Brown vs. Board of Education: National Historic Site

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Brown vs. the Board of Education National Historic Site is located in Topeka, Kansas. This monument was inspired by the historical event that transpired in 1954 and is noted as one of the greatest Supreme Court rulings.

The Brown vs. Board of Education was combined of four other cases- as a collective, known as The Five Cases. In 1947, Gardner Bishop and the Consolidated Parents Group Inc., started a campaign to end segregated schools in D.C. In 1950, Bishop attempted to get 11 black students into the new high school in the area, but they were denied. Bishop hired a lawyer and took it to court, but it was thrown out. So, they took it to the Supreme Court to be considered along with the other four cases. In the end it got a different ruling considering that the fourteenth amendment didn’t apply to the District of Columbia. In 1951, two cases were filed in Delaware, Belton vs. Gebhart and Bulah vs. Gebhart. These two cases were combined because they held the same issues. Kids were told to go to school in the next city when there was a school that was closer to them. In addition to that, the children weren’t provided transportation.

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In 1950, the case Briggs vs. Elliot was led by Thurgood Marshall and the NAACP legal team. Harry Briggs was one of 20 parents that requested that the county provide school buses for the black kids since the white kids were afforded that amenities. Their wishes were ignored by the schools, so they filed a lawsuit against R.W Elliot, the president of the board. In 1951, Davis vs. County School Board involved 450 students protesting the poor conditions in their schools for two weeks. They took it to district court, but like the other cases, it was thrown out. So again, this case went to the Supreme Court.

Jim Crow schools weren’t afforded the same education as schools in white neighborhoods. Black children were being taught agricultural and domestic skills for when they got old enough to work for the betterment of the white economy. 98% of the black community held jobs as cooks, sharecroppers, housekeepers, laundresses, nursemaids, and factory workers. A portion of the remaining 2% were left to teach the children. A group of parents attempted to send their children to the nearest white school so they could have a better education, but they were denied access. One of the parents, Oliver Brown, felt the decision to give white children better education than black kids was unlawful. In conclusion, they weren’t separate but equal. Brown went to file a lawsuit but the judge through his case out ruling that the schools were equal enough. He then went to the Supreme Court for an appeal- with Thurgood Marshall being their chief counsel. Marshall argued that the school systems violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment under the U.S Constitution.

Over the course of the case, the Justices of the Supreme Court became severely dived. While most wanted to declare that the Plessy vs. Ferguson case was unconstitutional, others wanted to keep things as is. By June 1953, the court decided to have a rehearing in December of the same year, considering that they were unable to come to a conclusion. Chief Justice Fred Vinson died and was replaced by Governor Earl Warren of California. By May 14, 1954, Justice Warren had concluded that separate but equal was in fact unlawful. The courts requested that the Attorney Generals of each state submit a plan on how they would move forward with desegregation. Most school districts ignored the court’s ruling and kept schools segregated. So, a year later on May 31, 1955, the Court Justices made a plan to proceed with desegregation. This was a huge victory for African Americans and the Civil Rights Movement as a whole.

Toy baby dolls were pivotal in the ruling of Brown vs. The Board of Education. Marshall and his legal team approached Mamie and Kenneth Clark- who had a doctorate in psychology- to repeat an experiment they performed in New York City. This social experiment involved the Clarks giving toy baby dolls to black children; two white dolls and two black dolls. The children were asked which dolls were ‘good, bad, and most like you. Majority of the children answered saying the white dolls were good’ and they also identified with the white dolls. This proved that segregation has a negative effect on black children’s self-image and psychological health. The Clarks felt as if the children would always feel inferior to other white children and it would continue to be that way if segregation wasn’t abolished. 

Jacob Chase was one of the founders of Topeka, Kansas and had the Monroe Elementary School Site apart of a homestead claim. This school was one of the four segregated schools for African Americans in Topeka. The school was closed in 1975 because fewer kids being enrolled as the years went on. Members of the Brown Foundation noticed the building was up for auction and went through the congressional process to get it transitioned into a historical site.  On October 26, 1992, George Bush signed the Brown vs. Board Education Historic Site Act of 1992. Government Officials felt this was the perfect school to be turned into a historical site because of the history behind it. This school also symbolizes how far African Americans have come. 

The site opened on May 17, 2004, on the 50th anniversary of the Courts decision to desegregate schools. The activities at the site include a 30-minute film, Race and American Creed. The film has an open dialogue between an adolescent girl and a family friend about the struggle about equality and freedom to all Americans. There is a Hall of Courage, where a historic film is played for people 12 and over. The kindergarten room was restored to its original appearance to reflect how the children and teachers were affected. A gallery is included in the site where seven short films reside. Also included, photos and exhibits are used to give a summary of what our ancestors went through to integrate schools. The most important and historical exhibits on the site is the baby doll used in the experiment to win the case.

The Clarks had given a pair of the dolls to a student, which was given to a close friend for her children. The white doll had gotten lost, but thankfully the black doll was still around. In 2014, a call was made to the park to see if they wanted the remaining doll. Even though original diaper was gone, and the face had a green tint, the park was more than ecstatic to take it. This is a symbol of one of the most important contributors of American history and the black baby doll is now available for the public to see.

 

The Clarks experiment has been reused many times in the field of psychology. Sadly, history repeats itself and there’s still this sense of self-hate amongst the black community. Although it has greatly improved, there’s always room for improvement. America was once a country that embraced racism and shunned anybody that wasn’t purely white. We have now transitioned into a time where a percentage of white Americans are still very much racist but have gotten increasingly better at hiding it. African Americans will never truly be equal until white supremacy is completely eradicated. 

Black people are now afforded the same education as whites but there’s still this dark cloud that hovers over black children’s accomplishments. Earlier this year, Michael Brown applied to 20 universities and was accepted into every one of them. This should’ve been a moment of celebration but a couple of Fox anchors reporting the story called him obnoxious. If this was a white young man would there have been a different response? Definitely. Why shouldn’t he be happy for getting full rides to every school he applied to? If this was young Cody or even young Stuart, there would’ve been nothing but smiles and congratulations. This just goes to show that America still has a long way to go.

Another incident transpired a couple days ago involving a young black girl and her white female classmates. The young girl was reciting a popular catchphrase that has been circulating around social media and the black community- I have black girl magic. The white teacher alerted her mother saying that the saying made the white female students cry. Why should this young girl be punished for having confidence in her skin color and her black excellence? For centuries black people have been ashamed of their heritage and skin color. Black people have slowly but surely let go of the colorism and self-hate and here comes this lady trying to mute this black queen’s confidence. 

There’s a huge distinction between inner city schools and suburban schools. You can take Frisco ISD vs. Dallas ISD. Dallas public schools are horrible. The curriculum is lackluster, the textbooks are outdated, and the schools are in unsafe neighborhoods. Whereas Frisco schools have up to date curriculum and textbooks, and they are in desirable communities. There has been a of chain of schools closed in Dallas because of lack of funds and enrollment. This has caused parents to go out of their school zone to take their children to school. Most schools located in the city are over run with drug use, along with gang and gun violence. 

By the time these children reach their senior year of high school, they’re looking for a way out. They want a better life and want to do something other than what’s been showed to them. Black people have always been forced to work harder than white people in school and in the work place. A good percentage of white children come from money so they won’t have to get a job because there will be one ready for them when they graduate school. Higher paying positions will be at the tips of their fingers because of affiliation. So, we really must question ourselves on whether African Americans are afforded the same opportunities as white people.

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