.. abolition of segregation in the school system. Brown and the other black parents testified to the fact that their children were denied admission to white schools. According to Knappman one parent testified: “It wasn’t to cast any insinuations that our teachers are not capable of teaching our children because they are supreme, extremely intelligent and are capable of teaching my kids or white kids or black kids. But my point was that not only I and my children are craving light, the entire colored race is craving light, and the only way to reach the light is to start our children together in their infancy and they come up together.” (467) With the experience of dealing with many court battles over racial discrimination, Marshall was known to be a verdant with segregation issues. As a matter of fact, according to U.S.
Court Cases, he was anxious to demonstrate not only that segregation did not follow the demands of the Constitution of the United States but also that it may psychologically damage African-Americans, especially the children. In order to prove his point Marshall invited several prominent social scientists to study the situation in Topeka, Kansas, and to comment on the psychological impact of segregation. The groups stated, Assigning a particular group to separate facilities identified this group as having a lower status than other people. (U.S. Court Cases157). Being exposed to segregation and being considered as inferior lowered the self-esteem of the group (157). The Board of Education’s lawyer’s felt differently about the psychological effects on the children.
They felt that since most restaurants, bathrooms, and public facilities in Kansas City were also segregated, schools were only preparing black children for the life of black adults. The board’s argument did not convince the judges. The board was assuming that segregation was a natural desirable way of life for the races to live (Knappman 468). Next, the board used the example of many successful African Americans, who lived through the abolition of slavery, and segregated schools. They believed that segregated schools did not have any prejudicial effect on the children. However, the delusion in the argument was clear. Although some African Americans were capable of overcoming racial prejudice, the majority of African Americans are offered fewer opportunities as a result of segregation.
As a matter of fact, Dr Horace B. English, a psychology professor at Ohio State University, testified: There is a tendency for us to live up to, or perhaps I should say live down to, social expectations and to learn what people say we can learn, and legal segregation definitely depresses the Negro’s expectancy and is therefore prejudicial to his learning. (468) On August 3, 1951 the court was ready for it’s decision. The three judges deciding the case were aware of the Plessy vs. Ferguson decision of 1896.
Plessy justified the separate, but equal school system between the races. As a result, nothing was overturned or changed. Despite expert testimony that separate-but-equal (468) schools were inherently impossible, the court felt compelled to deny Brown and the other plaintiffs (468). On October 1, 1951 the plaintiffs filed a petition for appeal. Under certain special procedures, they went directly to the U.S.
Supreme Court for a trial. The hearing before the court would take three days, and a decision would not be rendered for eighteen months. Among the cases of the twentieth century, Brown vs. The Board of Education would become the most important (Tackach 57). In the summer or 1952, the NAACP’s best legal minds gathered at the New York City offices of the organization’s Legal Defense Fund.
There Thurgood Marshall coordinated an intense four-month attempt to present the NAACP’s argument for school desegregation. Marshall pushed his associates through sixteen-hour days of research as the NAACP’s lawyers prepared the legal briefs that would put forth their argument and the courtroom strategy that would attempt to convince the nine justices of the Supreme Court to rule in favor or the NAACP and outlaw segregation in public schools. (57+) Marshall, with the help of his excellent assistants scrutinized previous Supreme Court decisions that might contribute as legal precedents in this case. Somehow, they needed to find a way to controvert the Supreme Court’s ruling in the Plessy vs. Ferguson case.
They had to influence the court into believing that the rulings on school desegregation handed down during the first decades of the twentieth century should never govern these recent cases. Marshall and his team would have to present the argument that the most recent school desegregation victories suggest that the Plessy vs. Ferguson decision was losing its legal and moral standing, especially when it dealt with public education (58). Almost a week before the hearing in the Supreme Court, Marshall and his lawyers assembled at Howard University’s law school to hold a mock trial. A group of law professors and lawyers acted as the Supreme Court Justices while Marshall and his assistants conducted a dress rehearsal of the case.
The men playing the justices asked difficult questions at the NAACP’s lawyers. As a result, Marshall and his legal team gathered together to perfect their arguments and anticipate counterarguments. By December 9, Marshall and his assistants were prepared to present the most important case of their lives before the U.S. Supreme Court (59). Suddenly, as the NAACP attorneys were planning strategies for the argument for the Brown vs. The Board in September of 1953, Chief Justice Fred Vinson suffered a fatal heart attack.
The death of this Chief Justice could not have come at a worse time, just as the Supreme Court was deciding the most important case of the century (68). Vinson’s replacement was Earl Warren, the popular and well-respected governor of California. Warren had a good reputation for fairness and honesty. Warren was so well respected that both Democrats and Republicans admired him. To Thurgood Marshall, however, the new chief justice caused turmoil. They questions whether the new chief justice would take a radical step to outlaw school segregation and overturn court decisions that had stayed in effect for more than fifty years (68).
In order to be ready for the December arguments, Chief Justice Warren reviewed the entire testimony involving the Brown case. He would read the transcripts of the lower-court and Supreme Court hearings, analyze the legal briefs submitted by all parties, and discuss the case at length with his colleagues on the Court (68). Finally, on May 17, 1954, the Supreme Court Justices were ready to deliver their decisions. At around one o’clock, Chief Justice Warren announced that he was ready to read the Court’s opinion in the case of Brown vs. The Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas.
He reviewed the facts of the case first from the plaintiffs’ claims to the decisions of the lower court. He continued with commenting that segregated schools damage African American students by generating a feeling of inferiority as to their status in the community that may affect their hearts and minds in a way unlike ever to be done. (74) Warren then went on to say: We conclude that in the field of public education the doctrine or ‘separate, but equal’ has no place. Separate educational facilities are inherently unequal. Therefore, we hold that the plaintiffs and others similarly situated are deprived of the equal protection of the laws guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment. (74) Unfortunately, there was much uproar that was against the Supreme Court’s decision.
Some states refused to make any move toward integration. For example, Orval Faubua, governor of Arkansas called in the National Guard when several black children tried to attend a previously all white school in Little Rock. The children underwent a great deal of turmoil as white parents and others blocked the way for the black students. Finally, President Eisenhower sent five hundred paratroopers to enforce the new court order. On the other hand, integration went by smoothly in some parts of the country.
Soon, integration became the norm throughout all areas of social life (Kraft 124+). Although it took a great deal of work, and effort Brown vs. The Board of Education proved to be the most important Supreme Court case of the twentieth century. With the help of the NAACP, and the intelligence and strategy of Thurgood Marshall, segregation was eliminated; and the idea of separate, but equal was no longer accepted. Historian David Halberstam stated in his history of the 1950’s: The Brown vs. The Board of Education decision not only legally ended segregation, it deprived segregationist practices of their moral legitimacy as well. It was therefore perhaps the single most important moment of the decade” (Tackach 9).