A CROWD OF WHITE MEN AND WOMEN WAVE SIGNS AND CONFEDERATE FLAGS OUTSIDE THE HIGH SCHOOLS OF LITTLE ROCK, ARK.
In 1951, Oliver Brown, a Black welder from Topeka, Kan., was the lead plaintiff in a lawsuit claiming that the Topeka Board of Education against Black families. The school board had prohibited Black students, including Brown’s daughter, from attending nearby all-white schools. Instead, his daughter and other Black students were bused to segregated schools that were often overcrowded and underfunded. According to the law, schools were allowed to students as long as they provided an equal education for both white and Black students. “Separate but equal” they called it.
In 1954, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the plaintiffs’ favor in the landmark case, Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka. The Court said state laws establishing separate public schools for Black and white students were not allowed by the U.S. Constitution. The ruling further stated that Black students had been deprived equal protection under the laws guaranteed by the 14th Amendment.
Three years after the Brown ruling, in 1957, the Little Rock School Committee was required to desegregate its schools. A group of nine African American students were to be the first students to integrate Little Rock’s all-white Central High School. The newspapers called these students the “Little Rock Nine.” Many of the state’s white residents, including its governor, fought against allowing Black students to attend the same school as white students. The governor ordered the Arkansas National Guard to block the Black students from entering the school. For 17 straight days, the Little Rock Nine were prevented from attending classes. Finally, President Dwight Eisenhower sent in 1,000 U.S. Army troops to enforce the law and protect the students as they entered Central High School.
This event was the start of school desegregation in Arkansas. However, there were still many places across the country where Black students received a lesser quality education than their white peers. Many courageous students and teachers led the way for desegregation in their own communities.
Desegregating schools in the United States didn’t happen immediately after Brown v. Board was passed. Investigate the primary sources. How do they demonstrate changing opinions about school segregation over time? How do they show the importance of integration efforts? Make your case.
Have your students take this challenge and make their case! To begin, send your students to this website with this challenge’s code.
Segregation is the separation of people based on their race, ethnicity, gender, or religion.
In the court case Brown v. Board of Education, the U.S. Supreme Court said that state laws establishing separate public schools for Black and white students were not allowed by the U.S. Constitution.