About Brown V Board of Education

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Updated: Mar 29, 2020
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Can you imagine being in a school, restaurant, neighborhood, or bus without being surrounded by people of other races? In the early 1900’s and before that people were segregated solely by color and for no good reason. There was a time when people were silent about their beliefs when it came to racial injustices. That all changed in the early 1900’s when racial activists like Oliver Brown took their beliefs to the Supreme Court and fought for what they thought was right. The Brown v. Board of Education case of 1954 was a landmark Supreme Court case which has had lasting effects throughout history.

Segregation was an accepted and valid way of living. Its all most people had known for most of their lives. Almost everywhere a person wanted to go was segregated by race and most of the time African-Americans had the more run-down, worse facilities. In schools, things like books, supplies and overall opportunities for students was worse in black schools than white schools. Some students like Oliver Brown’s daughter, Linda Brown, had to walk roughly 6-7 blocks and take a bus everyday to attend schools for them. When they arrived at school, they were greeted by a glorified shack with no heating and cooling, electricity, or running water. In a white school the student to teacher ratio was about 35 to 1 while in a black school, underqualified teachers had to deal with about 63 students, typically of different ages, everyday. White schools were funded near $1.6 million a year as opposed to black schools which only recieved $300,000 annually. The average amount of money spent on a white student was about $9.45 which equals around $194 in today’s money but only $2.90, about $59 today, was spent on black students. The buildings for black schools were usually shacks with no running water or electricity.

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Septima Clark, a school teacher, said this “ here I was, a highschool graduate, eighteen years old, principle in a two-teacher school with 132 pupils ranging from beginners to eighth graders, with no teaching experience, a schoolhouse constructed of boards running up and down, with no slats in the cracks, and a fireplace at one end of the room that cooked the pupils immediately in front of it but allowed those in the rear to shiver and freeze on their uncomfortable, hard back-breaking benches.” (McNeese 32) Schools were not the only place where segregation was relevant. Everyday places like grocery stores, movie theaters, bathrooms, water fountains etc were separated by race and just like the schools, black people typically had the more run-down versions of these establishments. The effects of segregation were huge. It made African-Americans of all ages feel inferior to people with lighter skin than them.segregation damaged black children’s self esteem and hurt their self image. Separation of the races caused very little communication and interaction between the races which lead to people of opposite races to not fully trust each other. This lack of communication caused suspicion and hatred which resulted in rumors and easily avoidable misunderstandings.(Bell 12) Segregation was a huge problem, but how did it become the societal norm?

The Plessy v. Ferguson case was a Supreme court case by Homer Plessy. To test the laws of segregation, the decided to ride in a “whites only” railroad car and was arrested for it. During his trial the Supreme court acknowledged that the 14th Amendment required total equality of the races but then stated that the amendment could not have possibly abolished segregation all together. The decision of the case was that “separate but equal” was a valid way to run society. There were amendments put in place before this like the 14th that tried to grant African-Americans equal rights. The 14th amendment stated that “all persons born or naturalized in the United States,… are citizens of the United States and the state in which they reside.”(Bell 11) This amendment, however, was poorly enforced and basically ineffective.

The 15th amendment was one of the few amendments in favor of the African-Americans which granted them the right to vote. After slavery ended in the 1800’s, the Freedmen’s Bureau was set up to help blacks transition into society after slavery by providing food, housing, medical care, and limited education. Unfortunately, funds for it stopped in 1872 which lead black who had not been assisted by them to fend for themselves in poverty. Other laws in favor of African-Americans, like the Civil Rights were attempted but failed. The Civil Rights Act was passed in 1875 and guaranteed the freedoms and rights of African-Americans.(McNeese 127)The U.S. Supreme Court then declare it unconstitutional in 1883. The Kansas Law stated that “it is a violation of state law for any officer to use race as a factor in affording education opportunities unless that authority is specifically, clearly, and expressly granted by the legislature.”(Friedman `12)All of these Supreme Court cases, laws, and amendments led up to the society of segregation and people finally decided to stand up and take a change.

Oliver Brown had a daughter named Linda Brown. She had to walk seven blocks and then take a bus every single day to get to school whether it be through the frigid temperatures of winter or the blistering heat of the summer sun. This treacherous journey could easily have been avoided if Linda was allowed to attend the “whites only” school just a few blocks from the Brown household. Oliver Brown was tired of the journey his daughter had to take to school and decided to take his case to court. Thurgood Marshall, the head of the NAACP, served as chief attorney in Brown’s lawsuit. The NAACP, founded in 1909, stands for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

They challenged segregation laws and fought for equality for African-Americans. The goals of both Brown and Marshall wanted to prove that children being separated solely because of race was unconstitutional and to have the school board abandon its policy of segregation and if not that, then improve the existing black schools.(McNeese 77) Brown wanted to prove that segregation violated the 14th amendment. Marshall also made the harsh argument that the root of segregation was the desire to keep “the people who were formerly in slavery as near to that stage as possible.”(NAACP.org) The attorneys hired by Marshall where Robert Cater, Jack Greenberg, Constance Baker Motley, Spottswood Robinson, Oliver Hill, Louis Redding etc. The appellants where Oliver Brown, Mrs. Richard Lawton, and Mrs. Sadie Emmanuel. The appelles where the Board of Education of Topeka and Shawnee County, Kansas. Appearances for the appellants were Robert L. Carter and for appellees was Paul E. Wilson. They took their case to the U.S. District Court in Kansas in 1952 and they did agree that there was a “ detrimental effect upon the colored children” due to segregation and it infact did “ contribute to a sense of inferiority” (History.com)

In total, there were five cases related to school including Brown’s going on at the same time. All five were heard by December 1952 but the outcome remained undecided. On May 17th declared that the doctrine of separate but equal was unconstitutional and that public schools needed to desegregate “ with all deliberate speed” (NAACP.org) After the court stated this, some southern states requested exemption from desegregation. This was brought to the court as Brown II. The court did uphold their verdict that “separate but equal” was unconstitutional but they did give southern states a sort of loophole through which there was no deadline as to when the schools had to be desegregated, so schools could take as much or as little time as they wanted to get rid of segregation.(Dickinson.edu)

When the court stated that “separate but equal” was unconstitutional there were of course some resistances. Little Rock, Arkansas had the hardest time when it came to integrating schools. The Little Rock School Board approved the plan for gradual integration, but that does not mean everyone agreed on it. The city had a plan to have nine African-American students attend Central High School, a previously all-white school. There were protests against this and the governor even said “ no school district will be forced to mix the races as long as I am governor’ (Davidson 877) The nine black students arrived at Central High and an angry mob surrounded them, barricading the entrance. After weeks of debate the students had a police escort inside the school. People thought desegregation would happen quickly, but it unfortunately did not. It was not until the Green v. County School Board and Swann V. Charlotte-Mecklenburg court cases that desegregation was demanded by the Supreme Court.

Although it took a long time, Brown v. Board of education had an impact on society. A year after the case, Rosa Parks refused to give up her bus seat to a white passenger. It encouraged Martin Luther King Jr. and other civil rights activists to stand up for their beliefs. Without this Supreme Court case the Civil Rights Act of 1964 most likely would not have been passed. This was followed by the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the Fair Housing Act of 1968. Another huge Supreme Court school case followed these. It was called Runyon v. McCrary and its decision was that if any type of private school denied admission to a student based solely off their race, that they were violating a federal law. Without the Brown case, these events may not have happened. The Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court case of 1954 was a landmark Supreme Court case which has had lasting effects throughout history. If the court’s decision in this case was any different, public and private schools might still be segregated today.

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About Brown v Board of Education. (2020, Mar 29). Retrieved from https://papersowl.com/examples/about-brown-v-board-of-education/