An Anniversary To Remember …

Yesterday marked the 65th anniversary of the Supreme Court decision on Brown v Board of Education of Topeka, the landmark decision that established that racial discrimination in schools is unconstitutional.  To honour this anniversary, I would like to share with you a post by the Jon S. Randal Peace Page that tells the story better than I could.

She just wanted to go to a good school, to be with her friends.

She lived in an ethnically diverse neighborhood, growing up playing with children of all races.

The school she wanted to attend, where her friends were, was only four blocks away.

Her father would take her to that school, the Sumner School. Being a part of the neighborhood, the family received a registration form for the school in 1952. She was so excited, to be able to attend a school nearby with her friends from the neighborhood.

But, when they arrived there, the principal would take her father to the office and close the door. She didn’t know what was happening, why the principal had to speak to her father alone. She heard her father’s voice begin to rise. After a few minutes, her father opened the door, he was upset, and he just took her hand and walked back out of the school.

The school had apparently sent the registration form to her family by mistake. They thought the family was white, Linda Brown and her parents were black and Sumner was a whites-only school.

“I just couldn’t understand what was happening,” she would say, “I was so sure that I was going to go to school with Mona and Guinevere, Wanda, and all of my playmates.”

Linda-Brown.jpgLinda Brown did not realize that she was unable to attend the school because of the color of her skin. This was because the elementary schools in Topeka, Kansas, were racially segregated, with separate facilities for black and white children.

“I didn’t comprehend color of skin,” she said later. “I only knew that I wanted to go to Sumner.”

She and other black children were barred from sharing the same buses, schools and other public facilities as whites because of the “Jim Crow” laws.

Brown would be forced to walk 6 blocks through the dangerous Rock Island Switchyard in order to catch a bus to the segregated all-black school.

According to the Washington Post, Linda’s father, the Rev. Oliver L. Brown, an assistant minister at St. Mark’s African Methodist Episcopal Church, “felt that it was wrong for his child to have to go so far a distance to receive a quality education.”

Linda’s father would join several other parents, and, together, led by a young, NAACP attorney named Thurgood Marshall, would take the case, Brown v. Board of Education before the U.S. Supreme Court.

On May 17, 1954, the Supreme Court, led by Chief Justice Earl Warren, would rule in their favor, saying that school segregation violated the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment. The unanimous ruling declared segregation in public schools unconstitutional.

Brown v. Board of Education would be the basis for many other rulings that led to desegregation, motivating the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s.

But, not only did black students benefit from the ruling, Native American children were also affected. Native American communities had to deal with segregation laws as well, with native children being prohibited from attending white institutions. After tribal leaders learned about Dr. King’s desegregation campaign in Birmingham, Alabama, they would contact him for assistance, resolving the problem.

Although Brown’s family was just one of 13 plaintiffs who sought to ensure the city fully integrated the rest of its schools, Brown would be burdened with the publicity because her family’s name was part of the case name. Her family would briefly leave their home in Topeka, Kansas, when she was a teenager, but she would return to Topeka after her father died in 1961.

She would also take on the civil rights mantle of her father, becoming an educator and civil rights advocate.

Brown was part of a group of Topeka parents who, in 1979, joined with the American Civil Liberties Union to successfully argue for the reopening of the Brown case. The parents argued that because of housing patterns in Topeka, racially segregated schools remained in the city, in violation of the 1954 ruling.

In a 1985 interview for “Eyes on the Prize,” a PBS documentary series on the civil rights movement, Linda Brown said, “I feel that after 30 years, looking back on Brown v. the Board of Education, it has made an impact in all facets of life for minorities throughout the land. I really think of it in terms of what it has done for our young people, in taking away that feeling of second-class citizenship.”

When Brown died on March 25, 2018, at the age 76, the Kansas governor paid tribute to Brown, saying:

“Sixty-four years ago a young girl from Topeka brought a case that ended segregation in public schools in America. Linda Brown’s life reminds us that sometimes the most unlikely people can have an incredible impact and that by serving our community we can truly change the world.”

In an interview with the Washington Post in 1994, Brown had said, “We feel disheartened that 40 years later we’re still talking about desegregation. But the struggle has to continue.”

Sixty-five years later.  Everybody accepts that racial intolerance has no place in our schools, in our society, right?  Wrong.  A number of Trump’s recent judicial nominees have flat-out refused to affirm the Brown decision.  One even went so far as to say she did not agree with the decision in 1954. Why???  Are we, in fact, headed on a backward slope in terms of racial discrimination just as we are in terms of women’s and LGBT rights?  Suffice it to say that with the recent rise in white supremacy and Trump’s pandering to the right-wing hate groups, it is something we cannot afford to ignore.

15 thoughts on “An Anniversary To Remember …

    • Yes indeed, my friend … shame on this nation … on all of us for being blind and not seeing what was happening under our very noses. The most important thing we can do is educate our children … ALL our children, teach them to be thinkers. But that is not what we are doing, for greed has overtaken good sense.

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  1. I was a very young child at the time of this ruling by the Supreme Court and knew only the basics about it until about ten or more years ago when I read one of the best biographies ever written. Jim Newton’s book “Justice For All : Earl Warren and the Nation He Made.” Chief Justice Earl Warren ( 1953-1969) was appointed to the Supreme Court by President Eisenhower, a reward for having supported his election to the presidency. At the time Eisenhower had nothing but praise for Warren, that ended after the Brown vs Board of Education ruling. Eisenhower is said to have later stated that Warren’s appointment had been one of his biggest mistakes. This because, Eisenhower was disappointed by and against the findings of the Supreme Court led by Warren. It is of little wonder then that desegregation in schools was not begun to be implemented until after the election of President Kennedy. It has been said that the modern civil rights movement was founded on the Brown vs Board of Education decision. “When the rights of any individual or group are chipped away, the freedom of all erodes.” – Chief Justice Earl Warren. Thank-you!

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    • I, too, was not quite 3 at the time of the Brown ruling, but studied it extensively when doing grad work in Constitutional Law classes. Thank you for the book recommendation … that is one I have not read, so I immediately went to Amazon and downloaded a sample onto my Kindle! So … Ike was against de-segregation? I never knew that! Thanks for the info! The things they don’t teach you in college … 🙄

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  2. Jill, sadly it took another 18 years to integrate the schools. One parallel to the religious rights movement that is occurring today which, in essence, allows people to refuse service for religious reasons. After Brown v Board of Education, many white ministers preached biblical reasons to support either segregation or the supremacy of the white race.

    Now, what frustrates, a swarthy skinned Jewish Rabbi named Jesus preached treat others like you want to be treated. He also preached he who is without sin can cast the first stone. Using the bible as a weapon to discriminate against another is NOT in keeping with what I believe Jesus wants us to do.

    This is a key reason why the Senate will not take up the House LGBTQ civil rights bill. To me, call me crazy, but that is not a very Christian thing to do. Keith

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    • True … many states were in no big hurry to follow the law … I suspect there are some who would love to see it reversed. Yes, this trend called “religious freedom” is misnomered, for it is taking away the freedom of others, specifically the LGBT community. My district’s representative, Warren Davidson, made a big deal about standing against the Equality Act, saying it would take away religious rights and parental rights. He is so full of … well, you know. It makes my blood boil. You are right … it is not a very Christian thing to do. Sigh.

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      • Jill, the right to discriminate unfairly is different than someone’s rights to say don’t treat me unfairly. This is akin to the stone thrower retorting to Jesus, I have a right to stone a sinner. Keith

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        • You are so right, my friend. People fail to understand that their rights end at the point that they are trampling someone else’s. We will never learn, but that doesn’t mean we can stop trying.

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  3. Hello Jill. A very timely post. I think E. Warren has the right approach in putting all these social issues to bed once and for all. The Democrats need to win all three branches of government in 2020. Then push through laws cementing these progressive issues. Be ruthless and single minded about doing so. Also be ruthless about breaking up gerrymandering and ensuring that everyone gets to vote. Then the Republicans would have to over turn the laws based on a dwindling electoral base. It is doubtful they ever could. Hugs

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      • so long as we all work as a cohesive team with laser like determination and force the DNC to run on real tangible and relevant issues that affect the lives of all Americans. I hope the Democratic Party take heed of their weaknesses and correct them, select the strongest possible candidate to defeat Trump. Most importantly and for god’s sake don’t focus on impeachment as a means to win, it’s not enough, ppl want real change not meaningless promises. Thank you!

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    • Thanks Scottie! Sigh. I hate to be a wet blanket, but the odds of the democrats winning the senate next year are very slim … I would almost say slim-to-none. I’ll have a post on that in a week or so. I would certainly like to see the issues that are important to the people of this nation, such as abortion, LGBT rights, civil rights, minimum wage, health care, etc., addressed, but until we can oust Mitch McConnell and his band of merry bootlickers, it’s going to be an uphill battle all the way. Hugs!

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      • Hello Jill. Very true. I am upset with some of these people running for President who could very likely win the Senate seats in their home states. Like Beto. He has no chance of the Presidency. Yet he hopes to be picked for VP so he wont run for the senate. Abrams is doing the same thing. These people are sabotaging our chance to really make a difference. All for their pride so they can use this election as a stepping stone to a future Presidency. Hugs

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        • You are so right, Scottie! O’Rourke and Abrams both need some ‘boots on the ground’ experience before they are ready for a presidential run, and the large number of hats in the ring is detrimental … there are too many and it dilutes the pool. What do those Beto fans do when he fails to win the nomination? Probably just what so many Sanders fans did when Hillary won the nomination … they show their dissatisfaction by not voting at all. Unfortunately, there aren’t too many senate races where a republican incumbent is predicted to lose … at least not at this time. A lot can change in 17 months, though, so I’m not ready to give up yet. Hugs!

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