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Challenging the Law: African Americans' Struggle for Equality

Explore the civil rights movement and major legal cases, such as Brown v. Board of Education, that challenged the legality of segregation. Discover the courageous individuals who fought for equal rights in the face of discrimination.

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Challenging the Law: African Americans' Struggle for Equality

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  1. Major Victory Challenging the law: · African Americans continued their struggle for equality, which became known as the civil rights movement. · In 1896, the Supreme Court ruled in Plessy v. Ferguson that “separate but equal” facilities for blacks and whites were constitutional. De jure segregation- segregation by law De facto segregation- segregation by unwritten custom or tradition

  2. "The Rex theater for Negro People." Leland, Mississippi, November 1939.Marion Post Wolcott, photographer.

  3. "A cafe near the tobacco market."Durham, North Carolina. May 1940.

  4. " People waiting for a bus at the Greyhound bus terminal." Memphis, Tennessee. September 1943.Esther Bubley, photographer.

  5. White School

  6. Black School

  7. · With help from the NAACP, the case of Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka reached the Supreme Court, challenging the constitutionality of Plessy v. Ferguson.

  8. · In the case, Oliver Brown challenged that his daughter, Linda, should be allowed to attend an all-white school near her home instead of the distant all-black school she had been assigned to. Oliver Brown was a welder for the Santa Fe Railroad and a part-time assistant pastor at St. John African Methodist Episcopal Church. Linda Brown was in the third grade when her father began his class action lawsuit.

  9. · Brown’s lawyer, Thurgood Marshall, argued that “separate” could never be “equal” and that segregated schools violated the Fourteenth Amendment’s guarantee to provide “equal protection” to all citizens.

  10. 14th Amendment • Section 1. All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

  11. Standing outside a Topeka classroom in 1953 are the students represented in Oliver Brown et al. v. Board of Education of Topeka, From left: Vicki Henderson, Donald Henderson, Linda Brown (Oliver's daughter), James Emanuel, Nancy Todd, and Katherine Carper.

  12. Unanimous Majority Opinion Today, education is perhaps the most important function of state and local governments. Compulsory school attendance laws and the great expenditures for education both demonstrate our recognition of the importance of education to our democratic society. . . . Today it is a principal instrument in awakening the child to cultural values, in preparing him for later professional training, and in helping him to adjust normally to his environment. 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. . . . To separate them [children in grade and high schools] from others of similar age and qualifications solely because of their race generates a feeling of inferiority as to their status in the community that may affect their hearts and minds in a way unlikely to ever be undone. . . . Whatever may have been the extent of psychological knowledge at the time of Plessy v. Ferguson, this finding is amply supported by modern authority. . . . We conclude that in the field of public education the doctrine of "separate but equal" has no place. Separate educational facilities are inherently unequal. Therefore, we hold that the plaintiffs and other similarly situated . . . are . . . deprived of the equal protection of the laws guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment.

  13. * In 1954, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Brown family, and schools nationwide were ordered to be desegregated. George E.C. Hayes, Thurgood Marshall, and James M. Nabrit, following Supreme Court decision ending segregation.

  14. Linda Brown and her new class mates after Court decision.

  15. Thurgood Marshall(1908-1993) Associate Justice, U.S. Supreme Court.

  16. Integrated schools: · In Little Rock, Arkansas, Gov. Orval Faubus opposed integration.

  17. · In 1957, he called out the National Guard in order to prevent African Americans from attending an all-white high school. · Gov. Faubus was violating federal law.

  18. Bottom Row, Left to Right: Thelma Mothershed, Minnijean Brown, Elizabeth Eckford, Gloria Ray; Top Row, Left to Right: Jefferson Thomas, Melba Pattillo, Terrence Roberts, Carlotta Walls, Daisy Bates(NAACP President), Ernest Green

  19. · Therefore, Pres. Eisenhower sent troops to Little Rock where, under their protection, the African American students were able to enter Central High School. African American students arriving at Central High School, Little Rock, Arkansas, in U.S. Army car, 1957.

  20. Members of the 101st US-Airborne Division escorting the Little Rock Nine to school

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