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Brown v. BoE
Transcript of Brown v. BoE
January 8, 2013 The Desegration of Public Schools Plessy v. Ferguson The Effect On June 7, 1892 Homer Plessy was jailed for sitting in the "white" car of an East Louisiana Railroad.
Despite his light complexion, Plessy was in violation of Louisiana's Separate Car Act, which legally segregated common carriers.
Plessy argued that the Separate Car Act was in violation of his 13th and 14th Amendment rights.
The Supreme Court ruled, in a decision of seven to one, that "We consider the underlying fallacy of the plaintiff's argument to consist in the assumption that the enforced separation of the two races stamps the colored race with a badge of inferiority. If this be so, it is not by reason of anything found in the act, but solely because the colored race chooses to put that construction upon it."
This decision effectively gave states the power to implement racially separate institutions, requiring them only to be "equal." Elementary schools were racially segregated by the Topeka Board of Education under an 1879 Kansas law that permitted, but did not require segregation.
In 1951, 13 African-American families tried to enroll their 20 children in the closest neighborhood school. Each were turned down, and forced to travel further to a "black" school.
These families, with the help of the NAACP brought a class action suit against the school board, stating that "if colored children are denied the experience of associating with white children...then the colored children's curriculum is being greatly curtailed."
The School Board argued that segregated schools are a way to prepare black students for what they will face in adulthood. The District Court decided in favor of the School Board, stating the precedent set by Plessy v. Ferguson. Events Leading to Brown v. Board of Education The NAACP and Brown appealed to the Supreme Court where the case was combined with four others that challenged school segregation.
The Supreme Court heard the case in Spring 1953, but asked to rehear the case in the fall with the request that both sides discuss the implications of the 14th Amendment's Equal Protection Clause on their argument.
In discussing their case, the Justices decided that the only reason to sustain segregation was a belief in the inherent inferiority of black people. The Justices agreed that to maintain the legitimacy of the court, Plessy v. Ferguson must be overturned, and must be done so unanimously to avoid massive Southern resistance.
On May 17, 1954 the Supreme Court ruled "that in the field of public education the doctrine of 'separate but equal' has no place."
The Supreme Court The Supreme Court's decision did not abolish segregation in other public areas, nor did it require desegregation of public schools by a specific time, but it declared the permissive or mandatory segregation that existed in 21 states unconstitutional. As might have been expected, the decision faced resistance from certain groups, including:
In 1956, the Massive Resistance Movement in which Virginia Senator Harry F. Byrd Sr. closed down schools in place of integrating them.
In 1957 Arkansas Governor Orval Faubus called the state's National Guard to block black students from entering Little Rock High School.
In 1963 Alabama Governor George Wallace blocked the door of the University of Alabama to prevent of two African American students from enrolling.