The Impact of the Abolition of Segregation on American Education

free essayThe dramatic struggle against racial segregation of blacks from whites, which set the tone of the 1960s, was preceded by several occasions. One of the most important events was 1954 Supreme Court decision of Brown v. Board of Education (Daniel and Todd Walker 256). The resolution overturned the action of Jim Crow laws and the 1896 Plessy v. Ferguson case that legalized segregation (Lopez and Burciaga 799). Before 1954, public places in the United States were segregated. African American children could not attend the same school with white children and often had to walk far distances to a black school. Their parents worried about the safety of their children and wanted to change the school system. Mr. Brown, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), and some other African Americans had to go a long way to reach desegregation of schools. They wanted to show that racial separation was useless and did not facilitate education. Brown v. Board of Education decision was the result of their tremendous efforts.

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Racial discrimination has always been an inherent problem for the Unites States. Although the Civil War put an end to slavery, it created another problem called segregation. African Americans believed that they could become a part of the democratic society and freely enjoy all the rights and freedoms granted them by the Constitution. To their disappointment, very soon after the Civil War, segregation was legalized (Daniel and Walker 256). The basis for segregation legislation was Jim Crow laws that greatly limited the liberties and opportunities of people of color. They prohibited people of color from attending the same school, gathering in public places or living in the neighborhoods with the whites (Lopez and Burciaga 799).Moreover, African Americans did not have the right to vote. In 1892, Homer Plessey challenged Jim Crow laws by refusing to vacate the seat in the whites-only train car. Plessey brought this case to the Supreme Court (“Plessy v. Ferguson”). However, in 1896, he lost the Plessy v. Ferguson case, and segregation became legal. Brown v. Board of Education was a landmark decision which abolished Jim Crow laws and the Plessy v. Ferguson decision of 1896 applied to public education. (“Plessy v. Ferguson”). Thus, the United States Supreme Court resolution declared that segregation of public schools was the violation of the Fourteenth Amendment.

Before 1954, there were separate schools for white and black children. African American children could not attend any school with their white peers. As a result, many children of color had to walk far distances to get to school. Their parents worried about the safety of children. They knew that this situation with segregation of schools was not right and decided to reform the school board system. The case with Mr. Brown showed that even though African Americans were free from slavery, they still did not enjoy equal rights and needed protection under the laws of the United States (Rubin 10). After the Brown v. Board of Education decision, Jim Crow laws were overturned and segregation was coming to an end.

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Brown v. Board of Education case started with an appeal from Linda and Oliver Brown. These African American parents had three daughters: Darlene, Cheryl, and Linda. Oliver Brown dreamed that his daughters would get a good education and have a bright future. He worried when Linda, his 8-year-old daughter, had to take the long bus drive and go across a dangerous railroad to reach her school, Monroe Elementary. He tried to register Linda in another elementary school that was just seven blocks away. However, it was an all-white school and its principal did not let a colored student attend classes. After that, Mr. Brown went to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and asked for assistance (Rubin 17). In 1951, Mr. Brown, some other African American parents, and the NAACP started a battle with the segregation of schools. Mr. Brown as the only male became the lead plaintiff.

When this case reached the state level, Mr. Brown lost it. The reason was Plessy v. Ferguson decision, which allowed separation between the black and white people. It stated that segregation did not violate any law or amendment. Racial discrimination was commonplace for American communities at that time, and the court decided the separation would better prepare children for adulthood. However, after losing at the state level, Mr. Brown and the NAACP did not stop and decided to take their case a step further. In October 1951, they appealed to the Supreme Court.

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On December 9, 1952, the Supreme Court of the United States heard from the advocates of both sides for the first time. The advocates of Mr. Brown claimed that, unless there was a proof that children of color were different from white children, there should not be segregation in education. The advocates of the Board of Education protested that many people, among who were also some black scholars, did not consider separation of black and white children a significant problem. Three long years passed before Mr. Brown finally won the case against the Board of Education on May 17, 1954 (Rubin 53). However, it took some schools even longer to bring all of their students together in the same classrooms and have them treated equitably. There were also people, who still oppose the implementation of desegregation laws. Nevertheless, Mr. Brown, his daughter Linda, and the NAACP forever changed the world.

The Brown v. Board of Education decision greatly changed African-American history and influenced the nature of racial relations in the United States. This case became an incentive for many other supporters of the Civil Rights Movement, including Martin Luther King Jr. It opened the eyes of people to the problem and showed that the skin color did not actually matter. Many Americans, especially those of African descent, believed that a new era began on May 17, 1954, when the Supreme Court of the United States declared that black and white segregation in public schools was unconstitutional. However, the reality was a bit different. Before 1954, white and black children were used to separation from each other. After the enforcement of the Brown v. Board of Education policy, they all ended up together as one, and it was quite hard for them to adapt to this change for a while. Moreover, many schools for African American children went bankrupt. Some black teachers lost their jobs, and few white schools wanted to hire them. In addition, many schools remained virtually segregated because of the neighborhood patterns. In the 1970s, American schools districts tried to achieve a racial balance by using the tactic of transferring students to schools outside their neighborhood. Some white parents, in turn, transferred their children to private schools (Wanda 20). Therefore, it did take some time for parents, children, and teachers to adapt to the changes.

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Despite all the difficulties, the Brown v. Board of Education case had a tremendous impact on the American society and educational system. The abolition of segregation provided all American children with a chance to enjoy equal rights and liberties in regard to education. They could finally enter the nation at the rates equal to the whites. Moreover, desegregation made a vast majority of school students less racially prejudiced. They started to learn from each other and discover different interesting things about their cultures. In addition, although the Brown v. Board of Education decision mainly concerned desegregation at the elementary and secondary school level, the subtext was about equality and justice throughout the entire educational system. During the second half of the 20th century, there was a dramatic expansion in the admission of African American students to colleges and universities. Hence, Mr. Brown did not only abolish Jim Crow laws but also stopped segregation in general. He was the voice for the speechless children who could not receive the same education as white children and had to walk miles every day to get to school. Oliver Brown did not do it just to help his daughters. He wanted to defend the rights and freedoms of all black people and change the American attitude to race relations.

Desegregation of schools did change the people who went through it but had a limited influence on the entire society. During the 1970s, public schools dealt with enormous difficulties as educators tried to promote racial desegregation amid the communities, which continued to be separated in relation to social institutions, housing, and employment. Nonetheless, many of the students who went to these schools felt quite comfortable and confident in relations with people of various background and experience. However, after high school, children had to return to a separated society, and thus their lives became far more segregated again. Public schools that brought people of various backgrounds together even for a short period challenged the enormous issue of racial segregation in the society. Many school graduates of the 1980s, being adults in their late 40s today, find themselves leading lives full of racial segregation (Brownstein). Almost all of them go to same-race churches and share their best friends’ racial and ethnic backgrounds. Although their working environments tend to be the most integrated settings, many of these graduates, notably the white ones, have little contact with people of other races within their jobs.

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Today, public schools in some states continue to be as segregated, in some aspects, as they did in the 20th century (Brownstein). In many communities across the country, especially where there are many children of color, white children go to small private schools. African American children, by contrast, usually go to public schools. Such situation has a destructive impact on the country in terms of educational attainment and economic inequality. Therefore, to produce a massive change across the country on the matter of segregation of schools, some families will have to oppose the usual practices and attitudes in their communities. People do better when they are together regardless of their race differences, and there is a lot of evidence proving that children do so too.

To conclude, although abolition of segregation has greatly influenced the educational system of the United States, it had a limited impact on the entire society and did not eliminate the problem of racial discrimination at schools completely. Although there is still some racial segregation left in American schools and communities, Brown v. Board of Education decision gave all Americans a chance to go to the same schools and receive equal and fair treatment today.

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