The current essay examines the importance of Brown vs. Board of Education of Topeka case for American history. This essay also answers why this case is essential to understanding the complexity of race relations in the country. African American history and is also crucial for getting American history in general.
Brown vs. Board of Education: Introduction
This case is named after a little girl who lived in Topeka, Kansas, in the 1950s. She was a regular nine-year-old African American girl. She lived in an integrated neighborhood and was able to play with white, Hispanic, Asian American kids. However, she was not able to attend the same school as them because of Jim Crow Laws. Despite having a school just several blocks from the house, she was forced to go to a school for black kids. It was 7 miles away from her home. She had to walk for 1 hour, wait at the bus stop, and take a bus every day.
Despite being equal on paper, this black girl was not treated equally. To justify this segregation, a concept of “separate but equal” was used.
On the surface, these laws were in place to give the same rights whites had. However, in fact, “separate but equal” meant nothing more than keeping blacks separate from the whites.
It meant keeping African Americans legally inferior to whites.
It is easier to find an equal type of drinking fountain or a bus seat. However, when it comes to education, things are much more perplexing. Education in the United States was separated, but by no means it was equal.
Undoubtedly, the American educational system changed a lot since these days. The system America has today is far from being perfect, but it aims to be inclusive and student-centered. It also aims to provide equal educational opportunities for everyone. It would all be impossible without the moment in history this essay is discussing. Indeed, Brown vs. Board of Education case is a turning point in American education and American history.
History & Analysis
It is impossible to fully grasp the importance of this Supreme Court decision without having the full picture. The way blacks lived in the South in the 1950s is crucial to understand. Linda Brown resided in Kansas, but all across America, black kids were placed in the same type of situation. The system did not serve them, but it was turned against them.
However, the case went far beyond the educational system. It targeted segregation in general. It questioned its constitutionality by saying that the Fourteenth Amendment was created to eliminate racial inequality. The segregation perpetuates it.
Background of the Case
There were several essential cases in the history of America. Plessy vs. Ferguson was one of them. This decision reinforced the segregation in many states.
In May 1986, the Supreme Court issued a decision against Plessy. He deliberately violated Louisiana’s Separate Car Act of 1890. His lawyers argued that the law violated the Fourteenth Amendment and equal protection laws. The decision that the Supreme Court issued was based on the “separate but equal” doctrine. According to it, segregation does not violate equal protection laws. Nevertheless, the numbers speak the truth when people cannot.
For example, in 1930, black people were 42% of Florida’s population. If one will compare the white school property with the black school property, the inequality will become evident. In the 1936 report, white school property was around $80,000,000, while black school property was only $4,900,000.
Later on, Plessy will be regarded as one of the worst Supreme Court decisions in American history.
However, it will happen almost 50 years after.
Before 1954, the main focus of the Civil Rights movement was the repeal of the Jim Crow laws. In 1954, in Brown vs. Board of Education, the court ruled that the educational facilities that whites and blacks have are inherently unequal and violate the American Constitution. It stated that racial segregation affects the emotional and mental development of black students. After this ruling, black kids were able to attend white schools.
Consequences of Brown vs. Board of Education
Between Plessy and Brown vs. Board of Education, there were dozens of other cases. They allowed black students to attend traditionally white institutions. By 1950, the “separate but equal” was very close to an end.
T. Marshall’s goal was to end the segregated schools altogether. With each new decision, this plan was becoming more feasible.
After this monumental decision, the schools became integrated. However, the court gave the states time to comply with the new ruling. In most of the places across the country, the process went entirely and without much opposition. The first school in the South that opened its doors for black students was Clinton High School in Knoxville, Tenessee.
It happened only four months after the decision.
Linda Brown’s younger sister was able to attend an integrated school near their house.
Despite the decision, many states did not hurry up to implement the change. Another hearing that will oblige schools to accept black students immediately was scheduled almost a year after the original one. This decision was called Brown II. However, even in this ruling, the Supreme Court decided to find a compromise. It did not give specific timing for moving from segregation to integration. Instead, it allowed schools to move at its pace.
Only 1 in 6 Americans supported desegregation at the time of the ruling. Today, integrated schools in the norm. The norm, that was not achieved easily or without a fight.
Progressivism as an Educational Theory
The full disintegration of public schools was a progressive act. It was just one of the educational reforms in the educational sector. It was also philosophy with its focus on the way kids are being taught. It was based on the idea that the schools should be child-centered. It was completely different compared to the traditional authoritarian way of teaching. In return, progressive education focused on the adoption of humanistic values. It adjusted democratic thinking and pluralism.
The American educational system went through a significant amount of changes. It helped students reach conscientization. One of the most important goals of progressive education is to reach an awareness of oppression.
Educational System Today
Currently, the educational system adopted the K-12 program, which is compulsory for all. What if we compare the one in which Linda Brown went to school with the system American kids study today? The schooling moved towards more collaborative learning.
Collaborative learning is a type of education in which students are encouraged to interact in small groups.
Another aspect of the current educational system is that it strives to be inclusive. It is designed in a way a special needs child can succeed at learning too. In recent years, many more American schools have developed ESL programs for students whose first language is not English.
In the past 100 years, America significantly transformed. The changes that happened in the educational sector were one of the most notable in the United States. It would be impossible to see the accommodating and inclusive system America has today without the Supreme court decision that Cheif Justice Earl Warren ruled in 1954.
Brown vs. Board of Education of Topeka was the milestone for African American kids and their parents. It not only allowed white and black kids to attend the same schools. It demonstrated that the promised of the Founding Fathers were yet to be fulfilled.
However, the battle for justice and equality was not over with the writing of the decision. It continued for many years and has to keep even today.