Public Schools Segregation Effects
U.S. Supreme Court Decision on Brown v. Board of Education, Topeka, Kansas (1954) These cases come to us from the States of Kansas, South Carolina, Virginia, and Delaware. They are premised on different facts and different local conditions, but a common legal question justifies their consideration together in this consolidated opinion. In each of the cases, minors of the Negro race, through their legal representatives, seek the aid of the courts in obtaining admission to the public schools of their community on a nonsegregated basis. In each instance, they have been denied admission to schools attended by white children under laws requiring or permitting segregation according to race. This segregation was alleged to deprive the plaintiffs of the equal protection of the laws under the Fourteenth Amendment. In each of the cases other than the Delaware case, a three judge federal district court denied relief to the plaintiffs on the so-called “separate but equal” doctrine announced by this Court in Plessy v. Ferguson, 163 U.S. 537. Under that doctrine, equality of treatment is accorded when the races are provided substantially equal facilities, even though these facilities be separate. In the Delaware case, the Supreme Court of Delaware adhered to that doctrine, but ordered that the plaintiffs be admitted to the white schools because of their superiority to the Negro schools. The plaintiffs contend that segregated public schools are not “equal” and cannot be made “equal,” and that hence they are deprived of the equal protection of the laws. . . .
In the instant cases, there are findings below that the Negro and white schools involved have been equalized, or are being equalized, with respect to buildings, curricula, qualifications and salaries of teachers, and other “tangible” factors. Our decision, therefore, cannot turn on merely a comparison of these tangible factors in the Negro and white schools involved in each of the cases. We must look instead to the effect of segregation itself on public education. In approaching this problem, we cannot turn the clock back to 1868 when the Amendment was adopted, or even to 1896 when Plessy v. Ferguson was written. We must consider public education in the light of its full development and its present place in American life throughout the Nation. Only in this way can it be determined if segregation in public schools deprives these plaintiffs of the equal protection of the laws.
Today, education is perhaps the most important function of state and local governments. Compulsory school attendance laws and the great expenditures for education both demonstrate our recognition of the importance of education to our democratic society. It is required in the performance of our most basic public responsibilities, even service in the armed forces. It is the very foundation of good citizenship. Today it is a principal instrument in awakening the child to cultural values, in preparing him for later professional training, and in helping him to adjust normally to his environment. In these days, it is doubtful that any child may reasonably be expected to succeed in life if he is denied the opportunity of an education. Such an opportunity, where the state has undertaken to provide it, is a right which must be made available to all on equal terms.
We come then to the question presented:
Does segregation of children in public schools solely on the basis of race, even though the physical facilities and other “tangible” factors may be equal, deprive the children of the minority group of equal educational opportunities? We believe that it does. . . . children in grade and high schools. To separate them from others of similar age and qualifications solely because of their race generates a feeling of inferiority as to their status in the community that may affect their hearts and minds in a way unlikely ever to be undone.
The effect of this separation on their educational opportunities was well stated by a finding in the Kansas case by a court which nevertheless felt compelled to rule against the Negro plaintiffs: “Segregation of white and colored children in public schools has a detrimental effect upon the colored children. The impact is greater when it has the sanction of the law; for the policy of separating the races is usually interpreted as denoting the inferiority of the Negro group. A sense of inferiority affects the motivation of a child to learn. Segregation with the sanction of law, therefore, has a tendency to retard the educational and mental development of Negro children and to deprive them of some of the benefits they would receive in a racially integrated school system.” Whatever may have been the extent of psychological knowledge at the time ofPlessy v. Ferguson, this finding is amply supported by modern authority. Any language in Plessy v. Ferguson contrary to this finding is rejected. We conclude that in the field of public education the doctrine of “separate but equal” has no place. Separate educational facilities are inherently unequal. Therefore, we hold that the plaintiffs and others similarly situated for whom the actions have been brought are, by reason of the segregation complained of, deprived of the equal protection of the laws guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment. [From Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, 347 U.S. 483.]
What you will be doing here is finding a Voices of Freedom section. In that section, you will read the primary sources that are there. Usually it is 1 or 2 primary sources. Primary sources are contemporary accounts of a historical event / action / person / thing. So after you read these, you will answer the 2 (sometimes 3) questions that are at the end of the Voices of Freedom section, and include any sources you use as a reference page on an additional page. You will want to provide historic examples from your materials and any outside academic materials you wish to use. So essentially, you need to find one Voices of Freedom section in the chapters from the unit and answer the questions at the end of it.
Public Schools Segregation Effects
Does segregation of children in public schools solely on the basis of race, even though the physical facilities and other “tangible” factors may be equal, deprive the children of the minority group of equal educational opportunities?
The US education system has historically been characterized by segregated schooling for different groups. The segregated education system rose largely due to the existence of diverse groups in the country. The habitation of the nation by various groups (Whites, Asians, and Blacks) necessitated the creation of separate schools for each race. The unequal schooling in the United States as a result of separate schooling was reinforced by the majority (whites), justified by various court cases and mandated by the law (Meatto). The people who defended separate schools argued that the schools did not encourage inequality in the education sector since the physical facilities and other factors were constant. In the supreme court case Brown v. Board of Education, 347 US 483 (1954), the court found the argument for separate and equal schools flawed and ruled that both whites and blacks should be allowed to attend similar schools (Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka 2). The separation of children based on race cannot guarantee equal education opportunities for all children since it breeds the feeling of inferiority.
The decision that was made in the case was a blow to the systems of particular institutions that required the separation of the blacks and whites. During this period, the blacks were separated from the whites in all schools, restaurants, waiting rooms, public transport facilities, hotels, and cemeteries (Logan, Minca and Adar 12). The separation in the schools challenged the essence of education. Education was fundamentally meant to make people from various groups equal. Separation in schools implied that all races were not equal. The denial of opportunities in white schools for black children generated a sense of inferiority. The notion that the separate schools would maintain equal standards was highly pretentious. The whites had been portrayed as a superior race and would have to enjoy greater privileges under all circumstances. Segregating schools caused psychological harm to black children as it indicated the approval of the racial stereotypes against black children.
The ideology of separate and equal schools had been in practice and had been very ineffective in the regions where it was practiced. The trend in these regions was proof enough that equality in education was unachievable under racially separated schools. In the Southern cities, for instance, the average amount that was allocated to every black pupil was always lesser by more than half of the amount that was allocated to a white pupil (Thattai 4). Most of the black pupils traveled for long distances to attend school compared to their white counterparts. The schools that were meant for the black children had limited resources and lacked adequately trained teachers. Some rural schools meant for the black children were only open for instruction three months in a year, and others did not offer education for higher levels of learning, such as secondary education (Thattai 4). The notion of separate and equal schools would indirectly promote racial prejudice and inhibit the achievement of equal education opportunities.
The ruling in the case made racial segregation illegal in public schools. Despite the passing of this ruling, education in American schools still remains largely segregated and unequal. Even though public schools might not outrightly deny black children admission, there are various practices that imply inequality. Lack of the recognition of black students in contemporary American learning institutions has had a profound impact on their learning.
Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka. No. 347. US Supreme. 1954.
Logan, John R., Elisabeta Minca and Sinem Adar. “The Geography of Inequality: Why Separate Means Unequal in American Public Schools.” Sociology of Education 19.85 (2013): 1-15.
Meatto, Keith. Still Separate, Still Unequal: Teaching about School Segregation and Educational Inequality. 2 May 2019. 20 June 2020. <https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/02/learning/lesson-plans/still-separate-still-unequal-teaching-about-school-segregation-and-educational-inequality.html>.
Thattai, Deeptha. “A History of Public Education in the United States.” ResearchGate (2017): 1-6.