What Happened After Brown v. Board of Education?
The "End of Segregation" Didn't Go As Planned
In 1951, Oliver Brown attempted to enroll his daughter Linda in the all-white Sumner School in Topeka, Kansas. Linda Brown was turned away because she was Black. Oliver filed a lawsuit claiming that Black schools weren't equal to white schools and violated the "equal protection clause" of the 14th Amendment. The U.S. District Court agreed that public school segregation had a "detrimental effect upon the colored children and contributed to a sense of inferiority," but let stand the "separate but equal doctrine enshrined in Plessy v. Ferguson in 1896. Plessy v. Ferguson has long been considered one of the worst decisions ever made by the Supreme Court, though Chief Justice William Rehnquist indicated he would have supported it as late as 1952.
May 18, 1896,| SCOTUS Establishes "Separate But Equal" Doctrine as Law in Plessy v. Ferguson
On May 18, 1896, the U.S. Supreme Court released a 7-1 decision in Plessy v. Ferguson, a case challenging racial…
The Brown lawsuit was combined with four other school desegregation cases and came before the Supreme Court as Brown v. Board of Education in 1952. The chief attorney for the plaintiffs was Thurgood Marshall with the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. The NAACP had worked for several years to bring this issue before the Supreme Court and now had their chance.
The Court was divided on how to rule with Chief Justice Fred M. Vinson in favor of upholding segregation. Vinson died and was replaced by California Governor Earl Warren, appointed by President Dwight D. Eisenhower. Warren wrangled a unanimous decision out of the justices, striking down segregation in public schools.
"In the field of public education the doctrine of 'separate but equal' has no place." — Chief Justice Earl Warren
That should have been the end of the story; perhaps it was just the beginning of a long chapter in American history of attempts to uphold segregation that continue today. The first problem was the failure of the Supreme Court to define how school districts should go about…