Civil Rights and Education System

The breaking down of imposed racial separation, normally known as desegregation, has always been a fundamental aim of the civil rights movement in United States and was given special impetus by the Supreme Court’s 1954 decision in Brown v. Board of Education that ruled segregated schools unconstitutional.

Imposed separation or isolation on a race or class from the rest of the population, In the United States, segregation has taken two forms; legal where a set of laws such as those that prevailed in the South until the 1960s mandates such separation; and de facto segregation, which often prevailed in the North and is enforced by cultural and economic patterns in housing and education rather than by law (Witte, 1991).

Segregation of white and Negro children in the public schools of a State solely on the basis of race, pursuant to state laws permitting or requiring such segregation, denies to Negro children the equal protection of the laws guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment, even though the physical facilities and other “tangible” factors of white and Negro schools may be equal.

The history of the Fourteenth Amendment is inconclusive as to its intended effect on public education, and therefore question presented in these cases must be determined not on the basis of conditions existing when the Fourteenth Amendment was adopted, but in the light of the full development of public education and its present place in American life throughout the Nation. Bearing in mind that, where a State has undertaken to provide an opportunity for an education in its public schools, such an opportunity is a right which must be made available to all on equal terms.

Segregation of children in public schools solely on the basis of race deprives children of the minority group of equal educational opportunities, even though the physical facilities and other “tangible” factors may be equal. (Rasell ; Roltstein, 1993). It should be noted that the “separate but equal” doctrine adopted in Plessey V. Ferguson in the US has no place in the field of public education. Since, the cases are restored to the docket for further argument on specified questions relating to the forms of the decrees (Young, ; Chincy, 1992).

These cases come from the States of Kansas, South Carolina, Virginia, and Delaware. They are premised on different facts and different local conditions, but a common legal question justifies their consideration together in this consolidated opinion. n each of the cases, minors of the Negro race, through their legal representatives, seek the aid of the courts in obtaining admission to the public schools of their community on a no segregated basis. In each instance, they had been denied admission to schools attended by white children under laws requiring or permitting segregation according to race.

This segregation was alleged to deprive the plaintiffs of the equal protection of the laws under the Fourteenth Amendment. In each of the cases other than the Delaware case, a three-judge federal district court denied relief to the plaintiffs on the so-called “separate but equal” doctrine announced by the Court in Plessy V. Fergson. Under that doctrine, equality of treatment is accorded when the races are provided substantially equal facilities, even though these facilities are separate.

In the Delaware case, the Supreme Court of Delaware adhered to that doctrine, but ordered that the plaintiffs be admitted to the white schools because of their superiority to the Negro schools (Glenn, 1988). The plaintiffs contend that segregated public schools are not “equal” and cannot be made “equal,” and that hence they are deprived of the equal protection of the laws. Because of the obvious importance of the question presented, the Court took jurisdiction. It is not an accident that the pivotal Supreme Court decision launching the modern civil rights movement was an education case; the 1954 Brown V.

Board of Education of Topeka ruling, but in many ways, it was the drive to end segregated education system and to put African American and white children in the same classrooms was the most radical and potentially far-reaching aspect of the civil rights movement. Such a change was meant to alter the attitudes and socialization of children, beginning from the youngest ages as well as end the inequality inherent in all “separate but equal” facilities, whether they were drinking fountains, public accommodations, or in the schools (Hakim, et al. , 1994).

The African American struggle for desegregation did not arise because anyone believed that there was something magical about sitting next to whites in a classroom. It was, however, based on a belief that the dominant group would keep control of the most successful schools in all states and that the only way to get full range of opportunities for the minority child was in getting access to those schools. But all the same, the struggle for integrated Schools has gone through a number of phases since the 1954 decision and has been shaped both encouraged and constrained by various court rulings and emotional political and public policy battles.

Following Brown I and Brown II which called for desegregation with ‘all deliberate speed’ in 1955, education, became the focus of what was called the South’s “massive resistance” to the Court’s rulings and the massive resistance was symbolized most dramatically in 1957 by Arkansas Governor Orval Faubus’ order when he stated that the state’s national guard unit block the admission of nine African American students to Little Rock’s Central High School and the almost one month confrontation ended when the president sent U. S. troops to protect the students.

One of the variety methods of action employed by the states and localities in order to resist implementing the Supreme Court’s rulings was the Faubus’ action (Cookson, 1994).


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