The landmark Supreme Court case Brown v. The Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas not only shaped schools of 1954, but forever impacted the lives of Americans and the U.S. education system. The case broke down the walls surrounding segregation by ensuring Americans that “separate educational facilities are inherently unequal” (Warren, 1954). The ruling overturned the decision of the Supreme Court case Plessy v. Ferguson, which stated that segregation was perfectly legal. This started the process of desegregating restaurants, transportation, and places of work.In Plessy v. Ferguson (1892), Homer Plessy of Louisiana refused to sit in a segregated train car, therefore breaking the law. Plessy went to court in New Orleans and the judge upheld the state law. The case was then challenged and went to the Supreme Court- the plaintiff saying the ruling went against the 13th and 14th amendments. The Court ignored the protection clauses of the 14th Amendment and ruled that a state law that “implies merely a legal distinction” (History.com) did not violate either of the Amendments. They also concluded that 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 … solely because the colored race chooses to put that construction on it” (Supreme Court). The ruling allowed segregation laws to continue and expand until the Brown lawsuit. Another recognized case that created a step back in the advancement of African Americans was the Dred Scott v Sandford (1857) case. Dred Scott was a slave who had moved with is owner from Missouri (a slave state) to Illinois and Minnesota (free states). After moving back to Missouri, Scott decided to sue for his freedom on the bases that the Missouri Compromise granted him his freedom since he had resided in free states (Danzer et.al. (166). Roger B. Taney made the final decision on the case, concluding that “blacks, whether slaved or freed, could never be citizens” and therefore, Scott had no right to even file a case with the Court (History.com;PBS.org). The ruling enraged abolitionists, triggered Republicans, and divided the Democratic Party. The Brown v. Board decision overruled both of these cases by disallowing the continuation of separation.A case that took a step forward towards equal opportunity was the Missouri ex rel Gaines v. Canada case of 1938. In 1936, the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund took the case of Lloyd Gaines: a graduate student from the all black Lincoln University. Gaines had applied to the University of Missouri Law School, but was denied acceptance into the all white college because he was African American. When Gaines called the school out on his denial, the state of Missouri gave him the choice of either building an all black law school in the state, or paying for his tuition to an out-of-state law school. Lloyd Gaines denied both offers and sued for acceptance into the Missouri law school with the help of Thurgood Marshall. In 1938, the Supreme Court sided with the plaintiffs, with a six vote majority. Since the state did not have a “black” law school, the equal protection clause of the law stated that the state had to provide legal education for Gaines. Meaning, since they let the white kids go to law school in-state, they could not send the black students out of state (uscourts.gov).The Brown case didn’t just start with that handful of black families, it began with a woman named Esther Brown. Esther was a 36-year-old Jewish women who had taken interest in her county’s school district, including the dilapidated schoolhouse for the black children. Brown fought to get repairs done within this school for blacks which had no indoor plumbing, a lack of school supplies, and dirt floors. After the school board’s best effort was to change the lightbulbs, (even though they had recently constructed a brand new school for the white children up the street) she teamed up with the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) in their efforts to integrate schools. (Linder)In Topeka, Kansas, the city was only partially segregated. Black people could sit where they wanted on public busses and trains, and many junior and senior high schools were integrated. Although in many parts of the city, restaurants and movie theaters were separated, and blacks weren’t allowed in white swimming pools. Even though the high schools were integrated, the blacks and whites played on separate sports teams. At one school, the black basketball team had a different mascot altogether from the white team. Each had their own student body government and the students usually sat at different lunch tables (Linder).The Brown v. Board case was actually the combination of five separate lawsuits. The first lawsuit to be filed was by Sarah Bulah of Claymont, Delaware. In Belton (Bulah) v. Gebhart, African American parents were upset about the terrible quality of black schools and the strenuous commute to said schools. Sarah Bulah was the mother of a child and tried multiple times to make the Delaware Department of Public Instruction provide buses to take the black students to the segregated school out of town. In Sarah’s neighborhood, the school bus for the white students drove right past her house, but would not pick up her daughter. In 1951, Luis Redding, Delaware’s first black attorney, represented the Bulah’s and the Belton family in Court. In the decision, the chancellor ruled that the families were being denied equal protection of the law and were then admitted to the white school (National Parks Service).In 1947, Gardner Bishop and the Consolidated Parents Group, Inc. tried to desegregate schools in Washington, DC. Fast forward to 1950 when Bishop tried getting 11 black students into John Philip Sousa Junior High School and was denied even though there were several empty classrooms. The case was taken up by Charles Hamilton Houston, special counsel to the NAACP, but was replaced by James Nabrit Jr. after Houston got sick. The U.S District Court dismissed the case, saying that segregated rules were definitely legal in D.C. As Nabrit filed an appeal, the Supreme Court decided to include them with the other four cases. Even though they were included, the Court had to form a separate opinion for this specific case because the 14th Amendment was not applicable to Washington D.C (National Parks Service).Harry Briggs is the man behind the name of this next case- Briggs v. Elliot. Briggs was one of 20 parents who sued R.W. Elliot, the president of the school board for Clarendon County in South Carolina. The parents, like the ones in  Belton (Bulah) v. Gebhart, originally just wanted transportation to be provided for their children. Although, by the time the case was filed, they were suing to challenge segregation itself. Important men in the case included J.A. Delaine: the principal who enlisted the NAACP’s help, Thurgood Marshall: the lead counsel for the NAACP, and Harold Boulware: the local lawyer who filed the case in 1950. During the case, the court ruled that instead of desegregating the schools, they would equalize them. Judge Julius was against segregation, but after being harped on by angry segregationists, he left the state. J.A Delaine and Harry Briggs also lost their jobs for their involvement in the case (United States Courts).In April 1951, high school student Barbara Rose Johns organized a school strike. Four hundred and fifty black students from Morton High School protested for better conditions for two weeks. The high school had no cafeteria, gym, teacher’s bathrooms, or a nurse’s office. The school consisted of three buildings, one old school bus, and tar paper for the students to write on. In May of 1951, Spottswood Robinson and Oliver Hill filed a lawsuit for one hundred and seventeen students. The plaintiffs wanted a state-wide desegregation of all schools but the original judges denied them since neither race was apparently being hurt. After the Supreme Court got involved and overruled their decision, the Court made it aware that all schools were to end segregation. Virginians were enraged at the Court’s decision and closed all of the schools for five years to avoid integration (National Parks Service).All of these cases were brought to the Supreme Court in 1952 under the name Brown v. Board of Education. Thurgood Marshall testified against the court, making it clear that “black and white school systems…” are definitely unequal and it violates the “… equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment” (US Courts). People’s opinions and accounts are not the only thing that swayed the judges. Social scientist Kenneth Clark performed a sociological test with concluding data showing how separated schools made black kids feels inferior to white kids and therefore, should not be legal. After hours of deliberation, the Court was divided. A rehearing of the case was scheduled in December of 1953. Before the next court date however, Chief Justice Fred Vinson passed away and was replaced by Governor Earl Warren. Warren brought a new outlook on the case and on the date of the rehearing persuaded his colleagues to agree that segregated schools were unconstitutional. He wrote: “We conclude that in the field of public education the doctrine of ‘separate but equal’ has no place. Separate educational facilities are inherently unequal” (Powledge). The law of the land was heard: segregated school systems are illegal and wrong. But, the Supreme Court knew that the South was not ready to go down without a fight. So, the Court did not force the South to immediately desegregate all of the schools. Instead, the attorney generals of each state had to submit plans indicating how they planned to go about the process. On May 31, 1955, Governor Warren stated that desegregation was to proceed “with all deliberate speed” (Warren). The discussion was called Brown v. Board 2 (United States Court). Ruby Bridges is known as the first African American child to integrate a white elementary school in the South. In 1960 after Louisiana schools  were forced to desegregate, the schools gave exams to all the black children wishing to enroll at a white school. Only Ruby and five other children passed. Ruby’s parents were on the bridge about letting her attend the white. Mr. Bridges was worried for his daughter’s safety while her mother remained optimistic about her daughter having a better life than the generations before her had had. Eventually, Ruby was enrolled at William Frantz Elementary school. As for the other students that had passed the exam, three attended a different all-white school and the other two remained at the school they were at. On November 14, 1960 and every other day that year, Ms. Bridges was escorted up the steps of the school as grown men and women hurled insults at her by 4, armed marshalls. Bridges’s first day of school was spent in the principal’s office as white parents pulled their children from the school. Barbara Henry was the only teacher who accepted Ruby and so Ruby was the only child she taught that year in her class. As Ruby was going to school, the Bridges family was going through other changes. Abon Bridges lost his job and Ruby’s grandparents were evicted from the farmland they had had for generations. Grocery stores were also refusing to sell to the family. Despite all of this, Ruby graduated from an integrated high school and later in life established The Ruby Bridges Foundation to promote change and tolerance for future generations (Michals). Carlotta Walls strolled up the steps of Central High School of Little Rock, Arkansas for her first day of high school. Her mother had spent the morning fussing over her daughter’s kinky hair and smoothening the imaginary wrinkles of her best dress. Carlotta was starting school a bit late- three weeks later than her classmates. She wasn’t alone coming up those steps though. There were 8 other teenagers with her, and the group was under the escort of federal troops sent by President Eisenhower himself. The children were ordered to keep their heads down and to not speak as men and women of all ages filled the courtyard of the school yelling for the negro children to go back to wherever they came from. Carlotta’s new classmates spit on her as she walked into the bathroom, smacked the books out of her hands, and kicked her as she tried to pick the books up. The journey was difficult but Carlotta had done it. She was one of the first African American students to desegregate a major school. The year was 1957, and Wells was just 14 years old (Mai). Carlotta and the rest of the Little Rock Nine had just walked through the door of desegregation that had been opened with the ruling of Brown v. The Board of Education three years prior.The path to equal opportunity was in full effect until 1991 when the Supreme Court ruled in Board of Education v. Dowell that desegregation plans were never intended to be permanent. Quite a few schools stopped the process of desegregation after the Court stopped their surveillance over their actions. But now, the stigma of racist southern schools has changed. The U.S.’s most segregated schools are actually in New York State. According to John Kucsera and Gary Orfield’s study at UCLA, in 2009, Black and Latino students students in New York “had the highest concentration of intensely-segregated public schools” (Resmovits). These schools are not just segregated through race, but also in income in what Kucsera and Orfield call a type of double segregation.A typical Black/Latino school has nearly twice as many low-income students as the predominantly White schools have. The separation of income causes issues the White schools do not have: health issues, entrenched violence, and lack of qualified, excited teachers. Of the 32 community school districts studied in the UCLA study, 19 of those districts had 10% or fewer white children enrolled. All of the school systems in the Bronx were a part of those 19 systems. These schools are not teaching their children how to survive in a racially and culturally diverse America. The Civil Rights Project says 73% of New York City charter schools have less than 1% of White students and 90% of them are intensely segregated. It’s not the school systems’ faults for the lack of diversity. New York has so many racially conformed schools because it has so many racially conforming neighborhoods. To get school segregation to end, housing segregation must end (Resmovits).

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