Brown v. Board of Education

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Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka
347 U.S. 483
Decided: May 17, 1954

Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka was a landmark 1954 Supreme Court decision that ordered racial desegregation of public schools. It was based on the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the US Constitution,[1] and on social science research that claimed to show that black children have trouble learning unless white children are in the classroom. The ruling overturned the ruling of Plessy v. Ferguson of 1896, which confirmed that racial segregation established in Jim Crow laws was permitted as long as "equal, but separate" accommodations for were provided,[2] when in reality, most facilities for African Americans were not even close to equal or didn't exist at all. The decision led to later decisions requiring racial busing of school children.

Law & social change[edit]

It is debatable how much actual desegregation was a result of this ruling and related federal court decisions, as a subsequent ruling ordered states to desegregate "with all deliberate speed" but didn't specify how. This raises interesting questions as to the role of the Supreme Court in bringing about actual social change. No one today will dispute the need to end the earlier system of segregated schools, and the importance of the decision, but many will query whether it changed that much, or if its use was rather in sending a definitive signal that the days of segregation and institutionalized racism were at a close.

Backlash[edit]

Sadly, the handling of Brown v Board left a huge space for improvement. While the white schools were required to take in black students, they weren't required to bring in the black teachers as well. Many districts, still in a rage about the whole supreme court ruling, did the obvious thing. In just over a decade after Brown v Board, the number of black teachers would drop by more than half nationwide,[3] a number which includes everywhere and not just the Jim Crow areas. This had some further effects which are still being felt today, as even just one black teacher in elementary school is enough to reduce the high school dropout rate of black students by 2/5,[4] as the students are prevented from being alienated.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. In 1954, the Supreme Court decided the landmark case of Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka. "Racially segregated schools," the Court concluded, are "inherently unequal." The Court found support for its decision in studies that indicated that minority students learn better in racially mixed classrooms. [1]
  2. Text of Plessy v. Ferguson: https://www.law.cornell.edu/supremecourt/text/163/537
  3. Teachers disappearing again, Ebony magazine
  4. Just one black teacher can keep black kids in school, NPR