What the Brown v Board of Education Did

The Brown v. Board of Education decision was a turning point in American history, marking the end of segregation in public schools.

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Introduction

The Brown v Board of Education decision ended legal segregation in public schools. The decision overturned the Plessy v Ferguson decision of 1896 which allowed state-sponsored segregation. Segregation in the United States began when the Virginia House of Burgesses passed a law in 1662 stating that all English people who were not Christians would be slaves.

What Was the Case About?

The case of Brown v. Board of Education was about much more than just the integration of public schools. The case, which was actually a consolidation of five lawsuits, revolved around the issue of “separate but equal” public facilities. The plaintiffs in the case argued that the state-mandated segregated public schools were not actually equal and therefore violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

Brown v. Board of Education is most commonly associated with the desegregation of public schools, but the decision also had implications for other types of public facilities, including parks, playgrounds, libraries, and sidewalks. In each instance, the Supreme Court found that segregated public facilities were unconstitutional.

What Did the Court Decide?

On May 17, 1954, the Supreme Court issued its landmark decision in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, declaring that state laws establishing separate public schools for black and white students were unconstitutional. This decision overturned the court’s previous ruling in Plessy v. Ferguson (1896), which had approved the use of “separate but equal” public facilities for whites and blacks. Calling segregated education inherently unequal, Chief Justice Earl Warren wrote for a unanimous court that “separate educational facilities are inherently unequal.” The court ordered school districts to begin desegregation “with all deliberate speed.”

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In the years following the Brown decision, the federal government increasingly intervened to ensure that states complied with court-ordered desegregation plans. In 1957, Arkansas governor Orval Faubus called out the National Guard to prevent black students from integrating Little Rock Central High School; President Dwight Eisenhower responded by sending in federal troops to escort the students into the building (an action later replicated by President John F. Kennedy in 1962, when he used federal marshals to integrate the University of Mississippi). In 1964, Congress passed and President Lyndon Johnson signed into law the historic Civil Rights Act, which among other things banned racial discrimination in public accommodations and voting rights; two years later Congress passed Johnson’s Voting Rights Act, which outlawed discriminatory election practices that had prevented blacks from voting in much of the South.

In 1971, concerned thatprogress toward integration had stalled, a group of African American parents in Charlotte-Mecklenburg County, North Carolina filed suit against their school district alleging that it was still operating a dual system of schools despite years of court-ordered desegregation plans; their case eventually made its way to the Supreme Court. In 1974’s Milliken v Bradley,the court held that while school districts could be required totake some corrective action to remedy past discrimination within their own boundaries–such as reassigning teachers and administrators or redrawing attendance zones–they could not be forced to bus students between cities or counties as part of a larger desegregation plan.

The following year saw two important cases out of Seattle and Louisville regarding voluntary integration programs designed by those school districts; both cases went all the way to the Supreme Court. In 1976’s Hills v Gautreaux,[16]the Court ruled thatwhile public housing authorities were under no obligation totry to achieve specific numerical goals for racial integration in their housing developments or neighborhoods (as plaintiffs had alleged), they could take race into account asone factor among many when making decisions about siting new developments–a position reaffirmed bythe justices nine years later in Lugar v Metropolitan School District Marion County.[17][18] Finally,in 1977’s Paladin Club Case,[19]theSupreme CourtruledThat a nonprofit organizationwhich conditions membership on race does not violate anti-discrimination laws if its members can show that they have a “compelling need”for such an arrangement–a position reaffirmed bythe justices 12 years laterin City Club Case.[20]

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Why Was This Case Important?

In the United States, schools are supposed to be separate but equal. However, in many cases, minorities were given an education that was anything but equal. This was the case in Topeka, Kansas. The city had both black and white schools, but the black schools were very different from the white schools. The black schools were usually old and in bad repair. They also had fewer teachers and resources than the white schools.

The case of Brown v Board of Education was important because it resulted in the integration of public schools. This means that children of all races would go to school together. Before this case, many public school classrooms were racially segregated. This case helped to end that practice.

What Impact Did the Case Have?

The most direct consequence of Brown was the end of de jure segregation in American public schools. This resulted in increased diversity in schools, which has been linked to a variety of academic and social benefits for students. In the years following the ruling, the desegregation process was often difficult and contentious, as manySouthern states resisted integration. But over time, as more and more states came to comply with Brown, public schools across the country became more diverse.

In addition to its impact on public schools, Brown also had important indirect consequences for American society. The ruling helped legitimize the civil rights movement, which gained momentum in the years after the decision was handed down. It also inspired other groups that were fighting for equality—including women, people with disabilities, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) individuals—to use litigation as a tool to advance their causes. And by breaking down racial barriers in education, Brown helped pave the way for future advances in civil rights.

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Conclusion

The unanimous ruling in Brown v. Board of Education was a turning point in American history, one that led directly to the end of legal segregation in this country. While the ruling did not immediately lead to the integration of all schools, it did strike down the “separate but equal” doctrine that had been used to justify segregation for more than half a century. In the years following the decision, schools across the nation began to slowly integrate, and today, most public schools are racially diverse.

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