Brown Vs. The Board Of Education Education has long been regarded as a valuable asset for all of America’s youth. Yet, when this benefit is denied to a specific group, measures must be taken to protect its educational right. In the 1950’s, a courageous group of activists launched a legal attack on segregation in schools. At the head of this attack was NAACP attorney Thurgood Marshall; his legal strategies would contribute greatly to the dissolution of educational segregation. According to U.S.
Court Cases the segregation among whites and blacks was a legal law established for almost sixty years in the United States. However, Brown vs. The Board of Education was the turning point in race relations. Still, most of the conflict between whites and blacks would be in the south, because they where the largest racial minority. They were subject to laws and customs, which prevented from full participation in social life.
As a matter of fact, many of the laws imposed on black were that of segregation in public schools (U.S. Court Cases 154). Yet, to understand the laws that were being questioned in the case of Brown vs. The Board of Education, one must look back to the beginning, to when laws were first set to limit the lives of African Americans. The one case that fueled that battle was Plessy vs.
Ferguson. According to Tackach, this case concerned a piece of Jim Crow legislation that had been enacted in Louisiana in 1890. The Louisiana Railway Accommodations Act required all railway companies operating to: ..provide equal but separate accommodations for the white and colored races, by providing separate coaches or compartments so as to secure separate accommodations.. insisting on going into a coach or compartment to which by his race he does not belong, shall be liable to a fine of twenty five dollars or in lieu thereof to imprisonment for a period of not more than twenty days (Tackach 22). However, on June 7, 1982 a man – seven eights white and one eighth black – boarded a train in New Orleans and took a seat in the car reserved for white travelers. Although he was partly white, Louisiana law still considered this man a Negro. As a result, Homer Plessy was arrested by a detective and taken to the Criminal District Court of New Orleans.
There, Judge John Ferguson issued the penalty required by law. Still, Plessy appealed and took his case to the Supreme Court of Louisiana; and then to the U.S. Supreme Court, where he referred to the Fourteenth Amendment (22). Finally, on May 6, 1896, the Supreme Court delivered its verdict. With a vote of seven to one, the Court maintained Plessy’s conviction. Henry Billings, Associate Justice stated that meaning of the Fourteenth Amendment was undoubtedly to enforce the absolute equality of the two races before the law..
but could not have been intended to abolish distinctions based on color. (22) He continued by stating that the segregation of the two races did not mean to imply that either race was inferior to the other in any way. Brown then stated that all laws should be followed and upheld for the promotion for the public good, and not for the annoyance.. or a particular class. However, he added that a law demanding the division of races on public railways is no more obnoxious to the Fourteenth Amendment than that acts of Congress requiring separate schools for colored children in the District of Columbia.
(22) Finally Brown concluded his opinion by stating: If one race be inferior to the other socially, the Constitution of the United States cannot put them upon the same plane. (23) The Supreme Court’s first major confrontation with the battle against segregation in the Plessy vs. Ferguson case ruled that separate, but equal facilities did not violate the demands of the Constitution. This caused a chain reaction throughout the United States. Many of the states began to pass laws that demanded racial segregation in every aspect of life. These separate, but equal laws were passed for restaurants, in voting; but most importantly, public education (U.S.
Court Cases 155). The author of Brown v. Board of Education describes the first three decades of the twentieth century as segregated, but never equal, especially in the school system. Although state and local governments poured more and more money into the development of schools, those schools established for black students received only a fraction of the funds. According to Tackach, in 1910 southern states spent $9.45 per white child each year. However, only $2.90 was spent to each black child (Tackach 28).
By 1916 the expenses for white children raised almost a full dollar, meanwhile, funds for black students lowered a cent. In The Soul of Black Folk, W.E.B. Du Bois’ study of African American education he states: The Negro colleges, founded, were inadequately equipped, illogically distributed, and varying efficiency and grade; the normal high schools were doing little more than common-school work, and the common schools were training but a third of the children who ought to be in them, and training these often too poorly. (Tackach 27) The black schools were inferior to those of white schools in almost everyway. Most of the buildings that were used as black schools were never kept in suitable condition.
Many lacked adequate heating systems and indoor plumbing. Classrooms of black students were frequently overcrowded. Teachers of black schools were paid a salary considerably less than their colleagues in white schools. When it came to the daily curriculum, students in white schools were offered many more subjects, and were involved in many more extracurricular activities. Dr Hugh W.
Speer, chairman of the University of Kansas City’s department of elementary school testified during the Brown vs. The Board of Education cases that: For example, if the colored children are denied the experience in school of associating with white children, who represented ninety percent of our national society in which these colored children must live, then the colored child’s curriculum is being greatly curtailed. The Topeka curriculum or any school curriculum cannot be equal under segregation. (Knappman 467) Meanwhile, students in black schools were offered very little subjects and few to none extracurricular activities. At the same time, black schools often located in distant areas without any means of transportation to and from the school.
As a result to these horrid conditions, dropouts among African American students was incredibly high. Moreover, literacy rate among the African American population remained incredibly low, despite the abolishment of slavery. (Tackach 27+) Finally, one man chose to stand up for what he believed in, and attempted to question the law. Despite the attempts of men such as William Reynolds, who tried to enroll his son in a school set aside for whites in Topeka, Oliver Brown’s desire that his children be able to attend the closest public school resulted in a transformation of race relations in the United States. However, in the case of William Reynolds, the state Supreme Court referred to the Plessy vs. Ferguson decision (Haskins 105).
Oliver Brown lived with his family on First Street near the Topeka Avenue viaduct. There, trains rumbled throughout all times of the day. Brown was a hardworking welder in a railroad shop and worked as a part-time minister. Nothing, however, would prepare him in presenting his case before the three solemn judges sitting before him in the formal marble courtroom (Kraft 111). Brown’s family lived on the wrong side of town (Knappman 466).
Their home was close to the railroad shop where he worked, and bordered a major switchyard. Not only was it difficult to live in such noisy conditions, but also the Brown children had to walk through the switchyard to get to the black school a mile away. Meanwhile, there was another school only seven blocks away, but it was segregated for white children only (466). When his daughter Linda was to enter the third grade in September, Brown took her to the whites-only school and tried to enroll her. Without any history of racial activism, Brown headed down the corridor to the principal’s office. He was told that such an enrollment was impossible due to the segregation laws of Topeka, Kansas.
Thereafter, Brown sought help from the local National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (Kraft 110). The organization, under the direction of McKinley Burnett, had been waiting for an excellent chance to challenge the segregation issue. Finally, they had the perfect plaintiff to defend the case. Now that he had Brown and several other black parents in Topeka with children in blacks only schools, Burnett and the NAACP decided that it was time to take legal action (Knappman 467). On March 22, 1951The NAACP lawyers filed a lawsuit in the U.S.
District Court for the District of Kansas, requesting the …