Brown v. Board of Education. U. S. Supreme Court Decision. Brown v. Board of Education U. S. Supreme Court Decision. Historical Context.
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In 1896, the Supreme Court ruled in the Plessy v. Ferguson case that as long as they were equal that separate facilities (restaurants, theatres, restrooms, public schools) were legal for blacks and whites. However, most black schools were inferior to white schools.
In Topeka, Kansas, a black 3rd grader named Linda Brown had to walk one mile through a Railroad switchyard to get to her elementary school. There was a white elementary school only 7 blocks away.
She was turned down for enrollment in the white school. Brown’s father went to McKinley Burnett, head of Topeka’s branch of the NAACP. He agreed to help, he felt that they had the “rightplaintiff at the right time”.
U. S. District Court for the District of Kansas heard the case June 25-26, 1951.
One expert witness for the plaintiff, Dr Hugh W. Speer, testified that if the colored children were denied the experience of associating with white children who were 90% of our National society in which the children lived, that their curriculum is greatly curtailed.
The Board of Education’s defense was that segregation in the schools would prepare them for segregation in adulthood. They argued that segregated schools were not detrimental. They used examples such as Frederick Douglass, Booker T. Washington, and George Washington Carver.
On one hand the judges agreed with the plaintiff, but on the other hand Plessy v. Ferguson was used as a precedent. They ruled in favor of the Board of Ed.
Earl Warren of California was appointed to the Supreme Court in Vinson’s place. Warren was born in Los Angles but grew up in Bakersfield. His father was a railroad car repairman. Warren worked summers for the railroad and saw first hand the problems of the common working people. He also experienced the anti-Asian sentiment on the West coast. He graduated from the Univ. of California at Berkeley, did a stint in the Army during WWI, and later worked as a prosecutor for Almeda District Attorney’s office. He was elected Attorney Gen. of Cal. And later became governor of California.
The NAACP appealed the case to the Supreme Court and there it was combined with several other cases of segregation in South Carolina, Virginia, and Delaware. The judges were asked to make their decision based on whether authors of the 14th Amendment had desegregated schools in mind when they wrote the Amendment in 1868. Did segregation deprive black children of equal protection of the law?
1. Each child has a right to education on equal terms.
In these days, it is doubtful that any child may reasonably be expected to succeed in life if he is denied the opportunity of an education. Such an opportunity, where the state has undertaken to provide it, is a right which must be made available to all on equal terms.
2. Segregation of white and colored children in public schools has a detrimental effect upon the colored children.
The Brown decision gave orders for desegregation but did not set time limit for schools to be desegregated. Many schools dragged their feet.
In 1954, after the Brown decision, Groups such as the White Citizen’s Council in Mississippi arose to promote the advantages of segregation and dangers of integration. State of Mississippi formed a “Sovereignty Commission” to spy on civil rights organizers, intimidate white integration sympathizers and to work with sheriffs to collect and spread information on outside agitators or blacks who joined the NAACP.