Brown vs. Board of Education: Its Impact on Education and Subsequent Civil Rights Laws
The Brown vs. Board of Education Decision: Its impact on education and subsequent civil rights laws Karen Steward HIS 303 October 30, 2010 Outline 1. Slavery and the Civil War a. Plessy v. Ferguson b. Jim Crow Laws c. Civil War Amendments 2. NAACP d. Charles Houston e. Test cases f. Brown v. Board Decision 3. Civil Rights g. Civil Rights Act of 1964 h. Affirmative Action 4. Conclusion Before the 1950’s the City of Stone Mountain, DeKalb County, Georgia was known for its Klu Klux Klan rallies; its all white, pristine middle-class neighborhoods; and its superb schools.
The unrelenting Civil Rights Movement entered into the United States during the 1950’s and 1960’s, leading to the U. S. Supreme Court’s opinion in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, 347 U. S. 483, 74 S. Ct. 686, 98 L. Ed. 873 (1954). Although it has been argued that Brown failed to institute actual societal change, it still is considered to be a landmark decision from a legal perspective. Today’s public schools in DeKalb County’s Stone Mountain area are integrated with scores of minority faces of African Americans and Hispanics students, and a handful of white students.
While the historic decision of Brown v. Board of Education repealed America’s “separate but equal doctrine”, segregation still exists in our public schools. This is a look at the history of the Brown v. Board of Education decision, how it impacts public schools today, and its effect on other Civil Rights laws. The first Africans were brought to the Americas by ships docked at port in Jamestown, Virginia in 1619. These Africans were not invited with open arms to live as free settlers, but as involuntary servitudes, subordinate captives — slaves.
They worked strenuously for their White owners, who considered themselves superior to Africans, without much benefit. Racism is not just the belief that one race is superior to others, but the act of negatively identifying individuals based on the color of their skin. Attributing race to individual character has proven to have negative implications that are difficult to mend. America was divided on whether to end slavery or make it a way of life for the country.
The Missouri Compromise of 1820 was an agreement entered into between the Congressmen of pro-slavery and slavery states, which allowed Missouri to enter into the Union as a slave state and, in order to balance the slave and free states; Maine was carved out of Massachusetts and entered the Union as a free state. (O’Connor & Sabato, 2009) This agreement ignited the events that led up to the infamous Supreme Court case of Dred Scott v. Sandford, 60 U. S. 393 (1857), which ruled that the Missouri Compromise was unconstitutional, that slaves were not U. S. itizens, and that slaves could not bring suits in federal court. (O’Connor ; Sabato, 2009) These instances, together with the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854 (which provided that the popular vote would be used to determine if a state in the new territory would be a slave state or a free state) led to the Civil War in America which lasted from 1861 to 1868. (Weider History Group, 2010) The Civil War was not fought just to end slavery in America; it was the culmination of four decades of intense conflict and deep-seated economic, social and political differences between the North and the South.
Well known author and historian Charles Adams, writes in his book, For Good and Evil: The Impact of Taxes on the Course of Civilization that “the Civil War was little more than an attack by the North on the South to protect a tax base and capitalist gain. ” According to Adams, the North, wanted more than anything to raise taxes both to support a public works agenda and to protect Northern goods from competition with imports purchased by Southern land owners to support the cotton industry. (Adams, 1993) Slavery was the side dish of the economic meal served by and between southern and northern states.
Racial inequality existed in northern states as well. With the end of the war came the President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, which freed all slaves in the Confederacy. Then, the Thirteenth, Fourteen and Fifteen Amendments to the Constitution known as the Civil War Amendments were established which provided the following, respectively: 1. Banned all forms of slavery and involuntary servitude; 2. Guaranteed equal protection and due process of the law to all U. S. citizens, including freed slaves; and 3.
Guaranteed the right of citizens to vote, regardless of their race, color or previous condition of servitude. (O’Connor & Sabato, 2009) The Civil Rights Act of 1875 was passed by Congress which provided equal access to public accommodations and prohibited the exclusion of African Americans from jury service. In the Supreme Court case Plessy v. Ferguson 163 U. S. 537 (1896) the high court upheld and thus judicially established separate but equal clause when they ruled in favor of the State of Louisiana, upholding the law mandating racial segregation on its trains.
This decision established the Jim Crow laws that became a way of life for Americans that would not end for more than 60 years. In early 1909 the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People was founded by W. E. B. Du Bois, Mary White Ovington, Ida B. Wells, Henry Moskowitz and William English Walling, and other multi-racial and multi-religious group of social and political activists. The mission of this newly formed organization was to act as a legislative and legal advocate, pushing for a federal anti-lynching law and for an end to state-mandated segregation. NAACP. org, 2009) Under the leadership of Special Counsel Charles Houston, the NAACP systematically chipped away at America’s “separate but equal” doctrine in the court system. With public schools as their ultimate goal, they began by attacking admissions into state graduate and professional schools. The first such case was Hocutt v. Wilson (1933) which was heard in the Supreme Court of Durham County, North Carolina. Thomas R. Hocutt was an African American who sought access to the University of North Carolina’s School of Pharmacy and an assignment to a dormitory room.
The case was tried by Durham attorneys, Conrad O. Pearson and Cecil A. McCoy. The plaintiff lost the case on the following arguments from the defense, represented by Attorney General Dennis Brummitt: 1. Defendant failure to provide sufficient transcripts; 2. The University’s lack of authority to disregard state law that required racial segregation in education; and 3. If called upon by the U. S. Supreme Court, the Court would be unlikely to require provision of professional education of Negros in violation of state law to specifying separation of blacks and whites.
Although the attorneys’ lost the case, they laid the foundation for Brown v. Board of Education which would be decided 20 years later. (Ware, 1983) The NAACP lawyers would be ready for the next case, University of Maryland v. Murray heard in the U. S. Court of Appeals of Maryland in 1936. Murray was denied admission to the University of Maryland, School of Law based solely on his race. This case was won and Murray became the first African American to graduate from a public law school.
This case was a particularly important one for NAACP lawyer, Thurgood Marshall, who had previously applied and had been denied the right to attend the same law school. The team became more experienced, trying several other cases over the next 20 years, and developed an impeccable reputation. The time had come to put public education on trial. Brown v. Board of Education was actually made up of four different cases, filed by the NAACP legal team in the District of Columbia and in four states, Virginia, South Carolina and Kansas: 1. Bolling v. Sharpe [District of Columbia] . Brown v. Board of Education [Kansas] 3. Briggs v. Elliott [South Carolina] 4. Davis v. County School Board [Virginia] These cases were made on the same basis, inequality in public schools. Thurgood Marshall had succeeded Charles Houston as chief strategist, and together with his dream team of NAACP lawyers, filed Brown v. Board of Education in 1951. There were originally two cases filed with the Supreme Court: Brown v. Board of Education was one and Briggs v. Elliott was the other. The justices decided to combine the cases and render a joint opinion.
Thurgood Marshall argued that the segregation of public schools were unconstitutional under the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The justices on the Supreme Court who decided the Brown vs. Board of Education case were legendary in their own right, yet little is written about them personally, just their joint decision in this important case. They were a total of nine justices, including Chief Justice Earl Warren, Justices Hugo L. Black, Stanley F. Reed, Felix Frankfurter, William O. Douglas, Robert H. Jackson, Harold H.
Burton, Tom C. Clark, and Sherman Minton. William O. Douglas went on to serve as Chief Justice in his own right, and each of the justices served lengthy terms, but most of them are remembered for this decision, which came to be one of the figurehead decisions in the Civil Rights movement of the 1950s and 60s. Because of the distinctive backgrounds and dynamics that existed between the justices on the Supreme Court from 1952 to 1954, a unanimous decision declaring segregated public schools to be unconstitutional was issued in the case of Brown v.
Board of Education. As the reprehensible image of racism and ineffectiveness of the civil rights law began to surface after the Brown case, the Americans recognized the need for a solution to redress the issue. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was by passed Congress, which banned segregation in public facilities and discrimination in employment, education and voting, and it created the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to implement this new law. O’Connor ; Sabato, 2009) In 1965, President Lyndon Johnson delineated the concept of Affirmative Action: “you do not take a man who for years have been hobbled by chains, liberate him, bring him to the starting line of a race, saying, ‘you are free to compete with all the others’. ” In essence, Affirmative Action was viewed as a tentative remedy to prepare minorities, specifically African Americans, mentally and socially for them to fairly compete in the job marketplace in the future.
When it was later enforced to include education, Affirmative Action promised a harbor for educational opportunities impartial of a student’s color. Throughout its duration, Affirmative Action has alleviated the racial tension unsubstantially. Affirmative Action’s attempt to halt the racial disparities in higher education that has burdened African Americans constitutes an inconsequential solution: It forges the same environment suffering the struggle it has been trying to eradicate. Affirmative Action has increased the diversity of student bodies in universities in America.
The rate of increase, however, does not reflect a leveled playing field as promised by the program when it was first introduced. To further exacerbate the incompetent results, the time span of 45 years was greatly beyond what was anticipated. A few years honed honest and effective efforts while the rest camouflaged inequality behind its own less conspicuous shadow. Before, racial preference deprived deserving Africans of educational opportunities; now, racial preference deprives deserving Whites of educational opportunities. Can true diversity exist in America?
Racism in America has existed for more than three centuries, and no history book, scholarly tome, or a text on the subject can ever capture its gruesome image. This disease is ingrained in American society that it takes a huge amount of time to overcome it and subdue its intensity. Still, it can be treated. The treatment, however, must subjugate the disease, not pass it around. America has come a long way since the Brown decision, and yet has a long way to go. Neighborhoods are still segregated and thus public schools are still segregated; and in some cases they are unequal.
In 2007, the Supreme Court acknowledged in Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School District No. 1 and Meredith v. Jefferson County Board of Education the benefits of racially diverse schools for all students who attend them, but ruled that desegregation plans that assign students to schools on the basis of race are unconstitutional. Students in these schools have gone from de jure discrimination to de facto discrimination. Recent administrations have enacted agendas like “No Child Left Behind” to insure equality, but minorities are still lagging education.
What will save our public school systems: Americans—students, parents, teachers, and all—must share their differences and work on the problems posed by children earlier in life, when they find their identity and sense of self. How did the Brown decision impact today’s public schools? Marian Wright Elderman said it best in her blog on Change. org: “When parents are allowed to hold on to the outdated beliefs that sending their children to a “diverse” school means sending them to an inferior school, it does their own children a disservice.
In a rapidly globalizing world, returning to segregated schools would be another missed opportunity for all of America’s children. We have so far left to go. We can’t afford to take any more steps backwards. ” (Elderman, 2010) Annotated Bibliography Adams, C. (1993). For Good and Evil: The Impact of Taxes on the Course of Civilization. Landham, MD, USA: Madison Books. Elderman, M. W. (2010, April). The Dangerous Drift Back Towards Segregated Schools. Retrieved from Change. org: http://education. change. org/blog/view/the_dangerous_drift_back_towards_segregated_schools O’Connor, K. & Sabato, L. J. (2009). American Government Roots and Reform. In K. O’Connor, ; L. J. Sabato, American Government Roots and Reform (pp. 36-40). Pearson Education, Inc. The Oyez Project, Brown v. Board of Education (I), 347 U. S. 483 (1954) available at: (http://oyez. org/cases/1950-1959/1952/1952_1) (last visited Thursday, October 28, 2010). The Oyez Project, Meredith v. Jefferson County Board of Education, 551 U. S. ___ (2007) available at: (http://oyez. org/cases/2000-2009/2006/2006_05_915) (last visited Thursday, October 28, 2010).
The Oyez Project, Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School District No. 1, 551 U. S. 701 (2007) available at: (http://oyez. org/cases/2000-2009/2006/2006_05_908) (last visited Thursday, October 28, 2010). Ware, G. (1983). Hocutt: Genisis of Brown. Persistent and Emergent Legal Issues in Education. The Journal of Negro Education , 52 (3), pp. 227-233. Weider History Group. (2010). Dred Scott Descision: The Lawsuit That Started the Civil War. Retrieved October 9, 2010, from HistoryNet. com: http://www. historynet. com/dred-scott-decision-the-lawsuit-that-started-the-civil-war. htm/1 –