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Fri May 17, 2019, 05:46 AM

65 Years Ago Today; Brown vs Board of Education ruling outlaws racial segregation in public schools

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brown_v._Board_of_Education

Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, 347 U.S. 483 (1954), was a landmark decision of the U.S. Supreme Court in which the Court ruled that American state laws establishing racial segregation in public schools are unconstitutional, even if the segregated schools are otherwise equal in quality. Handed down on May 17, 1954, the Court's unanimous (9–0) decision stated that "separate educational facilities are inherently unequal," and therefore violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. However, the decision's 14 pages did not spell out any sort of method for ending racial segregation in schools, and the Court's second decision in Brown II (349 U.S. 294 (1955)) only ordered states to desegregate "with all deliberate speed".

The case originated with a lawsuit filed by the Brown family, a family of black Americans in Topeka, Kansas, after their local public school district refused to enroll their daughter in the school closest to their home, instead requiring her to ride a bus to a blacks-only school further away. A number of other black families joined the lawsuit, and the Supreme Court later combined their case with several other similar lawsuits from other areas of the United States. At trial, the district court ruled in favor of the school board based on the Supreme Court's precedent in the 1896 case Plessy v. Ferguson, in which the Court had ruled that racial segregation was not in itself a violation of the Fourteenth Amendment's Equal Protection Clause if the facilities in question were otherwise equal, a doctrine that had come to be known as "separate but equal". The Browns, represented by NAACP chief counsel Thurgood Marshall, appealed to the Supreme Court, which agreed to hear the case.

The Court's decision in Brown partially overruled Plessy v. Ferguson by declaring that the "separate but equal" notion was unconstitutional for American public schools and educational facilities.[note 1] It paved the way for integration and was a major victory of the Civil Rights Movement,[3] and a model for many future impact litigation cases.[4] In the American South, especially the "Deep South", where racial segregation was deeply entrenched, the reaction to Brown among most white people was "noisy and stubborn".[5] Many Southern governmental and political leaders embraced a plan known as "Massive Resistance", created by Virginia Senator Harry F. Byrd, in order to frustrate attempts to force them to de-segregate their school systems. Four years later, in the case of Cooper v. Aaron, the Court reaffirmed its ruling in Brown, and explicitly stated that state officials and legislators had no power to nullify its ruling.

Background


For much of the sixty years preceding the Brown case, race relations in the United States had been dominated by racial segregation. This policy had been endorsed in 1896 by the United States Supreme Court case of Plessy v. Ferguson, which held that as long as the separate facilities for the separate races were equal, segregation did not violate the Fourteenth Amendment ("no State shall ... deny to any person ... the equal protection of the laws".

The plaintiffs in Brown asserted that this system of racial separation, while masquerading as providing separate but equal treatment of both white and black Americans, instead perpetuated inferior accommodations, services, and treatment for black Americans. Racial segregation in education varied widely from the 17 states that required racial segregation to the 16 in which it was prohibited. Brown was influenced by UNESCO's 1950 Statement, signed by a wide variety of internationally renowned scholars, titled The Race Question. This declaration denounced previous attempts at scientifically justifying racism as well as morally condemning racism. Another work that the Supreme Court cited was Gunnar Myrdal's An American Dilemma: The Negro Problem and Modern Democracy (1944). Myrdal had been a signatory of the UNESCO declaration.

The United States and the Soviet Union were both at the height of the Cold War during this time, and U.S. officials, including Supreme Court Justices, were highly aware of the harm that segregation and racism played on America's international image. When Justice William O. Douglas traveled to India in 1950, the first question he was asked was, "Why does America tolerate the lynching of Negroes?" Douglas later wrote that he had learned from his travels that "the attitude of the United States toward its colored minorities is a powerful factor in our relations with India." Chief Justice Earl Warren, nominated to the Supreme Court by President Eisenhower, echoed Douglas's concerns in a 1954 speech to the American Bar Association, proclaiming that "Our American system like all others is on trial both at home and abroad, ... the extent to which we maintain the spirit of our constitution with its Bill of Rights, will in the long run do more to make it both secure and the object of adulation than the number of hydrogen bombs we stockpile."

Filing and arguments
In 1951, a class action suit was filed against the Board of Education of the City of Topeka, Kansas in the United States District Court for the District of Kansas. The plaintiffs were thirteen Topeka parents on behalf of their 20 children.

The suit called for the school district to reverse its policy of racial segregation. The Topeka Board of Education operated separate elementary schools due to a 1879 Kansas law, which permitted (but did not require) districts to maintain separate elementary school facilities for black and white students in 12 communities with populations over 15,000. The plaintiffs had been recruited by the leadership of the Topeka NAACP. Notable among the Topeka NAACP leaders were the chairman McKinley Burnett; Charles Scott, one of three serving as legal counsel for the chapter; and Lucinda Todd.

The named plaintiff, Oliver Brown, was a parent, a welder in the shops of the Santa Fe Railroad, an assistant pastor at his local church, and an African American. He was convinced to join the lawsuit by Scott, a childhood friend. Brown's daughter Linda Carol Brown, a third grader, had to walk six blocks to her school bus stop to ride to Monroe Elementary, her segregated black school one mile (1.6 km) away, while Sumner Elementary, a white school, was seven blocks from her house.

As directed by the NAACP leadership, the parents each attempted to enroll their children in the closest neighborhood school in the fall of 1951. They were each refused enrollment and directed to the segregated schools.

The case "Oliver Brown et al. v. The Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas" was named after Oliver Brown as a legal strategy to have a man at the head of the roster. The lawyers, and the National Chapter of the NAACP, also felt that having Mr. Brown at the head of the roster would be better received by the U.S. Supreme Court Justices. The 13 plaintiffs were: Oliver Brown, Darlene Brown, Lena Carper, Sadie Emmanuel, Marguerite Emerson, Shirley Fleming, Zelma Henderson, Shirley Hodison, Maude Lawton, Alma Lewis, Iona Richardson, and Lucinda Todd. The last surviving plaintiff, Zelma Henderson, died in Topeka, on May 20, 2008, at age 88.

The District Court ruled in favor of the Board of Education, citing the U.S. Supreme Court precedent set in Plessy v. Ferguson, 163 U.S. 537 (1896), which had upheld a state law requiring "separate but equal" segregated facilities for blacks and whites in railway cars. The three-judge District Court panel found that segregation in public education has a detrimental effect on negro children, but denied relief on the ground that the negro and white schools in Topeka were substantially equal with respect to buildings, transportation, curricula, and educational qualifications of teachers.

Supreme Court review
The case of Brown v. Board of Education as heard before the Supreme Court combined five cases: Brown itself, Briggs v. Elliott (filed in South Carolina), Davis v. County School Board of Prince Edward County (filed in Virginia), Gebhart v. Belton (filed in Delaware), and Bolling v. Sharpe (filed in Washington, D.C.).

All were NAACP-sponsored cases. The Davis case, the only case of the five originating from a student protest, began when 16-year-old Barbara Rose Johns organized and led a 450-student walkout of Moton High School. The Gebhart case was the only one where a trial court, affirmed by the Delaware Supreme Court, found that discrimination was unlawful; in all the other cases the plaintiffs had lost as the original courts had found discrimination to be lawful.

The Kansas case was unique among the group in that there was no contention of gross inferiority of the segregated schools' physical plant, curriculum, or staff. The district court found substantial equality as to all such factors. The lower court, in its opinion, noted that, in Topeka, "the physical facilities, the curricula, courses of study, qualification and quality of teachers, as well as other educational facilities in the two sets of schools [were] comparable." The lower court observed that "colored children in many instances are required to travel much greater distances than they would be required to travel could they attend a white school" but also noted that the school district "transports colored children to and from school free of charge" and that "no such service [was] provided to white children."

In the Delaware case the district court judge in Gebhart ordered that the black students be admitted to the white high school due to the substantial harm of segregation and the differences that made the separate schools unequal.

The NAACP's chief counsel, Thurgood Marshall—who was later appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court in 1967—argued the case before the Supreme Court for the plaintiffs. Assistant attorney general Paul Wilson—later distinguished emeritus professor of law at the University of Kansas—conducted the state's ambivalent defense in his first appellate argument.

In December 1952, the Justice Department filed a friend of the court brief in the case. The brief was unusual in its heavy emphasis on foreign-policy considerations of the Truman administration in a case ostensibly about domestic issues. Of the seven pages covering "the interest of the United States," five focused on the way school segregation hurt the United States in the Cold War competition for the friendship and allegiance of non-white peoples in countries then gaining independence from colonial rule. Attorney General James P. McGranery noted that

The existence of discrimination against minority groups in the United States has an adverse effect upon our relations with other countries. Racial discrimination furnishes grist for the Communist propaganda mills.


The brief also quoted a letter by Secretary of State Dean Acheson lamenting that

The United States is under constant attack in the foreign press, over the foreign radio, and in such international bodies as the United Nations because of various practices of discrimination in this country.


British barrister and parliamentarian Anthony Lester has written that "Although the Court's opinion in Brown made no reference to these considerations of foreign policy, there is no doubt that they significantly influenced the decision."

Decision
On May 17, 1954, the Court issued a unanimous 9–0 decision in favor of the Brown family and the other plaintiffs. The decision consists of a single opinion written by Chief Justice Earl Warren, which all the justices joined. The Court began by noting that it had attempted to find an answer to the question of whether the Fourteenth Amendment was meant to abolish segregation in public education by hearing a second round of oral arguments from the parties' lawyers specifically on the historical sources relating to its drafting and ratification, but to no avail.

Reargument was largely devoted to the circumstances surrounding the adoption of the Fourteenth Amendment in 1868. It covered exhaustively consideration of the Amendment in Congress, ratification by the states, then-existing practices in racial segregation, and the views of proponents and opponents of the Amendment. This discussion and our own investigation convince us that, although these sources cast some light, it is not enough to resolve the problem with which we are faced. At best, they are inconclusive.

— Brown, 347 U.S. at 489.


The Court also stated that using historical information on the original scope of the Fourteenth Amendment's application to public education was difficult because of intervening societal and governmental changes. It noted that in 1868, when the Amendment was adopted, public schools were uncommon in the American South. White children whose families could afford schooling usually attended private schools, and the education of black children was "almost nonexistent", to the point that in some Southern states any education of black people had actually been forbidden by law. The Court contrasted this with the situation in 1954: "Today, education is perhaps the most important function of our local and state governments." It concluded that, in making its ruling, the Court would have to "consider public education in light of its full development and its present place in American life throughout the Nation."

The Court did not address the issues regarding the many instances in which the segregated educational facilities for black children in the cases were inferior in quality to those for white children, probably because some of the school districts involved had made improvements to their black schools to "equalize" them with the quality of the white schools. This prevented the Court from finding a violation of the Equal Protection Clause in "measurable inequalities" between all white and black schools, and instead required it to look to the effects of segregation itself. Thus, the Court framed the case around the more general question of whether the principle of "separate but equal" was constitutional when applied to public education:

We come then to the question presented: Does segregation of children in public schools solely on the basis of race, even though the physical facilities and other "tangible" factors may be equal, deprive the children of the minority group of equal educational opportunities?

— Brown, 397 U.S. at 493.


In answer, the Court ruled that it did. It held that state-mandated segregation, even if implemented in schools of otherwise equal quality, is inherently unequal: "To separate [black 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 to ever be undone." The Court supported this conclusion with citations—in a footnote, not the main text of the opinion—to a number of psychology studies that purported to show that segregating black children made them feel inferior and interfered with their learning. These studies included those of Kenneth and Mamie Clark, whose experiments in the 1940s had suggested that black children from segregated environments preferred white dolls over black dolls.

The Court then concluded its relatively short opinion by declaring that segregated public education was inherently unequal, violated the Equal Protection Clause, and therefore was unconstitutional:

We conclude that in the field of public education the doctrine of "separate but equal" has no place. Separate educational facilities are inherently unequal. Therefore, we hold that the plaintiffs and others similarly situated for whom the actions have been brought are, by reason of the segregation complained of, deprived of the equal protection of the laws guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment.

— Brown, 397 U.S. at 495.

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Reply 65 Years Ago Today; Brown vs Board of Education ruling outlaws racial segregation in public schools (Original post)
Dennis Donovan May 17 OP
malaise May 17 #1
StarfishSaver May 17 #2
Buckeyeblue May 17 #3
Dennis Donovan May 17 #4

Response to Dennis Donovan (Original post)

Fri May 17, 2019, 06:09 AM

1. They want to turn this back

It's their only way to pretend they are superior

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Response to Dennis Donovan (Original post)

Fri May 17, 2019, 06:19 AM

2. Now Trump is appointing and Senate confirming judges who refuse to say Brown was correctly decided

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Response to Dennis Donovan (Original post)

Fri May 17, 2019, 06:37 AM

3. As a nation how did we get to the point in 1954 where such a ruling was necessary?

I'm almost 50 and I struggle to understand how and why black people were/are treated so poorly in this country. Was it a failure of reconstruction? A short-coming of Christianity that people could justify their hatred and overt oppression? Was it the fear of a majority of white people to stand up against a minority of dedicated racists that would inflict deadly violence on anyone who crossed them?

Even northern states were culpable. Black athletes were banned from professional sports until the late 40's. Most of those teams were northern teams.

I don't get it. Maybe white people have a gene that causes them to deeply fear those who look different than them. There has to be some sort of genetic predisposition to hate that stems back to when we were single celled amoebas desperately try to turn ourselves into something else. Was self-hatred the spark for evolution?

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Response to Buckeyeblue (Reply #3)

Fri May 17, 2019, 06:56 AM

4. (Paraphrasing Dean Martin) Everybody Hates Somebody, sometimes...

I think Hate is an easy and lazy emotion. And, it can be satisfying to one's "id" since, by lowering one's opinions of a group of people, it invariably raises one's self esteem. Personally, my self esteem has always been fueled by pride that I'm not a bigot, and hate is almost non-existent (except for anyone with the Trump surname ).

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