling Lincoln explores the landmark 1961 desegregation case of Taylor vs. Board of Education of New Rochelle, NY where an entire elementary school had to be torn down to achieve a level playing field in education. The case, the first of its kind in the North (seven years after Brown vs. The Board of Education), was praised on the floor of the United States Senate as an example of successful integration by peaceful protest, discourse, and jurisprudence. In contrast to the Ruby Bridges or the Linda Brown stories in the South, the New Rochelle case had hundreds of children bused to schools without calling out the National Guard, all because of a group of dedicated parents who took action.
It's the story of how a community came together at the grassroots level to reject the accepted de facto segregation of their town and recognize how its history of privilege made them blind to systemic inequality. It is also the story of a neighborhood greatly affected by the tearing down their local elementary school, the center of their community. The many sides to this court case and the intended and unintended consequences make for an excellent classroom debate and discussion. It is a starting point for greater research both on the Taylor case and the later cases in the North during the Civil Rights Era in the United States.