Shelby: The Supreme Court is the highest court in the United States and it has the final say on how the U.S. Constitution applies to the lives of Americans. So today, Demetrius Pipkin is putting you to the test with a question about one of the Supreme Court’s most historic decisions. Take it away, Demetrius.
Demetrius: Thanks, Shelby. Now, this past Saturday marked the 60th anniversary of a landmark case decided by the Supreme Court back in 1954 that helped to end racial segregation. The decision outlawed the laws that allowed separating people by race as long as they were treated equally. But do you know which case that was? That is today’s pop quiz.
What Supreme Court case ruled that ‘separate but equal’ was unconstitutional? Was it:
A. Marbury vs. Madison
B. Miranda vs. Arizona
C. Brown vs. Board of Education
D. Roe vs. Wade
You have 10 seconds.
Alright. Time is up! The answer is ‘C’. Brown vs. Board of Education.
Over the weekend, first lady Michelle Obama addressed graduating high school students in Topeka, Kansas, the city at the heart of the 1954 ruling.
Michelle Obama: I believe that all of you – our soon to be graduates – you all are the living, breathing legacy of this case.
Demetrius: Before the 1950s, many schools across the United States were segregated, meaning black students and white students went to separate schools, rode different busses, and white students were usually granted more opportunities than their black peers.
In Topeka, Kansas, 7-year-old Linda Brown had to walk six blocks to a bus stop and then take the bus to an all-black school a mile away. But just a few blocks from her home was Sumner Elementary where only white students were allowed. So her father, Oliver Brown, sued the school board, arguing that ‘separate but equal’ was, in fact, not equal at all. He said segregation was a violation of his daughter’s rights under the equal protection clause in the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution.
Rita Mosley: They were not treated equal. They didn’t have equal equipment and education. And this just started the ball rolling for everybody.
Demetrius: When the case reached the Supreme Court, Brown vs. The Board of Education included school districts in four states plus the District of Columbia. It was being argued by Thurgood Marshall, who would later go on to become the first African-American justice to serve on the Supreme Court.
On May 17th, 1954, the Supreme Court unanimously agreed that having separate educational facilities was inherently unequal and therefore unconstitutional.
Even after the ruling, many schools fought integration, trying to keep blacks out of white schools.
Protestors: 2, 4, 6, 8! We don’t want to integrate!
Demetrius: In Little Rock, Arkansas, federal troops were called in to help.
But the Brown case was an instrumental victory in the fight for civil rights and eventually paved the way for equality for blacks in other areas – equal housing, equal employment, equal voting rights and more.
Demetrius Pipkin, Channel One News.