Curated by the members of the BNY Mellon Pre-Professional Development Program, On the Road to Integration: Celebrating the 60th Anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education explores the moments before and after the legendary ruling.
The Supreme Court case Brown v. Board of Education (1954) has long been considered one of the most influential in American History. Under the leadership of Chief Justice Earl Warren, the court unanimously declared that “separate but equal” segregation in public schools violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth amendment and was thus unconstitutional. This decision overturned that of previous landmark cases, Roberts v. the City of Boston (1849), which affirmed states’ rights to segregate races in public schools, and Plessy v. Ferguson (1896), which concluded that racial segregation was constitutional on the basis of the “separate but equal” doctrine. That next year in 1955, courts ruled that school desegregation be carried out with “all deliberate speed." The road to integration, however, would not end there.
While many celebrated Brown v. Board as a major milestone in racial equality, the ruling was not without controversy. Some black people feared reprisal and worried that desegregation would further alienate blacks and threaten the jobs of black school teachers. Brave, young black children who attempted to attend integrated schools were faced with angry dissenters. Whites, who feared miscegenation, actively protested the ruling and created hostile and unwelcoming environments for black children and their parents.
60 years after the Brown ruling, we still find ourselves on the road to integration. The most glaring obstacles today are those of self-segregation and school redistricting, with instances being documented all over the country. Brown v. Board opened the door to integration, but it is up to us to march inside.