Brown v. the Board of Education of Topeka
On January 1, 1863, Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, a bill that freed all slaves. On July 9, 1868, the Thirteenth Amendment was ratified, which declared slavery illegal. It reads:
Neither Slavery, nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.
Both the Thirteenth Amendment and the Emancipation Proclamation led to the fact that the freed men and women needed an education to start their new lives. They also started the journey toward desegregation.
Eroding rights of blacks
Once blacks became free, whites eroded their civil rights through many ways. One way was through the Plessy v. Ferguson case. It began on June 7, 1892, when Homer Plessy was arrested for sitting in a white railroad car, although he was seven-eighths white. While in court, he argued that the segregation of railroad cars violated the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Amendments. On May 18, 1896, Judge John H. Ferguson found Homer guilty of refusing to leave the white car. Through this case, it was decided that racial segregation on railroad cars would be permitted as long as the facilities were equal. This became known as the "separate but equal" ruling.
There were also Crop Lien laws. These laws entitled white men to a percentage profit of what black men produced on their farms.
Other laws that added to the erosion of rights of blacks were Jim Crow laws. These southern laws prohibited integration and took away many civil rights from the blacks. An example is that it used to be illegal for blacks to drink out of the same water fountain as whites. The segregation that the Jim Crow laws made was called de jure segregation, which is now unconstitutional. De jure segregation was enforced by law. This was not the only type of segregation in the United States.
When blacks received the right to vote, they thought that they would be able to vote like the whites did, but they were wrong. Many places taxed the poor blacks to vote and many blacks had to pass literacy tests also. With this, very few blacks ever voted.
There were many cases that led and contributed to Brown v. Board. One of them was Briggs v. Elliott. It started in 1949 when Harry Briggs, a black man who lived in Clarendon County, South Carolina, filed a suit stating that segregation was unlawful. This lawsuit failed. The NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) later filed another lawsuit about segregation, but it too failed. In Clarendon County in the year of 1949, taxpayers spent $179 on each white child for schooling and forty-three dollars for each black child. At black schools, teachers received forty percent less pay than teachers at white schools.
Another case that contributed to Brown v. Board was Sweatt v. Painter. A black man named Heman Sweatt wanted to attend the University of Texas Law School, but, because of his color, they would not admit him. He took this case to the Supreme Court, and in 1950, the Supreme Court forced the University to admit him.
Yet another case that led to Brown v. Board was McLaurin v. Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education. Oklahoma State University admitted G.W. McLaurin, but made him sit in isolated seats during classes and lunch because he was black. McLaurin took this to court and the Supreme Court made the university stop the segregation.
The first Brown v. Board case started in 1951, when Oliver Brown, a black railroad worker of Topeka in Shawnee County, Kansas, sued the Board of Education for not letting Linda Brown, his daughter, attend Summer Elementary School, an all-white school. On June 25 and 26 of 1951, the US District Court of Kansas heard Browns case. The NAACP argued that segregated school gave blacks an inferior feeling. It was proven in recent years that blacks who attended desegregated schools achieved higher test scores than those who did not. Although the facilities were supposedly equal, the fact was that the facilities were, by far, unequal. The tar-paper shacks, which were used as the school buildings for blacks, could be mistaken for chicken farms. The Board of Education argued that segregation prepared children for adulthood segregation. On October 1, 1951, Oliver, the NAACP, and Thurgood Marshall brought the case to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court first heard the case on December 9, 1952 and had no decision. The Supreme Court heard the case again on December 7-8, 1953.
The Brown v. Board case changed how people thought about discrimination and segregation, but other things did also. The Bus Boycott started in 1955 when white policemen arrested Rosa Parks for not letting a white person have her seat on a bus. This encouraged Martin Luther King, Jr. to lead a boycott against segregated buses. The boycott ended in 1956 when the Supreme Court declared it illegal to segregate public transportation facilities.
There were many civil rights organizations that helped the decision of Brown v. Board and many that were inspired by its decision. Civil rights leader James Leonard Farmer founded CORE(Congress of Racial Equality). It seeked equal job, housing, and education opportunities. Another was NAACP(National Association for the Advancement of Colored People). Lillie Carroll Jackson, another civil rights leader, was the president of this association from 1935 to 1970. There was also Freedom Rides of 1961, which was initiated by CORE. It was designed to end segregation in facilities dependent on interstate commerce.
The Fourteenth Amendment
A big factor in deciding the Brown v. Board case was the Fourteenth Amendment. The problem was how to interpret the equal protection clause. It reads:
No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.
One group of people interpreted this as saying separate but equal facilities are okay. Another group viewed this as saying integration must be used to follow the equal protection clause.
The first ruling of Brown(Brown I)
The first decision of Brown v. Board declared racial segregation in public school illegal. On May 17, 1954, Chief Justice Earl Warren read the decision of the unanimous(unopposed) vote of the Supreme Court:
We come then to the question presented: Does segregation of children in public schools solely on the basis of race, even though the physical facilities and other ‘tangible’ factors may be equal, deprive the children of the minority group of equal educational opportunities? We believe that it does... We 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 the segregation complained of, deprived of the equal protection of the laws guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment.
This decision reversed the previous ruling of the Plessy v. Ferguson decision, which was the "separate but equal" idea. The statement "separate education facilities are inherently unequal" replaced it. The court decided that school segregation violated the equal protection clause in the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution.
The second ruling of Brown(Brown II)
As expected, there was resistance to action upon the decision of Brown v. Board. A year later, in 1955, the court ruled that students must be admitted to schools without discrimination. It also forced schools to work toward integration "with all deliberate speed."
Desegregation after Brown v. Board
The desegregation process was long and hard. By 1971, most schools decided to integrate public schools through forced busing. In other words, it was used to delete de facto segregation, which was not unconstitutional like de jure segregation was. De facto segregation meant that the neighborhoods that blacks and whites lived in were separate, so their neighborhood schools were automatically separate. In the Charlotte-Mecklenburg case, busing routes were greatly expanded to create integration in schools. An average one-way trip to school took an hour and fourteen minutes. Busing for the entire school system costed $4.2 million and required 526 buses. Many whites disliked this system greatly, so they moved to suburbs. Other whites decided to go to private schools. This made the busing solution unsuccessful.
Recently, magnet schools have been created. They are very well-financed schools built to lure suburban whites to the city. Some of these schools own planetariums, vivariums, greenhouses, animation and editing labs, art galleries, radio and television studios, many computers, Olympic-sized swimming pools, and many more luxuries built just to promote integration.
Although these difficult and expensive measures have been taken, segregation still exists today. Charles Willie, a professor of education and urban studies at Harvard University, claims, "We are far distant from the goal."