The 1954 Brown Decision: Ending Legal Segregation

May 17, 1954, marks the day of the landmark decision by United States Supreme Court on Brown v. Board of Education. On this day, the Supreme Court, in the case of Brown v. the Board of Education of Topeka, ended federally sanctioned racial segregation in pubic schools by ruling unanimously that “separate educational facilities were inherently unequal.” A groundbreaking case, Brown not only overturned the precedent of  Plessey v. Ferguson (1896) which had declared “separate but equal facilities constitutional, but also provided the legal foundation of the1960s Civil Rights Movement.  Although Brown was a decision which shook the foundations of segregation, it was the culmination of a legal strategy developed by brilliant legal team of America’s premiere civil rights organization, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).  On the local level, the NAACP demanded only that local government provide African American children with equal facilities.  On the national level, the NAACP, through its first full-time legal counsel, Charles H. Hamilton, focused on graduate and professional schools, demanding equal facilities. The NAACP legal team set out to prove that segregation was not only unable to provide equal facilities, but imposed a “badge of inferiority on black children, causing psychological damage. Beginning a 40 year push, the NAACP won a number of court cases which lead to the historic Brown decision.  The Brown decision, coming at a time of great racial inequality in America, sent the country a strong message, reflected in the freedom struggle played out in the streets of America, that legalized racial inequality in America would no longer be tolerated.  In addition, the Brown decision along with the Victory in the Montgomery Bus Boycott fueled the burgeoning Civil Rights Movement.  Reference: Charles J. Ogletree, All Deliberate Speed.

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