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Brown Vs. Board of Education

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Years ago, children of different races could not go to school together in many places in the United States. School districts could legally segregate students into different schools according to the color of their skin. The law said these separate schools had to be equal. However, many schools for children of color were of lesser quality than the schools for white students. Separate schools for blacks and whites became a basic rule in southern society. Within time, all of that was about to change.

As the Civil War and slavery ended, the question of African American's freedom did not. African Americans had been given their freedom from slavery but not their freedom from segregation. Sitting apart on a bus or not being able to drink out of the same water fountain was humiliating, but nothing was more painful than being refused a decent education. No matter how much they argued or how long they complained, black families had to send their children to all-black schools, no matter how far away it was from their homes. These restrictions against African Americans were finally released by the Supreme Court after many lawyers thousands of people pushed against them.

From the mid 1950's on, several Supreme Court decisions were made and federal laws passed that forbade segregation in voting, education, and the use of public facilities. These decisions also prohibited job discrimination in federally funded programs. On May 17, 1954, the U.S. Supreme Court announced a decision that changed the way students went to school. At the end of the Brown v. Board of Education case, the Supreme Court declared that "separate educational facilities are inherently unequal" (Morrison 19). Chief Justice Earl Warren stated, "We conclude that in the field of public education, the doctrine of separate but equal has no place" (Somervill 1).

The Brown v. Board of Education case originated from Linda Brown, a seven-year-old second grader in Topeka, Kansas. Linda's father tried to enroll his daughter in the local grade school for whites, so that she did not have to walk a long distance to catch a crowded bus on the other side of town. When Mr. Brown was turned away, he filed a lawsuit against the Topeka Board of Education with the assistance of the NAACP (Miller 4).

Linda Brown's father was not the first black person to file a lawsuit against the Jim Crow laws. In a well-known case in 1896 called Plessy v. Ferguson, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that it was legal to have a "separate but equal" society (Miller 9). As long as the different train cars were similar in quality, it would be considered a 'separate but equal' decision. What triggered this case was due to an event involving Plessy, a man defined "one-eighth" black. He violated a law in Louisiana that provided separate but equal accommodations on trains. A fine of $25 was issued to anyone of opposite color to sit in a reserved car for the opposite race (Ginsberg 168). The Supreme Court ruled that accommodations for blacks on separate railroad trains, trolleys, and other public carriers did not violate the "equal protection of the laws" clause of the 14th Amendment (Harkavy 855).

The NAACP worked hard to make life better for black people. Finally, the 1896 decision was reversed in 1954 when the Supreme Court unanimously ruled against segregation in the case of Brown v. Board of Education (Harkavy 855). In this historic case, before the Supreme Court justices, the NAACP lawyers built up a legal attack against segregation in schools. "The lawyers presented information about the damaging emotional effect that segregated schools had on African American students" (Somervill 21). They tried to prove how mentally damaging segregation had on students and how it would negatively affect their lives and opinions toward society. The main lawyer behind the people filing lawsuits was Thurgood Marshall. Marshall argued that, "Money and schools were not the worst problems... [And that] African-American children suffered because segregation existed" (Somervill 22).

This pivotal decision had brought on an emotional and trying period in our nation's history, which even encouraged the Civil Rights Movement. The decision, which said separate schools were not equal, threw many communities and its citizens into confusion. As a result of the Supreme Court's decision, the National Association for the Advancement of White People was founded. The organization asked whites to stop their children from attending mixed-race schools (Somervill 23).

Desegregation faced many barriers. Battles, protests, and rallies were fought to honor, ignore, or overturn the decision. Many battles were won, and many were lost. Most attempts of resistance against the decision the Brown case were tested in the federal courts and struck down as unconstitutional. (Ginsberg 174). Resistance in the south was not restrained in legislation. A good example of this was in Arkansas in 1957. The governor of Arkansas ordered the state's National Guard to prevent nine black students from entering into a high school in the town of Little Rock. President Eisenhower then ordered U.S. Soldiers to



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