Brown vs. Board of Education

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"'The Supreme Court decision [on Brown vs. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas] is the greatest victory for the Negro people since the Emancipation Proclamation,' Harlem's Amsterdam News exclaimed. ‘It will alleviate troubles in many other fields.' The Chicago Defender added, ‘this means the beginning of the end of the dual society in American life and the system…of segregation which supports it.'"

Oliver Brown, father of Linda Brown decided that his third grade daughter should not have to walk one mile through a railroad switchyard just to get to the bus stop before she could even get to the separate Negro school for her area. He attempted to enroll her in the white public school only three blocks from their home, but her enrollment was denied due to her race. The browns believed this was a violation of their rights, and took their case to the courts. This wasn't the first time that blacks found their constitutional rights violated. After the civil war, laws were passed to continue the separation of blacks and whites throughout the southern states, starting with the Jim Crow laws which officially segregated the whites from the black. It wasn't until 1896 in Plessy vs. Ferguson that black people even began to see equality as an option. Nothing changed in the world until 1954 when the historical ruling of Brown vs. The Board of Education that anything changed. Until then, all stores, restaurants, schools and public places were deemed ‘separate but equal' through the Plessy vs. Ferguson ruling in 1896. Many cases just like the Brown vs. Board of Education were taken to the Supreme Court together in a class action suite. The world changed when nine justices made the decision to deem segregation in public schools unconstitutional.

After the Civil War, white southerners had to figure out ways to continue feeling superior to their former slaves. Anxious to regain power over former slaves, southerners created the Black Codes of 1865. These codes were different from state to state, but most held similar restrictions. If blacks were unemployed, they could be arrested and charged with vagrancy. White Southerners believed blacks were to only work as agricultural laborers so the laws also restricted their hours of labor, duties, and behavior. Additionally, the codes prevented the raising of their own crops by black people. They were prohibited from entering towns without permission. "Local ordinances in Louisiana made it almost impossible for blacks to live within the towns or cities. Residency was only possible if a white employer agreed to take responsibility for his employee's conduct." Such codes made it possible for segregation to continue and racial tensions to grow. Shortly after the Black Codes, the Jim Crow laws were enacted completely prohibiting the co-existence of blacks and whites. Blacks could not enter white hospitals, nor could black children attend the same schools, or drink out of the same water fountains as white children. These laws took the Black Codes of 1865 to another level, making complete segregation a real possibility

Following the Black Codes and the Jim Crow Laws, further decisions by the Supreme Court encouraged segregation and even helped make it an official reality. After Reconstruction came to an end in 1890, a thirty-year old shoemaker from New Orleans, Louisiana who was 1/8th black, yet was considered black by the state of Louisiana, took matters into his own hands and bought a first class ticket on the train. He was challenging the new Separate Car Act that called for blacks to sit in a separate cart from the whites. He was arrested for refusing to move to the colored car. The argument was that Plessey's civil rights had been violated by asking him to move to the colored car. In 1896, the Plessy vs. Ferguson case was reviewed by the U.S. Supreme Court ruling against Plessy with an eight person majority. The decision provided for the expansion of "separate but...
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