BROWN V. BOARD OF EDUCATION
The year was 1950. While other children were running, playing and doing their homework, one little girl was simply trying to get an education. When Linda Carol Brown was seven years old, she became the center of a major court battle that would set a precedent for segregation laws everywhere. Linda was required to attend the Monroe School in East Topeka, Kansas, because it was twenty blocks away from her home and because it was one the four all-black schools in the city. After Linda's father tried unsuccessfully to enroll her in the third grade in an all-white public school further away, he teamed up with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People to fight her unfair exclusion. This Kansas law suit, along with similar law suits from Delaware, South Carolina and Virginia, were all compiled under the heading of "Brown v. the Board of Education". The momentous decision that was made two years later is still viewed as one of the most important and significant rulings that the High Court has made in the last century.
The main issue that was focused on in this case was whether or not the 14th Amendment was violated by denying education in a specific school simply due to race. The Amendment that was focused on stated, in summary, that no person, who is a citizen of the United States, should be denied equal protections under the law or the right to life, liberty or property. What had to be decided was if segregation fell under the idea of equal protections. This was a major issue because seventeen states were still segregating their schools, four states gave the option of segregation to the school districts, eleven states had no specific laws regarding segregation and sixteen states flatly prohibited it. By May 17, 1954, four years after Linda Brown's rejection from the school in Topeka, Kansas, the Supreme Court had reached a unanimous decision. Chief Justice Earl Warren stated:
"To separate [elementary- and secondary-school children] from others of similar age and qualifications solely because of their race generates a feeling of inferiority as to their status in the community that may affect their hearts and minds in a way unlikely ever to be undone. We conclude that in the field of public education, the doctrine of 'separate but equal' has no place. Separate educational facilities are inherently unequal."This public declaration against segregation in education was only the first step in making the United States school system more equal. One year later the Supreme Court created procedures under which school boards would desegregate their schools "with all deliberate speed." This decision, although spoken easily, was not implemented easily. School systems that had been segregated since they had begun, fought and fought hard. Three years after that ruling was made, federal troops had to escort nine black children into a high school in Little Rock, Arkansas. Six years later, state officials were still fighting this ruling. Courts had to order and enforce the segregation ruling time and time again, trying to uphold their decision. In 1979 Linda Brown Thompson even went to court again, to sue Topeka for allowing their schools to remain segregated. ("Brown", 26)
Although the case of Brown v. the Board of Education has not solved all of the racial and segregation problems in this country, it was a major step in the right direction. Every problem needs to be acknowledged and defined before anyone can attempt to solve it and the acknowledgement by the Supreme Court of segregation does give a precedent with which to attempt to alleviate this problem of inequality in our land of equal opportunities.
"Brown vs. Board of Education Decision: 40 Years Later," Jet 6 June 1994: 26-28.
Prepared by Bethany D. Collins