Throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, the history of American racism was a rollercoaster ride of progress and regress. The early 1880’s marked the beginning of legal segregation between blacks and whites, and after Plessy v. Ferguson in 1896, “separate but equal” facilities became the law of the land. Thurgood Marshall fought these injustices and brought a civil rights case to the Supreme Court in 1952 to better the lives of black Americans. He fought for racial justice resulting in one of the major turning points in the battle for civil rights. Brown v. Board of Education, functioned as the culminating legal movement in a multi-generational cultural shift in just relations between Caucasian-Americans and African-Americans. Brown signaled a new era in black educational opportunities creating the space in American society for real equality.1
The Reconstruction era brought about significant change throughout the country, specifically in the South. Many southerners, however, kept their racial prejudices despite President Abraham Lincoln’s emancipation of slavery in 1863. After President Lincoln put an end to slavery, many whites believed that blacks were unfit to hold civil responsibilities, so the majority of Southern states passed laws called black codes2 starting in 1865, which they believed were necessary for rebuilding the South. These codes were designed to insure white supremacy and create a cheap labor force now that slavery was abolished. The laws were enforced at the local and state levels of government, which varied from state to state. Covering a wide variety of daily routines, most mandated that blacks needed signed work contracts or they would have to work unpaid apprenticeships, others dictated the amount of land blacks could own and some forbid former slaves from owning firearms. The list of codes encompassed many other significant aspects of daily life, but ultimately, they were put in place to legally keep blacks inferior to whites.3
The end of the Reconstruction era came about in 1877, which brought with it the downfall of many black codes. Some of the ones that remained however restricted blacks from attending segregated white schools, being served in first class public accommodations and public trains cars. These laws would later be challenged in court, but despite the ones that remained, after 1877 there was roughly a twenty-year period where forms of equality existed between blacks and whites. In 1873, Arkansas passed a law that made public carriers, saloons, restaurants, hotels and others public facilities to be made equal for blacks and whites. When dining, blacks were to be served as if they were white, charged the same price as whites, and failure to comply could result in fines or even imprisonment.4 This specific case in Arkansas was by no means the only southern state to enact such laws. Others implemented laws that improved black lives, but despite their laws, racial prejudices were a continuous obstacle to overcome.
With fear that the mixing of blacks and whites would one day lead to a challenge of white dominance, Jim Crow laws were put in place after the court case of Plessy v. Ferguson in 1896. This case between Homer Plessy and Judge John Ferguson was a Supreme Court case that concerned segregated railroad cars and the violation of the 13th and Fourteenth Amendments in the state of Louisiana. The issue at hand was that Plessy, who an octoroon, or one-eighth black, purchased a first class train ticket, and when asked to move train cars because blacks were not allowed to ride in car with whites, he refused. Plessy was then arrested and tried, but ultimately lost the case due to the fact that the train cars were equal for both races, not because it was constitutionally wrong for blacks and whites to ride in separate train cars. The courts verdict of “Separate but equal,” quickly opened the door for Louisiana and southern states alike to continue segregating public facilities as long as they were equal to both races. Besides schools and train cars, southern states segregated water fountains, restrooms, theaters, bars, libraries, hospitals, hotels, buses and so much more. The court’s decision ultimately left blacks frustrated because they saw the judges as color-blind rather than just. However, because of Plessy, many other court cases came about after 1896 that challenged Jim Crow and the institution of segregation.5
Faced with legal segregation of the races and blatant discrimination toward African Americans, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) was founded in 1909 to combat segregation and discrimination. Founded by W.E.B. Du Bois and a few other men, their goal to take to court the injustices and inequalities between whites and blacks throughout the South. So they sought after middle to high class, politically active, men and women to take part in their stance for racial justice and equality. Starting out in New York City, the NAACP found themselves too far away from the race wars that took place in the Deep South, so they expanded into cities all over the country and was able to support black communities in their fight for justice. The NAACP hired a full time staff of attorneys and oversaw the education of young black lawyers for the purpose of challenging Jim Crow laws through the courts. In the first half of the 20th century, the NAACP challenged multiple laws dealing with the issue of underfunded schools, and their lawyers used the statement of “separate but equal” to show that equality did not exist between the separate colored facilities.6 Even though many of these earlier cases are not as well known as Brown, black’s participation and resistance of racial inequalities greatly impacted their role in future cases.
While social and racial changes were progressively taking place, whether through the NAACP or other social organizations, white southerners refused to accept it. Gary Lavergne quotes Senator Eastland, of Mississippi and said, “What the people of this country need to realize is that the whole white race is a superior race, and the Negro race is an inferior race.” These words did not only reflect the Senator’s opinion but an entire southern white culture, as well as white southerners who refused to look at the issue in any other way than the desperate need for segregation. Another example of a white southerner’s attitude towards segregation is a mother who expressed the fear that by integrating schools, white children in general would become dirty, sick, and unsafe. So to prevent the corruption of youth, it would be best to stay separate. Regardless of Senator Eastland and other southerner’s views of white supremacy, they could not ignore the NAACP’s forcefulness inside the courts forever. Whether they would admit it or not, the NAACP strategically and swiftly demanded the courts attention beginning with cases that involved segregated Colleges and Universities long before Brown, through the help of one of their prominent lawyers, Thurgood Marshall.7
With the NAACP’s desire to see white and black schools give equal forms of education, they took the issue of “separate but equal” to court with Thurgood Marshall leading the way. These cases, Briggs v. Elliot of South Carolina, Davis v. County School Board of Prince Edward County of Virginia, Belton v. Gebhart of Delaware, Brown v. Board of Education Topeka,Kansas, and Bolling v. Sharpe of the District of Columbia not only fought the constitutionality of “separate but equal” but challenged the courts authority to segregate public schools throughout the country. Even though each case dealt with different issues, they were similar enough for the Supreme Court to combine them under Brown to make their final decision on the constitutionality of “separate but equal” in 1954.8
Marshall, a lawyer for the NAACP, took to court the first of these cases; Briggs v. Elliot in 1949, challenging the separate schools in Clarendon County, South Carolina. Clarendon was not only the poorest county in the state but one with the least educated population as well. With much of the county’s money coming from white property owners and their businesses, the majority of blacks worked under these whites for low paying, mediocre jobs. With little government funding towards Clarendon’s black schools, teachers found themselves teaching dozens of children in far worse conditions than those of whites. The NAACP found that there were 6500 black children who were split up in roughly 60, 1 to 4 room structured schoolhouses throughout 30 independent school districts, and their findings in Clarendon summarized the conditions throughout most of the black schools throughout the South. Within these schoolhouses, the rooms were small; no transportation to or from school provided, no indoor plumbing or heat existed, and during the wintertime the children were sent outside during class to chop down wood for fires. They also had little access to school supplies except for what they could pay for, so the teachers often found themselves purchasing students supplies out of their personal paychecks. Due to these conditions, many black schools were only able to operate 6-7.5 months out of the year.9 This picture below is an example of what one of the school houses in South Carolina looked like in good condition for black children.
Image 1.”Penn School Historic District, Retreat House, SC Route 37, 1 mile South of Frogmore, St. Helena Island, Frogmore, Beaufort County, SC.” Historic American Buildings Survey. Compiled after 1933.
In comparison, the white schools in Clarendon were mostly large brick facilities, fully funded and operational 8.5 months out of the year. They were equipped with more qualified teachers, better-paid teachers, newer curriculum, and an excess amount of school supplies. They also had transportation to and from school, indoor plumbing, janitors, and cafeterias, which black schools did not possess. According to Clarendon’s school board, which was made up of all whites, the school inequalities were a result of blacks not paying enough money in taxes to get the proper funding for their schools. So they saw no need to support the efforts of blacks. Their thought was that, if giving blacks what they wanted was only going to result in those children becoming labor workers, then they were not going to give any additional funding. These were just a few of the inequalities that illustrated the larger issue of racial injustices throughout much of the South.10
When Marshall argued Briggs v. Elliot in court, he showed that Plessy was violated. The schools were separate, but by no means equal, which led Marshall to believe that the schools needed to either be integrated or equalized for some sort of justice to be served. As one African American man noted, “We ain’t asking for anything that belongs to these white folks. I just mean to get everything for that little boy of mine that any other South Carolina boy gets.” There were many who shared these feelings, but the district court did not see the schools in violation of anything other than the “separate but equal” clause, so they charged the Clarendon County School Board with “failure to provide equal schools and educational opportunities for black children” and forced them to make changes. Even though this was just the beginning of the Brown cases, Briggs v. Elliot marked the beginning of educational and racial reform throughout the South among elementary and secondary schools.11
The case the NAACP took to court following Briggs v. Elliot was Davis v. County School Board of Prince Edward County. Davis originated on May 23, 1951, when the students of Robert Russa Moton High School went on strike demanding a better school. With prior request from the school’s Principal to provide additional funding for a new school, the School Board ignored the request. With little hope of making progress on their own, they requested the help of the NAACP. The NAACP’s organizer helped the parents of the students on strike realize that their strike was not going to produce a new school. Instead, suing against segregation possibly could. Much like the case in Clarendon, the NAACP revealed the inequalities between Robert Russa Moton High School and the all white Farmville High School. They showed that Moton High was holding twice the students for which it was designed and absent from the eight rooms that compromised the school was a cafeteria, a gymnasium, or auditorium. This was enough for the NAACP to sue against segregation and ask that the law requiring segregated schools in the state of Virginia be removed. 12
The next case the NAACP challenged in court was Gebhart v. Ethel. On October 22, 1951, Louis L. Redding, Delaware’s first black lawyer and the NAACP’s Jack Greenberg delivered an argument in court that was different than any other proceeding civil rights case. These two lawyers presented the argument that segregation caused significant psychological damage to black children. They presented this case through the use of plaintiffs, professional educators, and social scientists. The plaintiffs revealed the inequalities that existed between many of the white and black schools like, the fifty-minute bus ride to and from school each day, the lack of sufficient school facilities, the types of classes offered, and the quality and quantity of teachers.13
After the Plaintiff’s presented, the professional educators and social scientists voiced how psychological damage affected black children’s ability to learn, perform, and mature as American citizens. They made the case that the issue of unequal schools brought about psychological damage because students, starting at a very young age, grew up accepting in some aspects, that their lives were less than white’s and that the racial stigmas were their new reality. One of the psychologists who contributed to the case was Kenneth Clark with his study entitled, The Effect of Prejudice and Discrimination on Personality Development. His study showed that racial attitudes exceeded the borders of Delaware and encompassed much of the Jim Crow south. He said,
Both white and Negro children soon learn that the white school is considered superior, and that Negro children are sent to separate schools because the society in general considers them unworthy of association with other children. Even if the Negro schools were made equal to the white schools, they would remain concrete monuments to the stigma of the alleged inferiority of the Negro; they would in fact be gilded educational ghettos, reflecting undemocratic attitudes that are incompatible with goals of education.14
Clark’s conclusion of racial stigmas and its effect on black children helped Redding and Greenberg’s argument for the need to equalize and ultimately desegregate schools in Delaware.15
Bolling v. Shape was the last case except for Brown that the NAACP took to court; dealing with the issue of overcrowding in the District of Columbia’s public schools. Following World War II, many of the black junior high schools in D.C. “held double sessions to accommodate 8,400 students in buildings designed for 6,500,” while white school’s in the district remained half empty. For the year the schools held these double sessions, anger and frustration filled the hearts of many black families simply because they wanted their children be free from the racial injustices that were caused by Jim Crow. Out of their frustration, students of Browne Junior High School orchestrated general strikes around the school building, and it was not until Charles Hamilton Houston of the NAACP filed a series of lawsuits against the Board of Education for equal school facilities that they stopped their protest. Before Houston’s death in 1950, he believed that, “Negroes had been deprived of due process of law” and by that law, should be given equal facilities.16
Besides this case being dealt within the Nation’s capitol, it differed from the others because the NAACP directly challenged the way Congress used its power in light of the 5th Amendment’s due process clause. Because of that clause, the NAACP turned it into a human rights case largely due to the questioning and meaning of liberty. One of the lawyers working this case, James Nabrit, argued that you do not have partial liberty, partial freedoms, or partial equality. “You either have liberty or your do not.” So for black students to attend “separate but equal” schools where cases of inequalities continued to appear, Narbit argued that there was no liberty or equality at all. Narbit’s questioning of liberty and equality eventually led the to court rule in favor of the NAACP and declare that, “racial segregation in the public schools of the District of Columbia is a denial of the due process of law guaranteed by the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution.” The NAACP found great joy in their victory, but knew they had to pressure the issue of Jim Crow and “separate but equal” even more for the Supreme Court to deem segregation unconstitutional across the nation.17
The case that was the ultimate deciding factor for the Supreme Court’s verdict on the constitutionality of Jim Crow and school segregation was Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas in 1951. This marked the beginning of the NAACP’s case against the Topeka School Board in which Marshall was anxious to make his assault on segregation. Brown was unlike any other civil rights case in the sense that it did not deal with the inequalities between black and white schools, the time it took to get to and from school, or the lack of opportunities for blacks after high school. This case was solely fought over the institution of segregation and its enforcement.18
Part of the reason why Marshall and the other lawyers working with the NAACP did not argue against inequalities between black and white schools was because there were very little to be argued. So they took the case a different direction by arguing from a psychological perspective of education, describing how the enforcement of segregation made black students feel inferior. Even though they were given equal facilities, Robert Carter, a defense lawyer for the NAACP, argued that despite the equal facilities, the student’s feelings of inferiority was enough for them to lose motivation to learn. Carter’s argument however, was not enough to convince the court that segregation needed to be overturned. Even though the NAACP presented the challenges of segregation through a different manner, the issue of segregation remained within Topeka’s public schools. Fortunately for the NAACP, the psychological issues that Carter, Marshall and the other lawyers brought up challenged the courts moral obligation to uphold equality, but the three judges’ who analyzed the NAACP’s arguments found no violation of Plessy, or any type of physical inequality between the schools that would cause them to overturn Jim Crow. So “separate but equal” remained the standard for Topeka’s public schools. 19
The NAACP would not stop at the state’s decision to side with Topeka’s Board of Education in 1951. So their appeal made its way to the Supreme Court in 1952, which combined Brown with Briggs v. Elliot, Davis v. County School Board of Prince Edward County, Gebhart v. Belton, and Bolling v. Sharpe. The combining of these cases allowed the NAACP to clearly illustrate the numerous injustices and inequalities that existed within the segregated schools as well as the negative affects Jim Crow had on the black students. Within the Supreme Court, the NAACP relied on Kenneth Clark’s psychological research to exemplify the mental damage segregation had on black children. Marshall and the other lawyers did so by using Clark’s study in 1947, on children’s preference to play with black or white dolls.20
The study entailed Mr. and Mrs. Clark asking children between the ages of three and seven to answer a series of eight questions by choosing one of four dolls. The questions asked were,
Give me the doll that: (1) you like to play with or the doll you like best, (2) is the nice doll, (3) looks bad, (4) is a nice color, (5) looks like a White child, (6) looks like a colored child, (7) looks like a Negro child, (8) looks like you.21 Out of the 253 black children who participated in this study, 143 of them came from segregated southern schools and the other 119 came from integrated northern schools. What the Clarks learned that these children’s responses was that segregation was devastating to one’s moral perception of identity and equality. Clark learned that the majority of these children identified themselves with the colored doll, yet preferred the white one, thought of it as the nice one, and the one with the ideal color. Ultimately, Clark’s study revealed a truth that black children had accepted societal racism and suffered immensely because of it. His study was also a tangible way of seeing how a black child viewed himself or herself in relation to whites through the lens of segregated education and other public facilities.22
These types of psychological arguments presented by the NAACP made it very difficult for the Supreme Court to ignore the demoralizing and dehumanizing effects segregation had on black children. With the 14th Amendment in question, an article in the New York Times on December 7, 1953 shared with its readers a synopsis of where the court stood with its hearing and what the potential outcomes may be. Having revisited the cases from South Carolina, Virginia, Delaware, and Kansas, in light of the 14th Amendment and the District of Columbia’s question of the 5th Amendment, Marshall told the court that abolishing segregation was not only within their power but also their moral duty.23
The 14th Amendment prohibited “any state from making or enforcing any law that would abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States.” So one of the courts questions was whether or not Congress intended for this amendment to end school segregation. With that decision in the hands of eight Supreme Court judges, the significance and impact of their decision could drastically change the racial stigmas, stereotypes, and educational opportunities for blacks across the country. Regardless of how the court would decide, their decision would affect roughly “10,000,000 white school children and 2,500,000 Negro children in seventeen states and the District of Columbia.” Out of those seventeen, many of the southern states mandated school segregation and in others, it was optional under local law. Throughout the many of these states, there was a fear among blacks however, that even if the court decided to desegregate the schools, they may be in greater danger than ever before. There was the fear of potential increases in school violence, false accusations of sexual harassment against blacks, and possible increases of lynching.24
Despite the hardships that could potentially arise, black’s wanted true equality and liberty regardless of the cost. Testimonies of men who sought out freedom apart from the NAACP and other organizations were those like a black American corporal who returned from World War II and said, “I spent four years in the Army to free a bunch of Dutchman and Frenchmen, and I’m hanged if I’m going to let the Alabama versions of the Germans kick me around when I get home.” He finished by saying, “I went into the Army a nigger; I’m comin’ out a man.” This corporal’s attitude and frustration brought about an even greater hatred towards the system of segregation because he defended his country regardless of his race, only to come home to face another war where he could do very little about it. Sentiments like this make it very easy to feel the frustration other blacks must have felt because of the Jim Crow laws, the separate but equal act, and the racial stigmas throughout the South.25
With a long lasting relationship between frustration and patience, the NAACP and black communities throughout the country waited anxiously for the Supreme Court to utter their final decision. Chief Justice Earl Warren, as well as the other seven judges intently examined each case, their different local conditions, and acknowledged the problems brought forth by Marshall and his companion of lawyers. Interestingly enough, before making any type of decision, the judges asked for the Attorney General of the United States and the Attorney General of all the states requiring or permitting racial discrimination to join them to talk about their views and to hear from them what desegregation would look like within their state. The purpose of doing this was for the judges to understand the seriousness of desegregation and how it would affect the nation’s future if they chose to overturn Plessy’s “separate but equal.”26
For a period of time, the judges struggled to come to an agreement because there were so many philosophical differences between them, which led to many disagreements on what should happen with Brown. Before Brown however, President Roosevelt had selected the Supreme Court Justices in which Fred M. Vinson served as the courts Chief Justice. Vinson was not always well liked by the court or his fellow judges. Some thought of him to have mishandled school segregation cases, while others found his rulings to be purely out of his bias for segregation. Yet, his death from a heart attack in 1953 came as a surprise to many, but did not cause for much morning amongst the other judges. Felix Frankfurter, one of the eight judges serving with Vinson spoke of his dislike for Vinson when he said, “This is the first indication I have ever had that there is a God.” Despite Frankfurter’s dislike for Vinson, his feelings improved towards President Eisenhower’s replacement, Earl Warren of California, as he critically examined Brown.27
Warren, age 62, was the former Governor of California before joining Eisenhower and the other Supreme Court Justices. Previously involved with the Japanese Internment Camps, which he later regretted, learned from that experience and applied that knowledge on racial prejudice to his role as Chief Justice, and the controversy of Brown. It did not take him very long to decide that Brown was a moral issue more than anything else. He wrote a draft in response to the case, which expressed his thoughts that school segregation was unconstitutional and said, “The more I’ve read and heard and thought…the more I’ve come to conclude that the basis of segregation and ‘separate but equal’ rests upon a conflict,” and that conflict being “the inferiority of the colored race.”28 Although this was just a draft, Warren’s beliefs did not change throughout the case. He deeply believed that blacks’ liberties and freedoms had been unjustly stripped from them without any regard to the consequences that would come as a result.
Warren was aware that desegregating in the Deep South was going cause emotional and physical strife. As expected, challenges and conflicts would arise, but his goal was to do it as peacefully as possible. Historian Jeffrey Hockett quotes Warren in his conversation with the other judges sharing his thoughts to “abolish [segregation] in a tolerant way and recognize that [the] time element is important in the deep south.” Hockett continues to quote Warren and says that the “only way to sustain Plessy” and the “separate but equal doctrine [is to accept its] basic premise that the Negro race is inferior.” “If we are to sustain seg[regation], we must do so on that basis.” Warren goes on to explain why segregation cannot be justified. To “set one group apart from the rest & say [they are] not entitled to exactly [the] same treatment of all others,” would violate the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments sense they were “intended to make equal those who once were slaves.” Warren’s words had a significant impact on the court’s decision and ultimately had a life changing effect on the entire country. With his conservative views and moral conscience, he led the court to a verdict that overturned Plessy, Jim Crow’s ‘separate but equal,’ and created new era in black educational opportunities.29
There was an incident shortly before the court came to its verdict where Warren witnessed first hand the indecency of segregated facilities. This event not only frustrated him but reinforced his belief that segregation needed to end. Warren was taken out of Washington D.C. by a black chauffeur for a few days to visit some of the older civil war sites in Virginia. He had previously made his hotel arrangements and thought his chauffeur would have done the same. However, the morning after the first day Warren realized that his chauffeur had slept in the car because there were no appropriate lodgings where he could stay. In reflection of that incident, Warren said, “I was embarrassed, I was ashamed,” and because of that, he ended his trip and returned to D.C. This event took place in 1954, in the midst of dealing with Brown. So Warren was able to use this as evidence that racial discrimination was still very active at this time, not just in schools but in everyday life.30
At this point, the Supreme Court had been dealing with Brown for over two years. Starting on December 9, 1952, reargued on December 8, 1953, and on May 17, 1954 the Court finally ruled a verdict. The years between these three hearings was to give the court adequate time to discuss matters such as the historical origins of the Fourteenth Amendment, its original purpose in regards to segregated and non-segregated schools, and look at ways in which the Court should follow if segregation was found unconstitutional. With serious thought and debate amongst the Justices, one of the main questions they asked was whether or not segregation of children in public schools solely based on race deprived them of equal educational opportunities. Ultimately, deciding that it did, Chief Justice Warren stated on May 17, 1954 that we unanimously
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 others similarly situated for whom the actions have been brought are, by reason of segregation complained of, deprived of the equal protection of the laws guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment.31 The Courts 9-0 decision to declare segregated schools unconstitutional drastically changed the role of education and educational opportunities for all states. Not only was it seen as a victory for racial reforms but it was a victory for the NAACP. Marshall and the other lawyers saw their ultimate goal come to fruition. They took down segregated education. Even though parts of Jim Crow remained, the NAACP’s victory is agreed on by scholars that this case was “perhaps the most important judgment ever handed down by any American Supreme Court.” What the Courts decision did not do, however, was implement how desegregation would be enforced. They stated that it was unconstitutional and forbid the segregation of schools to continue, but they never stated how and when changes needed to be made.32
It was not long before the NAACP went back to the court to challenge Brown, for the sake of enforcing states to implement integrated schools. This became known as Brown II, in 1955. Brown II essentially stated that the segregated schools could desegregate “with all deliberate speed.” With the hope for an act that would call for immediate desegregation across the country, what happened in actuality was that “with all deliberate speed,” states prolonged the desegregation of their schools and found ways to resist the Court’s decision. Another challenge the NAACP faced after Brown was gaining political support for the integration of schools. During the years of 1949-1953, the NAACP found a significant amount of support from President Harry S. Truman, because he was an impactful supporter of integration. Unfortunately for the NAACP, after Truman’s term, President Dwight D. Eisenhower did not follow Truman’s lead in promoting integration. President Eisenhower was not an advocate of integration, however he was forced to accept the Court’s decision even though he did not endorse it. Publically he stated, “The Supreme Court has spoken, and I am sworn to uphold their – the constitutional process of this country, and I am trying. I will obey.” Those were the words he expressed to the public, but privately he shared his belief that because of the Court’s decision, they have set race relations back at least 15 years.33
Over time, schools across the nation fully integrated. It took much longer than the NAACP and many other social groups had hoped for, but in the end they took on a daunting task, to some, an unachievable task and proved their right to be treated as equal. Analyzing these civil rights cases and examining different individuals views on segregation, W.E.B. Du Bois predicted that the color line34 would be one of America’s greatest problems of the 20th century, and he appeared to be right because author David Droge quoted historian Ben Keppel stating that the nation’s struggle “either to avoid or to come to terms [with racism] is the single most important theme in American history.” Brown not only signified racial reform but an attitude of new life. It also took white people’s ideals, prejudices, blatant racism, and unwanted judgments against blacks and broke them down one step at a time. The decision of 1954 brought about a victory of relief, not because the NAACP had changed the history of education forever, but simply because black southerner’s gained a newness of freedom and liberties. These freedoms brought by Brown signaled just the beginning of a new era in black educational opportunities, which created the space in American society for real equality. Without having to feel inferior or deprived of the equalities of a valuable education, Brown opened the door for blacks to feel like they were no longer limited by a title or by a stereotype. Instead, they felt the freedom of the limitless amount of opportunities that came as a result of Brown.35
Friedman, Leon. ed. Brown v. Board: The Landmark Oral Argument Before the Supreme Court. New York: The New York Press, 1969.
This primary source is a compilation of the Supreme Court documents of Brown. Providing conversations and oral accounts between the Judges and the Appellants. Friedman, the editor is Professor of Civil Liberties Law at Hofstra University.
Gona, Ophelia, De Laine. Dawn of Desegregation: J. A. De Laine and Briggs v. Elliot. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 2011.
As the daughter of J.A. De Laine, Ophelia analysis’s her father’s role in Clarendon County, South Carolina during the time of Briggs. Giving daily schedules and routines, conversations, and personal experience, she examines Briggs in light of Brown.
New York Times, 1953.
This newspaper article was used to keep people up to date on the events of Brown. It also presented the arguments by both sides of the court and presented possible outcomes for its next hearing.
Ogletree, Charles J. Jr. All Deliberate Speed: Reflections on the First Half Century of Brown v. Board of Education. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2004
This book is written as a memoir that combines Ogletree’s experiences at the time of Brown and its affects on him, as well as the country. It also includes historical and legal analysis on the cases and the Jim Crow era.
Paul, James C. N. and Albert Coates. The School Segregation Decision: Law and Government. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina, 1954
This primary source is a report on the decision the Supreme Court of America made on May 17, 1954. Albert Coats, the Director of the Institute of Law gives the background of the decision and James C. N. Paul, the Associate Director of the Institute of Law gives the legal analysis of the decision and some alternatives.
Supreme Court of the United States, Appeals form the Unites States District of Courts for the District of Kansas, the Eatern District of South Carolina and the Eastern District of Virginia, and on Petition for a Writ of Certiorabi to the Supreme Court of Delaware, Respectively. The School Segregation Cases (1954).
This Primary Source is a book without an author or must structure to it all. It simple has inside the court cases, opinions of appellants, the jurisdiction, and the statement of the case for all 5 of the cases presented under Brown.
Abel, Elizabeth. Signs of the Times: The Visual Politics of Jim Crow. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2010.
Abel presents a unique study of the Jim Crow legacy and its impact on the races. Abel goes into how race is produced and challenged by laws just as these. She also brings about a new way of thinking about Jim Crow in today’s society.
Bergner, Gwen. “Black Children, White Preference: Brown v. Board, the Doll Test, and the Politics of Self-Esteem.” American Quarterly 61, no. 2 (June, 2009): Accessed April 17, 2009. https://muse.jhu.edu/journals/american_quarterly/v061/61.2.bergner.html
Bergner is a scholar who researched Brown and the Court’s decision to use Mr. and Mrs. Clark’s psychological research on black children’s self-esteem using the doll test. Bergner describes in depth how its impacts Brown and the Judges understanding of psychological development.
Brown, David, and Clive Webb. Race in the American South: From Slavery to Civil Rights. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2007.
Brown shows how race has shaped America’s history since the very beginning. Moving from slavery to Reconstruction, race and racism continued to be a significant, specifically in the South. Brown goes on to show how the South tried to resolve racial issues.
Cobb, James C. The Brown Decision, Jim Crow, and Southern Identity. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2005.
Cobb, the chairperson of the History Department at the University of Georgia wrote this book to show how the understanding of segregation has changed since Brown. This book also gives insight on the damaging effects of Jim Crow on blacks.
Crooms, Lisa A. “Race, Education and the District of Columbia: The Meaning and Legacy of Boiling v. Sharpe.” Washington History 16, no. 2 (Fall/Winter, 2004/2005): 14-22. Accessed April 17, 2015. http://www.jstor.org/stable/40073393
Crooms is a faculty member at the Howard University Law School. Her work on Bolling v. Shapre gives a significant amount of detail on the inequalities between the segregated schools in the District of Columbia, specifically discussing overcrowding.
Droge, David. Brown v. Board of Education at Fifty. Edited by Clarke Roundtree. Lanham: Lexington Books, 2004.
Droge mostly criticizes the acceptance of the Supreme Court’s use of psychological social science as a tool to rule segregated education unconstitutional.
Gadsden, Brett. “He Said He Wouldn’t Help Me Get a Jim Crow Bus: The shifting Terms of the Challenge to Segregated Public Education, 1950-1954.” The Journal of African American History 90, no. 2 (Winter 2005): 9-28. Accessed April 19, 2015. http://www.jstor.org/stable/20063973
Gadsden, a James Madison University alumnus, is now a professor in the department of African American Studies at Emory University. This publication used here gives specific detail on the Gebhart v. Ethal case. He also refers to Kenneth Clark’s psychological studies used, which aided in the decision of the case.
Graves, John W. “Jim Crow in Arkansas: A Reconsideration of Urban Race Relation in the Post-Reconstruction South.” The Journal of Southern History 55, no. 3 (August, 1989): 421-48. Accessed on April 20, 2015. http://www.jstor.org/stable/2208404
Graves is an associate professor at Henderson State University. His work on black Jim Crow in Arkansas is useful in understanding what segregated facilities looked like after Plessy. Graves also gives detail on the equalities that existed in between the period of reconstruction and separate but equal.
Haskin, James. Thurgood Marshall: A Life for Justice. New York: Henry Holth & Co, 1992.
Looks at the life of the first black judge to serve on the Supreme Court. Also his career before being a judge. Working for the NAACP, fighting social justice through the courts and his search for equality. Haskin also looks at Marshall’s major influencers.
Hockett, Jeffrey D. A Storm Over This Court: Law, Politics, and Supreme Court Decision Making in Brown v. Board of Education. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2013.
Hockett, a Professor of Political Science at the University of Tulsa, writes to show the complexity of the Court’s decision involving Brown. He specifically describes the problematic nature of the case and between the Justices’ beliefs.
Hoffer, William James Hull. "Plessy v. Ferguson: The Effects of Lawyering on a Challenge to Jim Crow." Journal Of Supreme Court History 39, no. 1 (March 2014): 1-21. Accessed on April 23, 2015.http://eds.a.ebscohost.com/eds/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?sid=cc188221-589a-4192 8b40-62b46217151f%40sessionmgr4001&vid=13&hid=4208
Hoffer discusses in legal terms the importance of the decision of Plessy v. Ferguson. He also takes interest in “separate but equal” and the Jim Crow laws.
Jackson, John P. Social Scientist for Social Justice: Making the Case against Segregation. New York: New York University Press, 2001.
Jackson is a professor at the University of Colorado, Boulder. This work is useful because it shows the impact social science had on the court, specifically in Brown, and how the scientist found the their way in the courtroom fighting against segregation.
Jordan, Phillip and Maria Hernandez-Reif. “Reexamination of Young Children’s Racial Attitudes and Skin Tone Preferences.” Journal of Black Psychology 35, no. 3 (August 2009): 388-90. Accessed April 19, 2015. http://jbp.sagepub.com/content/35/3/388.full.pdf+html
These authors from the University of Alabama take Clark’s doll study, list and examine the eight questions asked by Clark. They give specific detail so Clark’s findings, analyze the results, and conclude that segregation was detrimental in Negro development.
Klugar, Richard. Simple Justice: The History of Brown. V Board of Education and Black America’s Struggle for Equality. New York: Random House, 2004.
Klugar has served as a lawyer and historian, while also writing books such as Simple Justice. This book shows the complex development of Brown v. Board of Education and studies the nations progress over race throughout the south.
Lavergne, Gary M. Before Brown: Heman Marion Sweatt, Thurgood Marshall, and the Long Road to Justice. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2010.
Lavergne is a professor and researcher for the University of Texas. His work on Brown relies specifically on the case of Sweatt v. Painter and the admittance of the University of Texas Law School. This case was one of many that lead to Brown.
Lewis, Catherine M. and Richard J. Lewis. Jim Crow America: A Documentary History. Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press, 2009
Lewis is a professor of history at Kennesaw State University and her husband is an avid writer. Their book Jim Crow America shares light on the multi-meanings of Jim Crow. Signifying that it stood for more than just a period of laws, but a way of life.
Lynch, Hollis R. “Americans of African Ancestry” Columbia University. Accessed April 20, 2015. http://history-world.org/black_codes.htm
Lynch is a Professor of History and Director of the Institute of African Studies at Columbia University. His work on black codes signifies the racial differences faced by blacks and whites during the Reconstruction era.
Martin, Waldo E. Jr. Brown v. Board: A Brief History with Documents. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 1998.
This book discusses the beginnings of development of Jim Crow, Brown, and its effects thereafter. Using documents surrounding the case, Martin believes that Brown became the imagine of the black liberation struggle.
Mason, Thomas A. “Understanding the Warren Court: Judicial Self-Restraint and Judicial Duty.” Political Science Quarterly 81, no. 4 (Winter, 1966): 523-563. Accessed on April 12, 2015. http://www.jstor.org/stable/2146904.
Mason points out in his scholarly work that racial discrimination did more than just create unrest within the United States, it brought about different philosophical beliefs between the judges making it difficult to come to an agreement. So Mason looks at what changed with Warren that caused a unanimous decision.
Moreno, Paul D. From Direct Action to Affirmative Action: Fair Employment Law and Policy in America, 1933-1972. Baton Rouge, LA. Louisiana State University Press. 1997.
Moreno looks at affirmative action and says that employers practiced this long before the Civil Rights. He looks through America’s past to find the legal responses to racial biases inside of the workforce.
Patterson, James T. Brown v. Board of Education: A Civil Rights Milestone and its Troubled Legacy. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002.
Patterson, a historical scholar wrote to look into the controversies of Brown. He found these to be legal, social, political, and educational. Moving through Post-Reconstruction, to Jim Crow, to NAACP, to Brown and its aftermath, Patterson seeks to finds answers regarding these controversies.
Packard, Jerrold M. American Nightmare: The History of Jim Crow. New York, New York. St. Martin’s Press. 2002
Packard details of the early beginnings of Jim Crow and the challenges blacks faced in light of them. It looks at the events and root causes for racial discrimination after the civil war and American goes about breaking down those laws.
Schwartz, Bernard. "Chief Justice Earl Warren: Super Chief in Action.” Journal Of Supreme Court History 23, no. 1 (March 1998): 112-132. Accessed April 23, 2015. http://eds.a.ebscohost.com/eds/detail/detail?vid=1&sid=cc188221-589a 4192-8b40-589a-4192-8b40 62b46217151f%40sessionmgr4001&hid=4208&bdata=JkF1dGhUeXBlPWlwL Nvb2tpZSx1cmwsY3BpZCx1aWQmY3VzdGlkPXM4ODYzMTM3JnNpdGU WRzLWxpdmUmc2NvcGU9c2l0ZQ%3d%3d#db=ahl&AN=46049344.
Schwartz looked at Warren’s leadership amongst the court and how he led the justices to agree on a decision that was controversial throughout the country. He showed Warren’s belief and values of American morality, which aided him in becoming one of the greatest American justices.
Ulmer, Sidney S. “Earl Warren and the Brown Decision.” Journal of Politics 33 no. 3 (Summer 1971): 689-702. Accessed on May 19, 2015. http://www.jstor.org/stable/2128278.
Sidney examines the Brown case as one of the most important cases decided by not just Warren but the Supreme Court at large. This decision enforced Warren’s power to uphold the Constitution and its values.
Whitfield, Stephen J. "The Theme of Indivisibility in the Post-War Struggle Against Prejudice in the United States." Patterns Of Prejudice 48, no. 3 (July 2014): 223 247. Accessed April 23, 2015. http://eds.a.ebscohost.com/eds/detail/detail?vid=10&sid=cc188221-589a 4192 8b40 62b46217151f%40sessionmgr4001&hid=4208&bdata=JkF1dGhUeXBlPWlwL Nvb2tpZSx1cmwsY3BpZCx1aWQmY3VzdGlkPXM4ODYzMTM3JnNpdGU WRzLWxpdmUmc2NvcGU9c2l0ZQ%3d%3d#db=ahl&AN=96920148
Whitfield’s essay illustrates the problems of prejudice throughout 1940-1950. Not just prejudice against blacks, but minority groups like Jews and homosexuals as well. There didn’t appear to be a clear distinction of why certain minorities experienced the prejudice they did, they were all just associated with being inferior.
1To understand what racism looked like in the post civil war era and how it affected school segregation, one must start by researching race relations and reform in America, starting with Catherine M. Lewis and Richard J. Lewis, Jim Crow America: A Documentary History (Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press, 2009); Elizabeth Abel, Signs of the Times: the visual politics of Jim Crow (Berkeley, University of California Press, 2010); Stephen J. Whitfield, “The theme of indivisibility in the post-war struggle against prejudice in the United States,” Patterns of Prejudice 48, no. 3 (Summer, 2014): 1-25, and David Brown, Race in the American South: from slavery to civil rights (Edinburgh, Edinburgh University Press, 2007). These sources provide background information on what American racism, and, more specifically, what southern racism looked like during the time of the Jim Crow laws. To research even more in-depth on the events that led up to the Brown decision and its effects afterwards, consult Richard Klugar, Simple Justice: The History of Brown. V Board of Education and Black America’s Struggle for Equality (New York: Random House, 2004); James T. Patterson, Brown v. Board of Education: A Civil Rights Milestone and its Troubled Legacy (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002); and James C. Cobb, The Brown Decision, Jim Crow, and Southern Identity (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2005). These investigate the challenges and hardships blacks underwent for the sake of equality. To discover specific individuals or places involved in the court cases, see James Haskins, Thurgood Marshall: A Life for Justice (New York: Henry Holth & Co, 1992); Bernard Schwartz, “Chief Justice Earl Warren: Super Chief in Action,” Journal of Supreme Court History 23, no. 1 (1998): 112-132; Sidney S. Ulmer, “Earl Warren and the Brown Decision,” Journal of Politics 33 no. 3 (Summer 1971): 689-702; and Thomas A. Mason, “Understanding the Warren Court: Judicial Self-Restraint and Judicial Duty,” Political Science Quarterly 81, no. 4 (Winter, 1966): 523-563. These discuss in detail the challenges and difficulties Marshall and the Justices faced when pushed to respond. To see useful and reliable primary sources on the Supreme Court’s ultimate decision, see the New York Times, the Topeka State Journal, the Tallahassee Democrat, and the court records themselves in the national archives. These records give general overviews and detailed documentation of the events that took place, the outbreaks that occurred, and record the long-term effects of Brown.
2 Laws designed to structure the lives of former slaves
3 Hollis R. Lynch, “Americans of African Ancestry” Columbia University, accessed April 20, 2015, http://history-world.org/black_codes.htm
4 John W. Graves, “Jim Crow in Arkansas: A Reconsideration of Urban Race Relation in the Post-Reconstruction South,” The Journal of Southern History 55, no. 3 (August, 1989): 421-448, accessed on April 20, 2015, http://www.jstor.org/stable/2208404
5 William James Hull Hoffer, “Plessy v. Ferguson: The Effects of Lawyering on a Challenge to Jim Crow,” Journal of Supreme Court History 39, no. 1 (March 2014): 1-21, accessed on April 20, 2015, http://eds.b.ebscohost.com/eds/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?sid=461b8dd3-e3f2-4d23-8f38-b4ea80aa717b%40sessionmgr198&vid=2&hid=122; Jerrold M. Packard, American Nightmare: The History of Jim Crow (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2002), 42-50, 75-78.
6 Gary M. Lavergne, Before Brown: Heman Marion Sweatt, Thurgood Marshall, and the Long Road to Justice (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2010), 32-42.
7 Lavergne, 82; James T. Patterson, Brown v. Board of Education: A Civil Rights Milestone and Its Troubled Legacy (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001), 5-11, 17-20.
8 Supreme Court of the United States, Appeals form the Unites States District of Courts for the District of Kansas, the Eatern District of South Carolina and the Eastern District of Virginia, and on Petition for a Writ of Certiorabi to the Supreme Court of Delaware, Respectively. The School Segregation Cases (1954), 2-20.
9 Ophelia De Laine Gona, Dawn of Desegregation: J. A. De Laine and Briggs v. Elliot (Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 2011), 3-9.
10 Gona, Dawn of Desegregation, 7-10.
11 Gona, Dawn of Desegregation, 159, 132.
12Leon Friedman, ed. Brown v. Board: The Landmark Oral Argument Before the Supreme Court (New York: The New York Press, 2004), 69-107.
13 Brett Gadsden, “He Said He Wouldn’t Help Me Get a Jim Crow Bus: The shifting Terms of the Challenge to Segregated Public Education, 1950-1954,” The Journal of African American History 90, no. 2 (Winter 2005): 11, accessed April 19, 2015, http://www.jstor.org/stable/20063973
14 Gadsden, 16.
15 Gadsden, 16.
16 Lisa A. Crooms, “Race, Education and the District of Columbia: The Meaning and Legacy of Boiling v. Sharpe” Washington History 16, no. 2 (Fall/Winter, 2004/2005): 14-22, accessed April 17, 2015, http://www.jstor.org/stable/40073393
17 Crooms, 17-18.
18 Patterson, 34.
19 Patterson, 35.
20 Gwen Bergner, “Black Children, White Preference: Brown v. Board, the Doll Test, and the Politics of Self-Esteem,” American Quarterly 61, no. 2 (June, 2009): accessed April 17, 2009, https://muse.jhu.edu/journals/american_quarterly/v061/61.2.bergner.html.
21 Phillip Jordan and Maria Hernandez-Reif, “Reexamination of Young Children’s Racial Attitudes and Skin Tone Preferences,” Journal of Black Psychology 35, no. 3 (August 2009): 388-390, accessed April 19, 2015, http://jbp.sagepub.com/content/35/3/388.full.pdf+html.
22 John P. Jackson, Social Scientist for Social Justice: Making the Case against Segregation (New York: New York University Press, 2001), 136-137; Gwen Bergner, “Black Children, White Preference: Brown v. Board, the Doll Test, and the Politics of Self Esteem,” American Quarterly 61, no. 2 (June, 2009): Accessed April 17, 2009. https://muse.jhu.edu/journals/american_quarterly/v061/61.2.bergner.html
23 “Final Flight Opens in Supreme Court On Bias In Schools: Prominent Attorneys Argue on Power to End Segregation Under 14th Amendment,” New York Times, December 7, 1953, accessed April 19, 2015, http://search.proquest.com/docview/112734413?accountid=11667.
24 New York Times, 1953; Patterson, 96.
25 Patterson, 1
26 Waldo E. Martin Jr. Brown v. Board: A Brief History with Documents (Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 1998), 195.
27 Patterson, 57.
28 Patterson, 64.
29 Jeffrey, D. Hockett, A Storm Over This Court: Law, Politics, and Supreme Court Decision Making in Brown v. Board of Education (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2013), 72; Hockett, 73-74.
30 Patterson, xiii-xiv
31 James C. N. Paul and Albert Coats, The School Segregation Decision: Law and Government (Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina), 37
32 Hockett, 3; Paul, 37-38
33 Charles J. Ogletree, Jr., All Deliberate Speed: Reflections on the First Half Century of Brown v. Board of Education (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2004), 124-134.
34 Reference to racial segregation in the United States
35 David Droge, Brown v. Board of Education at Fifty, ed. Clarke Roundtree (Lanham: Lexington Books, 2004), 91