Brown v. Board of Education: An Issue In Civil Rights History

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One of the biggest supreme court cases in history is, without a doubt, Brown vs. Board of education. This case came about because of one little girl and a father who took initiative in order for his daughter to have an equal opportunity with her education.

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The story of Linda Brown takes place in Topeka, Kansas where, as an elementary schooler, was forced as a child to travel two miles across Topeka, Kansas to attend an all-black elementary school rather than going to the white school that was mere blocks from her home (Rothman 1). Her father filed a lawsuit claiming that this situation went against their 14th amendment rights. The 14th amendment in the United States Constitution, according to Laura F. Edwards, states that …the Fourteenth Amendment established birthright citizenship and provided federal protection of civil rights, and prohibited states from discriminating on the basis of race (310). Linda was not allowed to attend the all white school solely on the basis of her skin color clearly a violation of their basic rights according the the constitution. This case would eventually become one of the biggest court cases in civil rights history. Three reasons the supreme court case Brown vs. Board of Education of Topeka Kansas had such an important impact on the history of the United States is because it desegregated schools, led to the outlaw of Jim Crow laws, and helped paved the way to reversing the verdict of Plessy vs. Ferguson.

Before explaining the different ways the case Brown vs. Board of Education had an impact on U.S. history, it is important to understand what the NAACP was and who was involved with it. NAACP is an acronym for …the National Association for the Advancements of Colored People (Gregory Nelson Hite 297).  This association is important when telling the story of Brown vs. BoE because without the NAACP there may not have been a court case at all. The beginning stages of the formation of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People started during …the Springfield, Illinois, race riot of 1908, in which two black people were lynched and more than 50 injured (Boyd S3). It was because of this that one man named William English Walling decided to write about it. His wiring about the horrors that had taken place caught the eye of of a white woman by the name of Mary White. With the ideas laid out by the activist named W.E.B. Dubois and the initiative taken by William Walling, Mary White Ovington, Henry Moskowitz, and soon after, Oswald Garrison Villard, Charles Edward Russell, Bishop Alexander Walters, and Reverend William Henry Brooks that would create the National Association for the Advancement of Colored people that helped paved the way to becoming the organization we know today.  In the moment of the founding of this organization, America was a place with very limited opportunities for any colored person or African American citizen living there especially in the south which is why the NAACP was founded with the idea of equality for both white and colored Americans. This group is extremely relevant when explaining Brown vs. Board of Education because one man in that organization named Oswald Villard had a major help in the Brown court case. As stated by John Nichols, … it was Villard who took the lead in forming the NAACP’s legal arm, which would prove so instrumental to the movements success, culminating in its historic legal victory in Brown vs. Board of Education (5). It was because of the activism and determination of the people that created the NAACP that led to the one of the greatest supreme court victories in American civil rights history.

One major reasons the Supreme Court case Brown vs. Board of Education had an important impact on American history is because it was the reason for the Desegregation of schools in America. There was a clear difference between the quality of education and facilities between white and colored children during those times. The schools in white neighborhoods had many luxuries that colored children never imagined. Simple things like air conditioning in classrooms, and cool drinking water fountains were something most colored schools lacked. Colored education lacked the funding, the material, and a proper salary for teachers. It is no wonder that supreme court finally decided to allowed schools so become integrated because it was a very clear violation of the human right of colored children. There was a simple reason as to why segregation in schools was so harsh and unfair to colored children, according to the Virginia museum of History and Culture, Many whites did not want blacks to become educated, fearing they would challenge white supremacy and not be content with jobs working in the fields or in domestic services. White supremacists, especially white males, were making education for school children practically impossible because they were scared the power colored educated people would hold. The story of Linda Brown is just one of many difficult stories involving young colored children having to go to through dangerous journeys just to get an education. The Supreme Court case Brown vs. Board of Education of Topeka Kansas had such a huge impact in America because equal educational opportunities for every scholar and it is the reason schools all over America today are not segregated. 

Another important reason why Brown vs. Board of Education was extremely important in American history is because its verdict helped move forward to the complete removal of the infamous Jim Crow Laws.  According to the article Jim Crow Laws, Jim Crow Laws were a collection of state and local statuses that legalized racial segregation. America during the Jim Crow Laws was a harsh and unimaginable place filled with hatred towards people of color. While the Jim Crow Laws were in place people of color could not sit in the same place as white people, whether that be in a restaurant, in a bus, or even in a movie theatre, people of color were not able to share water fountains, playgrounds, restrooms, neighborhoods, and waiting rooms. Many of the jobs that were available were only given to white people and since most of the law enforcement was white, people of color were constantly treated with violence they deemed necessary to retain order. Brown vs. Board of Education, although it had to do with desegregation of schools, was a big power move to help abolish Jim Crow Laws. It was because of the rules of Jim Crow that schools were segregated in the first place, so it was only a matter of time, after the verdict, before realizing these laws were a clear violation of the civil rights of people of color.

The final reason why Brown vs. Board of Education was an important part of American history is because it helped counter a previous court case, Plessy vs. Ferguson. Plessy vs. Ferguson started with a man named Homer Adolph Plessy who refused to give up his seat to go to another car for people of color only. He was arrested because of the law that was put in place during that time in Louisiana called the Separate Car Act of 1890. It was because of the Plessy vs. Ferguson Supreme Court Case ruling that the idea of separate but equal was established. As stated by the article Plessy v. Ferguson, In declaring separate-but-equal facilities constitutional on intrastate railroads, the Court ruled that the protections of 14th Amendment applied only to political and civil rights (like voting and jury services), not social rights (sitting in the railroad car of your choice). The idea that separate but equal was constitutional and did not violate any civil rights would lead to the segregation of just about everything. This verdict was the reason why schools were segregated because, according to the supreme court, as long as both black and white children went to school it did not matter whether they were going to separate facilities. Brown v. Board of Education was the determining factor in getting rid of Plessy v. Ferguson because the idea of separate-but-equal was found to be was unequal and unconstitutional therefore reversed after the Brown Supreme Court Case.

In conclusion, the 1954 Supreme court case, Brown v. Board of Education is one of the most important cases in American Civil rights history because it was the reason schools became integrated and children of color were finally able to have an equal opportunity in education. With the help of the NAACP, the Brown case was able to gain a victory which led to the desegregation of schools, the outlaw of the Jim Crow Laws, and it reversed the verdict of the court case Plessy v. Ferguson.

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