Brown v. Board (Under Threat)

Landmark Decision Turns 64

Quick Overview of Brown v. Board

By the Voices of the Civil Rights Movement:

“Linda Brown is one of that special band of heroic young people who, along with her family, courageously fought to end the ultimate symbol of white supremacy – racial segregation in public schools. She stands as an example of how ordinary schoolchildren took center stage in transforming this country. It was not easy for her or her family, but her sacrifice broke barriers and changed the meaning of equality in this country. Brown v. Board of Education is the most important, transformational Supreme Court decision of the 20th century. The life of every American has been touched by Linda Brown. This country is indebted to her, the Brown family, and the many other families involved in the cases that successfully challenged school segregation. I mourn her passing and extend my deepest condolences to the entire Brown family.”

Sherrilyn Ifill,
The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund President and Director-Counsel

Landmark Civil Rights Decision Turns 64 under Threat

Linda Brown, the little girl at the center of the Brown v. Board of Education case, died this year (2018) at the age of 75. In 1954, the Supreme Court unanimously declared “separate but equal” unconstitutional, overturning racial segregation as the law of the land since 1896 in Plessy v. Ferguson, which powered Jim Crow for decades after Reconstruction, after the Civil War provided a violent end to America’s 245 years of legal slavery.

Roundly viewed as a hard-won victory of the Civil Rights movement, ACLU Racial Justice Program Director Dennis Parker warns, “the celebration this year is muted by a fresh sense of uncertainty”:

The sanctity of the landmark decision that helped ensure Black children’s full and equal access to participation in American society is increasingly under attack in the courts, in government, and in the private sphere.

In overruling the late 19th-century case Plessy v. Ferguson, which upheld segregation in Louisiana streetcars, the Supreme Court did more than just address who sat next to whom in American schools. It also served as the inspiration for efforts to end restrictions in public accommodations and in housing and to assure access to the voting booth.

Indeed, Brown has for decades been given its due respect by people on all sides of the aisle — until now. In recent years, court decisions have eroded the hard-fought progress in the South spurred by the Brown decision six decades ago. For example, researchers studied more than 200 school districts that were released from court-ordered desegregation plans between 1991 and 2008 and found them more likely to have increased segregation than schools that stayed under court oversight. 

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