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THE ROAD TO BROWN

Shantella Y. Sherman | 6/13/2013, 8:04 a.m.

A Timeline of School Desegregation Efforts 1883-1954

1883 The Supreme Court strikes down the Civil Rights Act of 1875 finding that discrimination by individuals or private businesses is constitutional.

1883 The Supreme Court strikes down the Civil Rights Act of 1875 finding that discrimination by individuals or private businesses is constitutional.

1896 The Supreme Court authorizes segregation in Plessy v. Ferguson, finding Louisiana's "separate but equal" law constitutional. The ruling, built on notions of white supremacy and black inferiority, provides legal justification for Jim Crow laws in southern states.

1899 The Supreme Court allows a state to levy taxes on black and white citizens alike while providing a public school for white children only. (Cumming v. Richmond (Ga.) County Board of Education)

1927 The Supreme Court finds that states possess the right to define a Chinese student as non-white for the purpose of segregating public schools. (Gong Lum v. Rice)

1936 The Maryland Supreme Court orders the state's white law school to enroll a black student because there is no state-supported law school for Blacks in Maryland. (University of Maryland v. Murray)

1938 The Supreme Court rules the practice of sending black students out of state for legal training when the state provides a law school for whites within its borders does not fulfill the state's "separate but equal" obligation. The Court orders Missouri's all-white law school to grant admission to an African American student. (Missouri ex rel. Gaines v. Canada)

1940 30% of Americans — 40% of Northerners and 2% of Southerners — believe that Whites and Blacks should attend the same schools. A federal court requires equal salaries for African American and white teachers. (Alston v. School Board of City of Norfolk)

1947 In a precursor to the Brown case, a federal appeals court strikes down segregated schooling for Mexican American and white students. (Westminster School Dist. v. Mendez) The verdict prompts California Governor Earl Warren to repeal a state law calling for segregation of Native American and Asian American students.

1950 The Supreme Court rejects Texas' plan to create a new law school for black students rather than admit an African American to the state's whites-only law school. (Sweatt v. Painter) The Court also held that the policy of isolating a black student from his peers within a white law school is unconstitutional. (McLaurin v. Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education)

1952 The Supreme Court hears oral arguments in Brown v. Board of Education. Thurgood Marshall, who will later become the first African American justice on the Supreme Court, is the lead counsel for the black school children.

1953 The Supreme Court hears the second round of arguments in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka.

1954 In a unanimous opinion, the Supreme Court in Brown v. Board of Education overturns Plessy and declares that separate schools are "inherently unequal." The Court delays deciding on how to implement the decision and asks for another round of arguments. The Court rules that the federal government is under the same duty as the states and must desegregate the Washington, D.C., schools. (Bolling v. Sharpe)

One of the pivotal strongholds of race-based discrimination was dismantled in May 1954 with the U.S. Supreme court decision to end segregation in public schools, with the Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas case. Having previously sanctioned segregation with the 1896 Plessy v. Ferguson ruling – wherein racial segregation was deemed legal provided separate, but equal accommodations were afforded, forced integration became the battleground upon which the modern civil rights movement emerged. As the nation prepares to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the “Brown decision,” The Washington Informer announces a yearlong examination of school integration and the impact – both positive and negative – the “Brown decision” has had on racial and social progress in America. Each month, beginning June 27, the Informer will bring together some of the best social commentators, historians, educators, and everyday people, to remember, analyze, project, and celebrate those who paved The Road to Brown. – Shantella Y. Sherman