This article is geared towards an audience who desires to learn more on the oppositions that stemmed from the Supreme Court decision. Overall, I think this topic would attract upper level students, primarily African Americans because it gives an overview of the progress within the education system.
Close your eyes and imagine it’s your first day at your new elementary school. You are so excited that you packed your backpack with your favorite cartoon notebooks with the matching pencils that are already pre-sharpened. You’re all dressed up, packed, and ready to go to school. As your approaching your new school, hand to hand with your mommy, you notice a large crowd of angry adults and children. You start to notice your mother is holding you hand tighter as you get closer and closer to the school. As you reach the sidewalk in front of the school, you see that the angry crowd is now starring at you and your mother and shouting mean things while blocking the entry way of the school. Now open your eyes.
In 1951, Linda Brown was denied entrance to Sumner Elementary School in Topeka, Kansas. As a result, her father Oliver Brown filed a class action suit against the Board of Education. Thurgood Marshall who was head of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund during this time, served as chief attorney for the plaintiffs (see photograph below) [i]. On May 17, 1954, the court ruled in their favor stating that the separate but equal doctrine has no withstanding in public education [ii]. After the verdict, Thurgood Marshall and other lawyers spoke with reporters and stated that this is only the beginning of segregation and that their creating programs preparing for what is to come (NBC video link). Although the verdict ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, the Brown vs. Board of education case outcome sparked enormous controversy and oppositions for local judicial and political evasion of desegregation.
Although the fourteenth amendment granted African Americans certain rights, in 1896 the Plessy vs. Ferguson case ruled that a law that “implies merely a legal distinction” between African Americans and white people was not unconstitutional [iii]. This cased occurred after an African American man, Homer Plessy, refused to sit in the black car section on the train. The Supreme Court ruling upheld the constitutionality of racial segregation under the separate but equal doctrine, which was the main argument of the defense during the Brown vs. Board of Education [iv].
On one episode of C-Span broadcasts, which is a television network covering Capitol Hill, the White House, and national politics, Yale University law Professor Justin Driver discusses the 1956 “Southern Manifesto” and the legal arguments that was used to challenge the ruling of the Brown vs. Board of Education case (see video below) [v]. The Southern Manifesto, or the Declaration of Constitutional Principles, was written after the case in 1956 by the United States Congress and opposed racial integration in public places. It encouraged states to resist the mandates that were concluded in the Brown vs. Board of Education which was seen as delaying Jim Crow Laws in Southern states. It argued that Congress would reverse the decision because the Supreme Court ruling was contrary to the Constitution [vi]. Their main arguments stemmed from the 14th amendment not mentioning education nor in the original Constitution [vii]. Southern politicians argued that desegregation schools would be just the beginning and that restaurants, inns, and transportation would soon follow. The map below illustrates where schools in the U.S, majority in the South, were segregated and enforced by law until 1964.
Little Rock Nine
Shortly after the “Southern Manifesto” was written, on September 4, 1957 nine African American students were denied entry to Central Highschool in Little Rock, Arkansas where all the students were white. Minnijean Brown, Elizabeth Eckford, Ernest Green, Thelma Mothershed, Melba Patillo, Gloria Ray, Terrence Roberts, Jefferson Thomas, and Carlotta Walls arrived and blocked entry by the Arkansas National Guard under the direction of Governor Orval Faubus (see photograph below) [viii]. This incident was a test of the Brown vs. Board of Education to illustrate resistance which was orchestrated where the children were recruited by Daisy Gaston Bates, president of the Arkansas NAACP and co-publisher of the Arkansas State Press, an influential African American newspaper. Following this incident, federal judge Ronald Davies began legal proceedings against Governor Faubus, including President Dwight D. Eisenhower with the attempt to remove the National Guard allowing the nine students access to the school. Finally, on September 25 the students were allowed inside escorted by troops that were sent by President Eisenhower. In response to the courts decision from the Brown vs. Board of Education and outside pressure from the NAACP, Little Rock, Arkansas school board created a plan to gradually integrate its schools [ix].
The Supreme Court’s decision in the Brown vs. Board of Education was quickly overshadowed by new racial obstacles. While a number of schools in Southern and boarder states desegregated peacefully, there was a significant amount of resistance and deviance that arose in other parts. Its essential for people to know that although there was triumph in winning the Brown vs. Board of Education , the opposition that followed illustrated that more work must be done. This was an inspiration of racial equality and justice that could be accomplished and accepted amongst all. Although I wasn’t able to cover all of the oppositions and court cases that surfaced following the Brown vs. Board of Education, I provided users with a gateway of what surfaced and how the school system made progress in adjusting segregation amongst students.
- If not for Linda Brown being denied access to Sumner Elementary, do you think schools would’ve still been segregated today (primarily in the South)?
- Why do you think much resistance occurred following the Supreme Court’s ruling in the Brown vs. Board of Education?
[i] Klarman, Michael J. “Brown, Racial Change, and the Civil Rights Movement.” Virginia Law Review 80, no. 1 (1994): 7-150. Accessed April 21, 2021. doi:10.2307/1073592.
[iii] Bernstein, Barton J. “Case Law in Plessy V. Ferguson.” The Journal of Negro History 47, no. 3 (1962): 192-98. Accessed April 21, 2021. doi:10.2307/2716502.
[v] Congressional Record, 84th Congress Second Session. Vol. 102, part 4. Washington, D.C.: Governmental Printing Office, 1956.
[vi] “14th Amendment”. History. 2006. https://www.history.com/topics/black-history/fourteenth-amendment
[vii] Ibid Congressional Record.
[viii] Anderson, Karen. “The Little Rock School Desegregation Crisis: Moderation and Social Conflict.” The Journal of Southern History 70, no. 3 (2004): 603-36. Accessed April 21, 2021. doi:10.2307/27648479.
How to Cite:
Brianna Keitt. “Oppositions to Brown vs. Board of Education,” Digital History at USCA, 2021, https://wordpress.com/post/digitalhistoryusca.com/964.
Branton, Wiley A. “Little Rock Revisited: Desegregation to Resegregation.” The Journal of Negro Education 52, no. 3 (1983): 250-69. Accessed April 21, 2021. doi:10.2307/2294663.
Bishop, David W. “Plessy V. Ferguson: A Reinterpretation.” The Journal of Negro History 62, no. 2 (1977): 125-33. Accessed April 21, 2021. doi:10.2307/2717173.
Wikimedia Commons contributors, “File: Legal Gavel (27571702173).jpg” Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?search=gavel+&title=Special:MediaSearch&go=Go&type=image (accessed April 21, 2021).