Brown vs. The Board of Education and
the Question of Segregation

Introduction

[Mrs. Nettie Hunt, sitting on steps of Supreme Court, holding newspaper, explaining to her daughter Nikie the meaning of the Supreme Court's decision banning school segregation]On May 17, 1954, the United States Supreme Court ruled that it was unconstitutional, violating the 14th amendment, to separate children in public schools for no other reason than their race. It started as an effort of Reverend Oliver L. Brown to enroll his daughter Linda Carol Brown in an all white school near by their Kansas home. With the help of other like-minded parents, the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) gathered documentation and filed a lawsuit against the Topeka Board of Education. When the Topeka case made its way to the United States Supreme Court it was combined with other NAACP cases from Delaware, Virginia, South Carolina and Washington, D.C. The combined cases became known as Oliver L. Brown et. al. vs. The Board of Education of Topeka (KS).

Brown vs. The Board of Education helped change America forever. It confronted the American public with the question of segregation; but, initial reactions to the ban on segregation differed and the process was slow. Eventually, however, Brown v. Board lead to rulings on entertainment, public parks and pools, and many other areas of everyday life.

National History Standards

Materials compiled in this document can be used by educators to fulfill the following National History Standards for Grades 5-12:

Era 9: Postwar United States (1945 to early 1970s) 

Standard 4: The struggle for racial and gender equality and for the extension of civil liberties 

Standard 4A: The student understands the “Second Reconstruction” and its advancement of civil rights.

5-12: Evaluate the Warren Court’s reasoning in Brown v. Board of Education and its significance in advancing civil rights. [Analyze cause-and-effect relationships]

Primary Resources

  1. DESCRIPTION: Photograph, An Elementary School in Hurlock, Maryland
    DATE CREATED/PUBLISHED: [between 1921 and 1960]
    EXHIBITED: With an Even Hand: Brown vs. Board at Fifty
    REPRODUCTIONS: How To Order Copies of This Item
    COPYRIGHT: Copyright and Other Restrictions
    SOURCE: Forms part of: NAACP photographs of schools and activities ... from the Visual Materials from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People Records (Library of Congress).
    REPOSITORY: Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, Washington, DC

  2. DESCRIPTION: [Letter on official stationary from the Peabody Conservatory of Music, Baltimore, Md., notifying an applicant that "no colored students are accepted"]
    DATE CREATED/PUBLISHED: 1926 Feb. 22.
    REPRODUCTIONS: How To Order Copies of This Item
    COPYRIGHT: Copyright and Other Restrictions
    SOURCE: Forms part of: Visual Materials from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People Records.
    REPOSITORY: Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, Washington, DC 

  3. DESCRIPTION: Brown v. Board of Education, 347 U.S. 483 (1954) (USSC+)
    DATE CREATED/PUBLISHED: 1954
    SOURCE: Cornell Law School

  4. DESCRIPTION: The Supreme Court Judgment
    DATE CREATED/PUBLISHED: Chief Justice Warren, May 1954; transcript May 1955.
    SOURCE: U.S. National Archives and Records Administration
    REPOSITORY: National Archives Central Plains Region (Kansas City, MO), Microfilm reel # AR 1939.

  5. DESCRIPTION:  Supreme Court of the United States: Brown vs. Board of Education I
    DATE CREATED/PUBLISHED: 1954
    NOTE: Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of Kansas
    SOURCE: National Center for Public History Research

  6. DESCRIPTION: Supreme Court of the United States: Brown vs. Board of Education II
    DATE CREATED/PUBLISHED: 1955
    NOTE: Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of Kansas
    SOURCE: National Center for Public History Research

  7. DESCRIPTION: Letter from Justice Burton to Chief Justice Warren praising the Brown decision
    DATE CREATED/PUBLISHED: May 17, 1954, Justice Harold H. Burton
    SOURCE: RJH: Brown v. Topeka Board of Education

  8. DESCRIPTION:  “High Tribunal Bans Race Segregation In Schools”
    DATE CREATED/PUBLISHED:  May 17, 1954
    SOURCE:  The Evening Sun, page 1 and 3, column 2.

  9. DESCRIPTION:  “School Ruling Praised in England”
    DATE CREATED/PUBLISHED: May 18, 1954
    SOURCE:  The Evening Sun, page 1

  10. DESCRIPTION:  “Press Comment On Racial Ruling”
    DATE CREATED/PUBLISHED: May 18, 1954
    NOTE: includes “Negro Press Comment” and “Ex-Judge Waring Hails Fine Ruling”
    SOURCE:  The Evening Sun, page 4

  11. DESCRIPTION:  “The School Segregation Cases”
    DATE CREATED/PUBLISHED: May 18, 1954
    SOURCE:  The Evening Sun, page 22

  12. DESCRIPTION:  “City To Abide By Ruling On Segregation”
    DATE CREATED/PUBLISHED: May 18, 1954
    SOURCE:  The Evening Sun, page 25

  13. DESCRIPTION:  “High Court Sets Oct. Hearing On Segregation”
    DATE CREATED/PUBLISHED: May 19, 1954
    SOURCE:  The Evening Sun, page 2

  14. DESCRIPTION:  “Uneven School Problem”
    DATE CREATED/PUBLISHED: May 19, 1954
    SOURCE:  The Evening Sun, page 40

  15. DESCRIPTION:  “Southern Call For Calmness”
    DATE CREATED/PUBLISHED: May 20, 1954
    SOURCE:  The Evening Sun, page 32

  16. DESCRIPTION:  “U. Of Md. Plan Unaffected By Segregation”
    DATE CREATED/PUBLISHED: May 20, 1954
    SOURCE:  The Evening Sun, page 33

  17. DESCRIPTION:  “Conference Calls”
    DATE CREATED/PUBLISHED: May 21, 1954
    SOURCE:  The Evening Sun, page 24

  18. DESCRIPTION:  “Slow Race-Rule Action Urged”
    DATE CREATED/PUBLISHED: May 22, 1954
    SOURCE:  The Evening Sun, page 2

  19. DESCRIPTION:   “New Florida U. Race Decision Ordered”
    DATE CREATED/PUBLISHED: May 24, 1954
    SOURCE:  The Evening Sun, page 1 and 3, column 5

  20. DESCRIPTION:  “Negro Unit To Ask High Court To End Segregation This Fall”
    DATE CREATED/PUBLISHED: May 24, 1954
    SOURCE:  The Evening Sun, page 3

  21. DESCRIPTION:  “Politics And People: The School Ruling And The Primaries”
    DATE CREATED/PUBLISHED: May 24, 1954
    SOURCE:  The Evening Sun, article by Thomas O’Neill, page 18

  22. DESCRIPTION:  “D.C. Is Ending Segregation In School”
    DATE CREATED/PUBLISHED: May 25, 1954
    SOURCE:  The Evening Sun, page 1

  23. DESCRIPTION:  “Texas Negro Pupils Want Whites To Like Them”
    DATE CREATED/PUBLISHED: May 26, 1954
    SOURCE:  The Evening Sun, page 4

  24. DESCRIPTION:  “School Segregation”
    DATE CREATED/PUBLISHED: May 27, 1954
    SOURCE:  The Evening Sun, page 36

  25. DESCRIPTION:  “Christian View On Race Urged On Elders”
    DATE CREATED/PUBLISHED: May 29, 1954
    SOURCE:  The Evening Sun, page 2

  26. DESCRIPTION:  “Segregation Up As N.C. Holds Primaries”
    DATE CREATED/PUBLISHED: May 29, 1954
    SOURCE:  The Evening Sun, page 4

  27. DESCRIPTION:  “Ban Requested On Park, Pool Segregation”
    DATE CREATED/PUBLISHED: May 29, 1954
    SOURCE:  The Evening Sun, page 18

  28. DESCRIPTION:  “The Forum: Proud Of Decision” and “Wants Segregation”
    DATE CREATED/PUBLISHED: May 31, 1954
    NOTES: letters from readers
    SOURCE:  The Evening Sun, page 26

  29. DESCRIPTION:  “Controversial Bills Attract Assembly”
    DATE CREATED/PUBLISHED: March 7, 1955
    NOTE: A paragraph discussing bill on segregation reveals the position on many people at that time to this question: “On Wednesday the civil rights bill which would open hotels, restaurants and places of amusement to all races will have a hearing before the Senate Judicial Proceeding Committee. The Measure, sponsored by Senator Harry A. Cole (R, Fourth), is vigorously opposed by the Maryland Hotel Association.”
    SOURCE:  The Evening Sun, page 22

  30. DESCRIPTION:  “First Mixed Audience Hears Negro Soprano In Miss.”
    DATE CREATED/PUBLISHED: March 12, 1955
    SOURCE:  The Evening Sun, page 4

  31. DESCRIPTION:  “Racial Ruling Reversed In Beach Case”
    DATE CREATED/PUBLISHED: March 14, 1955
    SOURCE:  The Evening Sun, page 42

Additional Media Resources

Brown Vs. The Board of Education: the Interactive Experience, this web page offers audio recordings of Martin Luther’s King "I have a dream," "School-Goer's Story," and the U.S. Supreme Court Decision.

Brown vs Board of Education. In Pursuit of Freedom & Equality: Kansas and the African American Public School Experience, 1855-1955. From Brown Foundation for Educational Equity, Excellence and Research

With an Even Hand: Brown vs. Board at Fifty. From the Library of Congress

Civil Rights Struggles

From Segregation to Integration: Selected Chronology

Oliver Brown, et al vs. Board of Education, Topeka, Kansas (a description of the microfilm # AR 1939, containing primary documents connected to the case)

Levy, Lawrence. Brown v. the Board of Education video recording/ Learning corporation of America. American document series (Deerfield, IL: Coronet/MTI Film & Video, distributor, 1991).

Riley, Larry. Brown v. the Board of Education [videorecording] / Advanced American Communications presents. American documents series (Northbrook, Ill.: Learning Corporation of America; distributed by Coronet/MTI Film & Video, c1991).

Brown v. Board of Education (1954)

Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site

Rise and Fall of Jim Crow. From PBS.org

School: The Story of American Public Education. From PBS.org

Additional Instructional Resources

Brown v. the Board of Education: Success or Failure? From UMBC Center for History Education, Teaching American History Lesson Plans.

Brown v. The Board of Education: In Pursuit of Fun, Freedom and Quality!

Teaching With Documents Lesson Plan: Documents Related to Brown v. Board of Education. From National Archives Digital Classroom

Frontiers in Civil Rights: Dorothy E. Davis, et al. versus County School Board of Prince Edward County, Virginia. From National Archives Digital Classroom

From Canterbury to Little Rock: The Struggle for Educational Equality for African Americans. From the National Park Service, Teaching with Historic Places Lesson Plans

New Kent School and the George W. Watkins School: From Freedom of Choice to Integration. From the National Park Service, Teaching with Historic Places Lesson Plans

Fighting Jim Crow in the Schools. From PBS.org

From Jim Crow to Linda Brown, Gr. 9-12

Thurgood Marshall: Justice for All. From A&E Classrooms. 

What Has Brown Done For You?  From the New York Times on the Web Learning Network.

Secondary Resources

“A Look Back on ‘Brown vs. Board of Ed.” Nina Totenberg. (NPR: Morning Edition, December 12, 2003); transcript available upon request from the radio station.

Dudley, M. E. Brown v. Board of Education, 1954 (New York: Twenty-First Century Books, 1994).

Hill, Oliver W. The big bang: Brown vs Board of Education and beyond: the autobiography of Oliver W. Hill, Sr. (Winter Park, FL : Four-G Publishers, 2000). 

Masters, Isabell. The life and legacy of Oliver Brown, the first listed plaintiff of Brown v\0332s\0332. Board of Education, Topeka, Kansas (Norman: [s.n.], 1980).

Associated Heritage and Preservation Organizations

Brown V Board of Education National Historic Site
424 South Kansas Avenue
Suite 220
Topeka, KS 66603-3441
Phone: 785-354-4273

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Credits

Teaching American History in Maryland is a collaborative partnership of the Maryland State Archives and the Center for History Education (CHE), University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC), and the following sponsoring school systems: Anne Arundel County Public Schools, Baltimore City Public School System, Baltimore County Public Schools, and Howard County Public Schools.

Other program partners include the Martha Ross Center for Oral History, Maryland Historical Society, State Library Resource Center/Enoch Pratt Free Library, with assistance from the National Archives and Records Administration and the Library of Congress. The program is funded through grants from the U.S. Department of Education.

 

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