Published 06 Jan 2017

In the year 1954, the Supreme Court of the United States delivered a milestone decision in the case of Brown v Board of Education of Topeka, wherein it declared that creation of separate schools on the basis of the race of students was contrary to the provisions of the constitution. During that time, the District of Columbia and several other southern states had made it mandatory for all public schools to be racially segregated. Kansas and some of the northern and western states gave discretionary powers to inpidual schools to decide on the issue of segregation. Thus a majority of schools were desegregated in 1954, while the schools in Topeka remained unsegregated (Finkelman, 2005).

The 14th Amendment to the Constitution assures that every person should be provided with equal protection irrespective of race. The Supreme Court in the Brown II case of 1955 placed the responsibility of implementing desegregation on the federal district courts located in the South. The plaintiff Linda Brown was not permitted to join an integrated school until she had reached college education. In fact, the children of twenty plaintiffs in the Clarendon County case never went to integrated schools. This situation actuated Brown to invoke the civil rights movement and file cases in the courts against the education authorities. This ultimately resulted in eradication of all sorts of statutory racial discrimination (Finkelman, 2005).

The ruling of the Supreme Court in the Brown case had become a turning point in legal policies that were formed in the case of Plessy v Ferguson wherein it was held that educational practices though separate should be equal. The 14th Amendment had construed that equality as per the law would be achieved through segregated facilities. Legislation to that effect was enacted in the South which instituted separate facilities for Blacks and Whites in every aspect of the society (Finkelman, 2005).

In 1971, the Supreme Court of the United States adopted measures concerning legalized desegregation in public schools in the case of Swann v Charlotte – Mecklenburg Board of Education. In that case the school board’s stratagem of implementing desegregation had been found inadequate; in this regard the district court directed the authorities to implement the desegregation strategy designed by it. The Supreme Court upheld the district court’s order without dissenting. The legitimatized facilities in a forced desegregation of offender school system include transport by bus, racial quotas and reorganization of school districts. The Supreme Court approved of the various bus transport programs, which accelerate racial integration of public schools (Jones-Wilson, 1996, p72-73).

The strategy of busing was accepted in the United States which was considered to be a key factor in the integration process in the US public schools. Subsequently, court – ordered busing programs faced much criticism equally from the whites and the African Americans. The latter claimed that these programs unnecessarily made their children to continue on in spite of the difficulty involved in the long bus rides to school. In most major cities court – ordered busing prevailed until the 1990s (Jones-Wilson, 1996, p72-73).

During the process of desegregation most of the black teachers faced unemployment. There were nearly 82,000 black teachers in the year 1954 teaching two million black children. Subsequent to the case of Brown, around 41,600 black teachers and administrators in 17 Southern schools lost their jobs. More than 50% of black administrators were either dismissed or demoted. The ousting of staff en masse was possible because many black schools were closed down during desegregation. The black educators had been removed from service even though their educational qualifications were much higher than that of their white counterparts (Byrne & Anderson, 2004, p89-91).

According to the National Education Association, more than 85% of black teachers had college degrees in comparison to 75% of white teachers. Thus the black children were deprived of expert and better qualified black teachers. Prior to Brown, white administrators had permitted black administrators to operate the black portion of the school system.

This practice enabled black educators to inculcate quality education to black students. In the pre – Brown period every student was given equal opportunity to improve their skills. The practice of segregation provided a sort of protection to black students from discrimination and racist ideologies, which they experienced in the desegregated era in the post – Brown integrated schools (Byrne & Anderson, 2004, p89-91).


  • Byrne, D. N., & Anderson, J. (2004, p89-91). The Unfinsihed Agenda of Brown v Board of Education. perse: Issues in Higher E.
  • Finkelman, P. (2005). Brown v Board of Education of Topeka. Redmond: WA: Micosoft Encarta 2006 (DVD).
  • Jones-Wilson, F. C. (1996, p72-73). Encyclopedia of African-American Education. Greenwood Press.
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