Monday, May 14, 2007

Separate is Not Equal: Brown v. The Board of Education

In 1954 on May 17th the Supreme Court made a decision that would change the way people lived in the United States forever.

It was on this day that the Supreme Court overturned the decision of Plessy v. Ferguson. For 50 years, the Supreme Court upheld precedent which permitted racial segregation in public facilities.
Separate bathrooms, separate water fountains, separate schools, separate rail cars etc... It was determined that "separate was equal."

However, it is well known that these separate schools were hardly equal. The black schools were the ones that were worn down. The black schools had the old books. The black schools were further away. The black bathrooms weren't cleaned as often. The black rail cars were not close the platform... this is not equal.

It was this way until a little girl and her family fought back.

The case was actually a class action suit filed against the Board of Education of the City of Topeka, Kansas, made up of 13 Topeka parents fighting on behalf of their 20 children.

Linda Brown, a 3rd grader, was denied enrollment in a white school just seven blocks from her home, and was instead instructed to go to her designated black school, which was across a set of rail road tracks and over 1 hour away This, is not equal.

Future Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall led brown’s legal team. Marshall was sensitive to issues like this. Incidentally, Marshall applied to go to the University of Maryland Law School, but was denied admission because he was Black. Instead, Marshall went to Howard University Law School where the new dean instilled a desire in the the students to apply the tenets of the Constitution to all Americans.

Marshall, was reluctantly living the life of the Plessy v. Ferguson era. Going to a black school, having been denied acceptance into the white school. He would, however get his just deserts, as his first major court case came in 1933 when he successfully sued the University of Maryland to admit a young African American. That is justice.

In the Brown case, Presiding Cheif Justice Earl Warren wrote the unanimous decision stating that racial segregation was unconstitutional… (totally different world to think that anyone would think the opposite.)

The decision's basis was that "separate is inherently unequal…" Our Constitution's 14th Amendment clearly states that no citizen of the united states should be denied the right to life or liberty.

"All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. 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."
I don't see any ambiguity in this one... No State, shall make any Law which shall abridge the privileges of its citizens. Period.

This case, paved the way for civil rights and should be celebrated as one of the greatest victories in American History...
Excellent resource for classrooms:

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