The Brown vs Board of Education decision is one of the most important in American history. It ended segregation in public schools and helped to ensure that all children would have an equal education.
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The Plessy Era
It all started in 1892 when Homer Plessy, who was 7/8 Caucasian and 1/8 African American, was arrested for sitting in the “white” railcar on a Louisiana train. This event would later be known as the Plessy v. Ferguson case. Plessy was found guilty and fined $25. However, he refused to pay the fine and was jailed.
The “separate but equal” doctrine
The “separate but equal” doctrine was a legal principle that was used to justify racial segregation. Under this doctrine, places that were open to all people could still be segregated as long as the facilities provided were equal. This doctrine was first established in the United States in the case of Plessy vs Ferguson in 1896.
The case began when a black man named Homer Plessy boarded a train in Louisiana that had separate cars for white and black passengers. Plessy refused to sit in the car for black passengers and was arrested. He challenged his arrest on the grounds that the “separate but equal” doctrine violated the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Amendments of the Constitution, which guarantee equal protection under the law.
The Supreme Court ruled against Plessy, saying that segregation did not violate the Constitution as long as facilities were equal. This decision effectively legalized racial segregation throughout the United States. The “separate but equal” doctrine was not overturned until 1954, when the Supreme Court ruled in Brown vs Board of Education that segregation in public schools was unconstitutional.
The rise of Jim Crow
In the years following the Civil War, Southern states enacted a series of laws known as “Jim Crow” laws that segregated public spaces and curtailed the political rights of African Americans. The name of these laws comes from a character in a popular minstrel show in the 1870s. The North, meanwhile, largely abandoned its commitment to racial equality, as illustrated by the 1883 Supreme Court decision that struck down the Civil Rights Act of 1875.
The “separate but equal” doctrine established by this decision became the legal basis for segregation in public places throughout the country. This doctrine was first put to the test in 1896 in the case Plessy v. Ferguson, when Homer Plessy, an African American, was arrested for sitting in a “whites only” railroad car in Louisiana. The Supreme Court upheld Louisiana’s law segregating railways, declaring that segregation did not violate the Fourteenth Amendment’s guarantee of “equal protection of the laws.”
The Plessy decision legalized segregation and lent legitimacy to Jim Crow laws for almost 60 years. It was not until 1954 that the Supreme Court overturned Plessy in Brown v. Board of Education, declaring racial segregation in public schools unconstitutional.
The Civil Rights Movement
The Brown vs Board of Education was a turning point in the history of the United States. This case began the long process of integration of schools and other public places. The case was important not just because of the Supreme Court decision, but because it led to a series of other changes in the country.
The Montgomery bus boycott
The Montgomery bus boycott was a campaign of civil disobedience to protest the policy of racial segregation on the public transit system in Montgomery, Alabama. The campaign lasted from December 5, 1955, to December 20, 1956, and resulted in a United States Supreme Court ruling that declared the Alabama and Montgomery laws requiring segregation on buses unconstitutional. The boycott became famous due to the participation of Martin Luther King Jr., then a young minister with the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery.
The desegregation of Little Rock Central High School
The decision of the United States Supreme Court in the case of Brown v. Board of Education (1954) resulted in the integration of public schools in America. However, integration did not come easy. In 1957, nine African American students, known as the “Little Rock Nine,” attempted to attend classes at Little Rock Central High School in Arkansas. They were met with violent opposition from white students and parents, who were determined to keep the schools segregated.
With the help of the U.S. Army, the Little Rock Nine were eventually able to enter and attend classes at Central High School. However, they faced daily harassment and intimidation from their fellow students. The experience was so traumatic that some of the Little Rock Nine had to be removed from school for their own safety.
Despite the challenges, the Little Rock Nine persevered and completed their education at Central High School. Their courage served as an inspiration for future generations of civil rights activists.
The Supreme Court Cases
The United States Supreme Court is the highest court in the land and its decisions are binding on all other courts in the US. The court consists of nine justices, who are appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate. The court hears cases on a wide range of topics, including civil rights, criminal law, and more. One of the most famous cases in the history of the court is Brown vs Board of Education.
Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka
Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, 347 U.S. 483 (1954), was a landmark United States Supreme Court case in which the Court declared state laws establishing separate public schools for black and white students to be unconstitutional. The decision effectively overturned the earlier decision in Plessy v. Ferguson, which had allowed state-sponsored segregation of public facilities under the doctrine of “separate but equal.”
The case was brought by African American parents on behalf of their children who had been denied admission to the local public school because of their race. The Topeka, Kansas school district had adopted a policy of racial segregation in 1892, following the lead of many other school districts throughout the nation. In 1896, the U.S. Supreme Court had upheld racial segregation under the doctrine of “separate but equal” in its decision in Plessy v. Ferguson.
In 1950, a group of African American parents in Topeka filed a class action lawsuit against the school district, alleging that the segregation policy violated their children’s constitutional rights to Equal Protection and Due Process under the Fourteenth Amendment. The case was first heard by a three-judge panel in 1951, which ruled against the plaintiffs. They appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which agreed to hear the case in 1952.
The high court heard arguments in early December 1952 and then ordered re-argument for late April 1953 after Justice Robert Jackson died and was replaced by Earl Warren. On May 17, 1954, Chief Justice Earl Warren delivered the unanimous opinion of the Court, ordering that desegregation begin “with all deliberate speed.”
The opinion rejected the argument that “separate but equal” public schools were constitutional because it was impossible to provide truly equal facilities for separate races; it also found that racial segregation discouraged black students from achieving their full potential as individuals and citizens and violated their right to Equal Protection under law as guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S Constitution .
Within weeks of its announcement, school districts across America began taking steps to desegregate their schools; by 1955 all discriminatory laws requiring or permitting segregated schools had been overturned by federal courts or repealed by state legislatures . In 1968, nearly 14 years after Brown was decided, federal troops were still being used to enforce desegregation orders in some areas of resistance, most notably in Little Rock , Arkansas .
Cooper v. Aaron
On September 24, 1958, in the case of Cooper v. Aaron, the Supreme Court issued a unanimous decision that reaffirmed its position in Brown v. Board of Education. The Cooper case arose out of a struggle to desegregate the public schools in Little Rock, Arkansas. In 1957, the Little Rock School Board had adopted a plan to integrate its high school, and nine Black students registered for classes at Central High School. When they attempted to enter the school on September 4, 1957, they were blocked by a mob of violent white protestors.
President Eisenhower responded by sending federal troops to escort the students into the school. The troops remained at Central High School for the duration of the school year to keep the peace. In Cooper v. Aaron, the Supreme Court held that state officials who defied court orders to desegregate schools could not be shielded from liability by claiming that they were merely acting in accordance with state law. This decision reaffirmed the principle established in Brown that state laws and policies cannot be used to undermine federal constitutional guarantees.
The Brown vs Board of Education case was a turning point in American history. This landmark case overturned the “separate but equal” doctrine that had been established by the Plessy v. Ferguson case. The decision of this case helped to pave the way for the Civil Rights Movement. Let’s take a closer look at the history of this important case.
The Civil Rights Act of 1964
The Civil Rights Act of 1964 is a landmark civil rights and labor law in the United States that outlaws discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. It also prohibits unequal application of voter registration requirements, and racial segregation in schools, employment, and public accommodations. The Act was signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson on July 2, 1964, and Congress later amended the Act five times to expand its protections.
The Voting Rights Act of 1965
In the years following the Brown decision, African Americans continued to face legal discrimination and violence, especially in the South. In an effort to address these problems, President Lyndon Johnson proposed the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The act outlawed discrimination in voting and helped African Americans gain equal access to the polls.