Brown v Board of Education 55 Years Later

On this day, May 16, 1954 the United States Supreme Court decision in Oliver L. Brown v. the Board of Education of Topeka (KS) was given. This case is among the most significant judicial turning points in the development of our country. Originally led by Charles H. Houston, and later Thurgood Marshall and a formidable legal team, it dismantled the legal basis for racial segregation in schools and other public facilities.

By declaring that the discriminatory nature of racial segregation “violates the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which guarantees all citizens equal protection of the laws,” Brown v. Board of Education laid the foundation for shaping future national and international policies regarding human rights.

So it amazes me today when people still cling to the ways of what was the discriminatory law of the land. We often here people say that race doesn’t matter, especially when we finally have elected our first Black president. Many people think racism was left in the voting booth on that first Tuesday November 2008, but fail to honestly address all of the issues that surround race that remained after President Obama was declared the winner. Racial discrimination is far from over in any venue, we can look at our educational system today as evidence of that.

Brown v. Board of Education was not simply about children and education. The laws and policies struck down by this court decision were products of the human tendencies to prejudge, discriminate against, and stereotype other people by their ethnic, religious, physical, or cultural characteristics. Ending this behavior as a legal practice caused far reaching social and ideological implications, which continue to be felt throughout our country. The Brown decision inspired and galvanized human rights struggles across the country and around the world.

What this legal challenge represents is at the core of United States history and the freedoms we enjoy. The U.S. Supreme Court decision in Brown began a critical chapter in the maturation of our democracy. It reaffirmed the sovereign power of the people of the United States in the protection of their natural rights from arbitrary limits and restrictions imposed by state and local governments. These rights are recognized in the Declaration of Independence and guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.

While this case was an important historic milestone, it is often misunderstood and misrepresented. Over the years, the facts pertaining to the Brown case have been overshadowed by myths, falsehoods and mischaracterizations:

  • Brown v. Board of Education was not the first challenge to school segregation. As early as 1849, African Americans filed suit against an educational system that mandated racial segregation, in the case of Roberts v. City of Boston.
  • Oliver Brown, the case namesake, was just one of the nearly 200 plaintiffs from five states who were part of the NAACP cases brought before the Supreme Court in 1951. The Kansas case was named for Oliver Brown as a legal strategy to have a man head the plaintiff roster.

The Brown decision initiated educational and social reform throughout the United States and was a catalyst in launching the modern Civil Rights Movement. Bringing about change in the years since the Brown case continues to be difficult. But the Brown v. Board of Education victory brought this country one step closer to living up to its democratic ideas.

Today we celebrate the fifty-fifth anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education decision that kick started the enforcing of making American as good as its promise. So today I ask you to examine what you’re doing to promote and incorporate diversity?

References & Inspirations