For much of the early 20th century, the Scouts' national leadership did not endorse segregation or discrimination but still gave wide discretion to councils to set their own racial policies. Unsurprisingly, many chapters — especially in the segregated South — opted not to admit black Scouts. Some troops imposed long waiting periods before letting blacks join, while others allowed black boys to join but prohibited them from wearing uniforms. (Boy Scout officials in Richmond, Va., once even threatened to stage a public burning of Scout uniforms if black boys were permitted to wear them.) And while the first black troop was formed in 1911, just a year after the Boy Scouts' founding, it wasn't until decades later that many troops eased their rules on segregation, and not until 1974 when the aforementioned Old Hickory council — one of the last segregated Boy Scout councils — finally integrated.
The local-level approach might not satisfy either supporters or opponents of the BSA's decision to drop anti-gay language from its policies. "It's a step in the right direction, and good to see that BSA is softening its position," said Zach Wahls, an advocate for gay rights. "But under the policy change, it will still be possible for some units to discriminate."
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