Introduction On May 17, 1954, the United States Supreme Court declared that the state laws, which established separate public schools for African-Americans, denied them equal educational opportunities. With this unanimous vote, de jure or state sanctioned racial segregation was ruled a violation of the Fourteenth Amendment. This ruling paved the way for the Civil Rights Movement. The catalyst for this change was a third grade, Topeka, Kansas student named Linda Brown, whose desire was to attend a school that was closer to her home, but which happened to be white.
In this report, I will take a look at the case, how it changed the education system of the United States, then determine if it is still effective after fifty-four years. The Civil Rights Movement The Civil Rights Movement in the United States began to rise after World War II. A civil right is defined as a privilege or entitlement granted by law, and is protected by the government. This movement applies to the efforts of African-Americans to secure, exercise and protect their civil rights. President Harry S.
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Truman was the first president to acknowledge the issue of civil rights for African-Americans. He felt that it was proper, especially since so many had fought and died for our country during World War II. In fact, President Truman was the first president to issue an executive order to desegregate the military. He also appointed African-American judges and territorial governors. Truman sought to overthrow the 1896 ruling of Plessy v. Ferguson, the case which constitutionally legalized the separate-but-equal doctrine, and helped to expand the Jim Crow system.
Although his efforts failed, Truman did bring to the attention of the Supreme Court the fact that the states were not living up to the separate-but-equal doctrine. Brown v. Board of Education was the first great victory of the modern civil rights movement. For years, the NAACP had brought legal actions in the form of test cases before the Supreme Court in an effort to end segregation. In the 1950’s, the NAACP decided that it was time to launch a full-scale attack on the separate-but-equal doctrine because the decisions of the Supreme Court in the test cases were encouraging.
They felt that at this time the government and the general population would be more receptive to overturning the ruling of Plessy v. Ferguson. Most African American schools were inferior to their counterparts in white areas, which meant that the quality of their educational experience was severely lacking in fundamental areas. The Case Brown v. Board of Education consolidated five cases that were originally heard in the U. S. Court of Appeals in the states of Delaware, the District of Columbia, Virginia, South Carolina and Kansas.
Each case questioned the constitutionality of racial segregation in public schools. The Kansas lawsuit is the one by which the entire set of cases became known: Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka. In the Topeka, Kansas case, Oliver L. Brown v. Board of Education, an African-American third-grader named Linda Brown was forced to walk one mile through a railroad switchyard to get to her segregated elementary school, even though Charles Sumner School, a white elementary school, was seven blocks away from her home.
Her father, Oliver Brown, tried to enroll her in the white elementary school, but the principal of the school refused because of her race. In the Clarendon County, South Carolina case, Briggs v. Elliott, children at the Scots Branch Colored Schools were forced to walk as much as five or six miles daily to and from school because the school district had denied them bus service, as well as improved facilities such as school buildings, instructional materials and certified teachers. In the other three cases; Bulah (Belton) v.
Gebhart, Delaware, Davis v. County School Board of Prince Edward County, Virginia; and Bolling v. Sharpe, District of Columbia, the problems were similar. All of these cases challenged the “separate but equal” doctrine that had been established in Plessy v. Ferguson. The state cases were argued under the equal protection clause of the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution, but the District of Columbia case was argued under the due process clause of the Fifth Amendment. Thurgood Marshall, then head of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, nd his colleagues reargued the case, demonstrating “through history and social science the adverse impact of segregation on black children (Henderson, 2004). ” In each case, the boards argued that the children were being prepared for the segregation that they would face in every other aspect of their lives; therefore they were justified in keeping the races separated. It was also argued that because great African-American leaders such as Booker T. Washington and George Washington Carver were the products of segregation, and had achieved success, then all African-Americans could do the same.
Ultimately, it was the use of sociological evidence that played a vital role in winning this case. Thirty-two social scientists led by Dr. Kenneth Clark had been conducting research on the long-term effects of segregation on the African-American community. Clark had pioneered psychological tests using black and white dolls to identify segregation’s injury to African American children. The results of his study was used as evidence in Brown v. Board of Education, and this sociological evidence proved that state sanctioned racial discrimination resulted in harmful consequences.
The evidence provided by the experts showed that school segregation severely damaged the psyches of black school children while circumscribing their educational opportunity. As a result, the Supreme Court concluded that segregated public schools stamped African-Americans as inferior and that those types of institutions were no longer needed or desired in American society. Although compliance was slow due to the resistance of the states, this case signaled a change, and forever gave African-American students the legal right to the same public institutions as their white counterparts.
The Legacy So here we stand, fifty-four years later, and the Brown decision still contributes to discussions and arguments on race relations in schools, the fairness of academic testing, tracking in public schools, equity in college admissions, and policies such as school vouchers and No Child Left Behind. As a consequence of the Supreme Court relaxing it’s standards of judicial oversight, and federal courts dissolving more desegregation plans to encourage voluntary desegregation, re-segregation has become the pattern.
According to a 2002 study by Erica Frankenberg and Chungmei Lee of the Civil Rights Project at Harvard University, in nearly all of the largest districts in the U. S. black and Latino students were more racially segregated from whites in 2000 than in 1986. Waldo Martin states that “many of these children are being written off as fodder for the military, cogs in an ever-expanding low-wage service economy, and victims in the prison-industrial complex. The only way that the urban poor minorities will receive the tools they need to compete for decent jobs with benefits is to have quality education delivered in the schools they are currently attending. There is an urgent need for the benefits and protection promised by Brown v. Board of Education. If it had been fully embraced, we would have seen a larger social revolution, rather than the desperate search for ways to resist integration. “America’s failure to provide equal educational opportunities in primary and secondary school translates into dashed dreams in higher education and beyond.
Today, nearly 200,000 more black men are incarcerated in prison than are enrolled in college (Patterson, E. , et al). ” Even though no school districts officially segregate students as policy, it is clear that segregation is still alive and well. The racial and ethnic concentrations of students in the metropolitan areas guarantee that the minorities are left in the under-funded public school system. Mandated “busing” and “white flight” led to another form of segregation, residential segregation, which prompted the creation of a better-funded private school system that caters to the majority.
For the most part, minority students are still receiving different educational experiences than their non-minority peers. According to a 1990 RAND study, urban schools with a high proportion of economically disadvantaged or minority children typically offer less access to math and science education. Also, according to the 1996 National Science Foundation study, 29% of the 9th ??? 12th grade classes with a low proportion of minority students are labeled “low ability” while 42% of the classes comprising of at least 40% minority students were labeled as such.
Low self-esteem, poor preparation to learn and inferior public schools reinforces the negative self-images that minority students have of themselves, causing them to feel intellectually inferior, therefore preventing them from facing the academic competition. I was born and raised in East Baton Rouge Parish, where officially, the nation’s longest-running active school “desegregation” lawsuit ended on Thursday, August 15, 2003, when Federal District Judge James Brady signed the Final Order, a Settlement Agreement, and dismissed the case.
The end of our case dragged on for 47 years while middle-class whites largely abandoned the system, leaving the district for the affluent suburbs, causing the closure of many public schools and leaving the district close to 75% African-American. Suburban areas have since created their own separate school districts. These new districts are growing and can boast of better quality education without the “problems” faced by East Baton Rouge Parish schools. For these reasons, it is my opinion that in 2008, de jure segregation has given way to de facto segregation, and it is due to what I see as economic and residential segregation.
Although Brown v. Board of Education raised the hopes of civil rights activists and opened the door to better education for minorities, it’s legacy has been mixed, and that hope has yet to be completely realized. Reference: Henderson, L. , Jr. (2004). Brown v. Board of Education at 50: The Multiple Legacies for Policy and Administration. Public Administration Review,??64(3),??270-274. Retrieved January 4, 2008, from ProQuest Social Science Journals??database. (Document ID:??648741631). Martin, W. E. Jr. (2004). The Black Freedom Struggle and the Enduring Dilemma of Brown. The Black Scholar,??34(2),??14-20.
Retrieved January 4, 2008, from Research Library??database. (Document ID:??683651141). Patterson, E. , Cokorinos, L, Serrano S. K. and Kidder, W. C. (2004). Breathing Life into Brown at Fifty: Lessons About Equal Justice. The Black Scholar,??34(2),??2-13. Retrieved January 4, 2008, from Research Library??database. (Document ID:??683651101). Frankenberg, E. and Lee C. (2002). Race in american public schools: Rapidly resegregating school districts. Retrieved January 23, 2008 from http://www. civilrightsproject. ucla. edu/research/deseg/Race_in_American_Public_Schools1. pdf