Plessy V. Ferguson Essay, Research Paper
The Significance of Brown v. The Board of Education, Topeka, Kansas
The Supreme Court decision in Brown v. The Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas has been credited with much significance. For some, it signaled the start of the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s, while for others, it represented the fall of segregation.
The Brown decision was a landmark because it overturned the legal policies established by the Plessy v. Ferguson decision that legalized the practices of ?separate but equal?. In the Plessy decision, the 14th Amendment was interpreted in such a way that equality in the law could be met through segregated facilities. Jim Crow laws were passed throughout the South and they established separate facilities for Blacks and Whites in everything from schools to restrooms, drinking fountains to witness stands in courtrooms.
For many years, the Civil Rights movement during the first 50 years of the 20th Century accepted this policy of ? separate but equal.? It fought in many communities for equal pay for teachers and for equal school facilities. It fought for equal libraries, recreational facilities, and health services. Plessy defined the terms of the struggle.
The Brown decision established that separate schools were ipso facto unequal. It allowed for better opportunities for Blacks to fight for positive gains and full equality. But the fact that there no way to put these decisions to use became clear as it became obvious that few gains were being seen by 1960, ?Of course, Brown did not cause the scales to fall from the eyes of white supremacists. The fury of the south was quick and sure.? The year that a new student Civil Rights movement was founded.
Immediately after the Brown decision, many attempts were made to begin desegregation. NAACP chapters encouraged Black parents to sent their children to ?White? schools, and there had been retaliation against those who did. There had also been three mass marches on Washington on the school issue. On May 18, 1957, the anniversary of the Brown decision, about 35,000 attended a prayer pilgrimage for integrated schools sponsored by both northern and southern civil rights leaders, a first joint effort. In 1959, 400,000 signatures were presented to Congressman Charles Diggs petitioning the President and Congress for a program to insure the orderly and speedy integration of schools.
The legal struggle for integrated schools dragged on in the years following the Brown decision. Southern school boards and state governments brought suit after suit challenging it and the created a variety of ways to get around the meaning of the decision. In those few localities where there was at least minimum compliance, intimidation and violence were used to keep the White schools White.
The Brown decision did provide a setting for major confrontations between the federal government and the states, and between the Black and White populations of several Southern cities. Anthony Lewis, a reporter for the New York Times, in a study of school desegregation, pointed out that there were rapid steps taken toward desegregation in Kansas, Arizona, Washington, D.C. and Baltimore. In 1954, 1955, and 1956 hundreds of school districts began to abandon racially segregated school classes. But then reaction seemed to set in and most Southern political leaders began to take defensive positions.
Little Rock, Arkansas, was the site of a confrontation of major significance to the future of changing racial attitudes. The whole world read about the 15 year old Black child who was turned away from the Little Rock Central High School by the National Guardsmen into a mob of screaming White people. They were screaming, ?Lynch her, lynch her!?
This short history raises some important questions for Americans still today. Our schools are still by and large not integrated?and probably not even desegregated. All over America people are calling for ?quality? education and ?neighborhood schools? rather than for forced integration. Today few people say that ?separate but equal? is legally acceptable but de facto segregation has again become a reality.