On this day in 1954, a major turning point in civil rights history was reached when the Brown v. Board of Education verdict released.
Nearly 60 years to the day, Supreme Court decision Plessy v. Ferguson ruled seven-to-one that a previous Louisiana law stating that separate but equal seating on railroad cars was constitutional. The decision was justified on the account that as long as accommodations were provided, it was legal and did not hinder the 14th Amendment.
The historic ruling came to be the measuring unit to justify and continue mass discrimination and segregation, especially in the Deep South.
The separate but equal clause continued to plague all public and private facilities until the law was overturned by Brown v. Board of Education.
In 1951, thirteen parents from Topeka, Kansas filed a suit against the Board of Education of the City of Topeka on behalf of their 20 children for deliberate racial segregation.
One of the parents, a welder named Oliver Brown represented the parents and schoolchildren as the plaintiff. Brown’s daughter, Linda, was forced to walk six blocks just to ride the school bus to her allotted school, whereas the white school was a mere seven blocks from her house. When Brown attempted to enroll his daughter in the closer school, she was rejected and referred to the colored school. Partnering with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Brown and the other parents took their case to the Supreme Court. Future Supreme Court justice Thurgood Marshall led the prosecution team.
After a long, drawn-out trial, finally the court had a decision.
On May 17, 1954, Chief Justice Earl Warren read the Supreme Court’s verdict: separate but equal was unconstitutional not only in Linda’s case, but in all cases because educational segregation stamped an inherent badge of inferiority on African American students. The court recommended the public school system to be integrated and with “deliberate speed.”
Although the civil rights movement still had yet to traverse on the bitter path to equality, one small step in bettering the education system of the young African-Americans prepared a bright future.