Brown V. Board of Education and Civil Rights Act


Laws are set in place to establish standards, maintain order and protect a citizen’s liberties and rights. What do you do when laws take away the rights and liberties of a group of people? The answer to this question lies in the Supreme Court case: Brown vs. Board of Education. When seven year old Linda Brown wasn’t allowed to attend Topeka Kansas’ all white elementary school, her father filed a lawsuit against the Board of Education. The Supreme Court case, Brown vs. Board of Education had a great impact on the world and continues to. Not only did Brown vs. Board begin school desegregation efforts but also helped create equal educational opportunities, helped to push for an integrated society, focused the nation’s attention on the racial injustices and helped to inspire the civil rights movements which lead to new civil rights legislation.

Linda Brown was just seven years old when she became the center of a landmark Supreme Court case. Linda was like any other kid in Topeka, Kansas but the thing that set her and many others apart was her skin color. She was an African American girl living in a racially segregated America. At the time, there were only 4 all black schools in the city and the closest one to the Brown’s house was twenty blocks away so her father tried to enroll her in an all white school which was closer to their house. Her father’s attempt was unsuccessful and the school board did not allow Brown to attend. (Collins, 2019) Her father was confused in this logic but also angry because his daughter would have to travel so far whenever she could just attend the closest school to her so “He partnered with the NAACP and a dozen other plaintiffs to file a lawsuit against the Topeka Board of Education.” (Romo, 2018)

About sixty years earlier, a similar case made it up to the Supreme Court called Plessy vs. Ferguson which established the “separate but equal” doctrine which ruled that separate facilities but equal, were constitutional. In 1954, the Supreme Court gave the unanimous ruling that the “Separate but equal” doctrine was unconstitutional. Brown vs. Board helped to overturn this doctrine and prove it wrong. According to Thurgood Marshall, a Supreme Court justice, “Even with the same funding and facilities, segregation was inherently unequal because it stigmatized one group of citizens as unfit to associate with others.” (Foner, 2017) Not only did it prove this doctrine wrong but the Court’s decision helped to further prove that racial segregation was immoral as well as unconstitutional.

Like author Mr. Carter explains in the following quote “Segregation was intended to and did reduce the new freedmen as close to their former slave status as possible. It was a constant reminder of the inferior status Blacks were expected to happily accept in this country,” (Carter, 2004) Segregation was an insult to people of colored skin. The Jim Crow laws are another example of the many ideals that the Brown vs. Board case proved wrong. These were state and local laws used to enforce racial segregation in the South. So when the Supreme Court announced their verdict on the Brown vs. Board case, it chopped down the ideals that the Jim Crow laws were based upon. By overturning these different doctrines/laws, they could start making the first steps towards desegregating schools which would have a lasting impact.

The start of desegregation meant the beginning to equal educational opportunities. By desegregating schools, that gave every child an equal opportunity meaning a colored child would learn the same amount as a white child and so on. If children were learning in the same environment, theoretically there would be no difference in their education meaning that no child would be superior over the other on a race basis. Slowly but surely data and statistics started to show the impact that the desegregation by the Brown v Board case had. Before the Brown v Board case, black student’s schools only went up till the 9th or 10th grade. According to Greg Ivers, Professor of Government at American University (2018), “Black students did not begin attending high school in significant numbers in the South until well after Brown was decided.” Not only did the amount of black students with high school diplomas increase but also college degrees. According to Robert Brownstein (2014), senior editor at The Atlantic, “Before Brown, only about one in 40 African-Americans earned a college degree. Now more than one in five hold one.”

By integrating schools, Brown vs Board helped to pave the way for a better society in which the color of your skin did not matter. Three years after the court anonymously reached the verdict of “separate but equal” is unconstitutional, 9 African American teenagers were allowed to attend Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas, a previously all white High School, for the first time in history. Integrating schools was only the first step because after that the domino effect took over. During that time, schools weren’t the only places that were racially segregated. Blacks and whites were forced to sit separately in restaurants. They had to have separate churches or places of worship and there were even separate drinking fountains for coloreds and whites.

“Without Brown, I might not have been able to attend elementary school with my siblings, and my own children would not be able to go to school together today. My integrated family would not have fit into a segregated world.” (Pyykkonen, 2018) This quote is from someone who understands the importance and the impact that Brown vs. Board had on our society. It was only 60 years ago where the United States was racially divided. We have come a long way since then and that’s because of the Brown vs. Board case. With the backing of the Supreme Court, the Brown vs. Board case was able to make a statement that integration will happen and it will be for the better.

The Brown vs. Board case also inspired the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

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