African Americans Home

School Segregation:

Education in the South was one obstacle that kept African Americans fighting. White schools did not enroll black students because there were thought of as inferior to whites. With the help of the Freedmans Beaurs, recently freed slaves were supported in education and food until 1872. African Americans were left with no place to receive the education that was needed. In 1918 a law was passed saying that everyone had to go to school. Unfortunately for African Americans they had no where to go. It became a good and bad situation. Yes, they were getting the right to go to school but they weren't being given any money to start their own school, since the white schools weren't allowing them in. The number in money spent on white education each year continued to increase as money toward African Americans decreased. This allowed for whites to become updated on all new text books and supplies they needed while African Americans were still struggling to get running water and electricity. More subjects were given out to whites, and African American teachers were being paid 30% less than white teachers. They were forced to work in one room school houses with twice as many students as white teachers were teaching. Statistics show that $42 million was put toward transporting whites back and forth to activities and schools while only $1 million was being spent on African Americans. This shows the extreme differences that separated whites from African Americans.

Little Rock Nine- Three boys and six girls were going to go through the horrors and an experience of a life time that would always be remembered in history. Growing up all their lives treated unfairly and being told they couldn’t do certain things was about to change. “The Civil Rights Movement” was growing and Little Rock High School was part of that. LR High School was one of the first schools to be integrated. After the Brown v. Board of Education case said that schools should be offered to blacks and whites LR was the first school to do just that. It was one of the best high schools in the nation and Melba Pattillo wanted to go to there. She was 15 years old and had always been told that education was the best thing in life. When she got the chance Melba knew it was what she wanted to do, but it wasn’t going to be easy. People threw rocks and shouted hateful comments as the nine girls and boys. Although, it was hard not to fight back, they restrained from violence and kept to themselves. Orval Faubus was the governor of Arkansas. He called in the National Guard to Protect the nine students. Each one of them had a personal body guard that followed them around all day. Elizabeth Eckford was another one of the students entering Little Rock. She was quiet and when she entered the school surrounded by white kids, she heard loud and clear what they had to say. They spat, stared and threatened her. It was going to be a long year. Out of all the hateful actions presented people in Arkansas there was some good that had come out. Ernest Green was the first black student to graduate from Little Rock High and ended up becoming the vice president of New York investment firm. It was a hard journey but in the end they all came out as one and equal.

Challenging the Jim Crow Laws:

Cumming vs. Richmond County Board of Education- A case that was brought to the Supreme Court out of Richmond County, Georgia. In this county there was two separate grammar schools, one for whites, one for African Americans, separate high schools for females and males of both races. When the grammar schools for African Americans became over crowded the high school shut down only leaving the grammar school left. Many African Americans filed law suits saying that the white high school should be shut down too, therefore all children were being given the same rights. When it was brought into court Justice John Marshall Harlan sided with the white parents and the white high schools were kept open. African American parents and their children were left alone struggling to make their own school.


Berea College vs. Kentucky- Unlike most schools that were trying become unsegregated, Berea College was already unsegregated. After the Plessy vs. Ferguson case the state of Kentucky made it clear that African Americans and whites couldn't go to the same school. Not only could they not be in the same building but they had to be in separate class rooms 25 miles apart! When Kentucky enforced this rule on Berea, they sued the state. Berea College insisted that the school was promoting Christ and Kentucky was going against their religion. Although Berea College was over ruled by the Kentucky Supreme Court, it was appealed to the High Court which still supported the ruling of the Kentucky Court. Even if schools wanted to be integrated there were laws that denied there wishes.

Murray vs. Maryland- The University of Maryland School of Law turned down nine African American students because of their race. Donald Murray was an African American graduate from Amherst that filed a law suit against Maryland. Among the group Charles Huston, an African American lawyer that specialized in civil rights cases, took this case with Thurgood Marshall, another African American lawyer that had fought in many cases while also working in the NAACP. They were arguing that there was no place for African American children to go to school. With Huston and Marshall's powerful arguement there was no need for Maryland to push this one to the Supreme Court, as they finally came out with a victory.

Briggs vs. Elliot (aka. Clarendon County)- In 1949 Thurgood Marshall became the many for the job and he convinced Clarendon County's African American citizens to file a law suit for unequal education facilities. The school spent $179.00 on white kids when almost only one quarter of that was being spent on African American kids, $43.00. There was one white teacher for every 28 kids, while in the African American schools there was one teacher for every 47 kids! As usual African Americans were struggling to receive electricity and plumbing, while white children were getting all new text books and had nice toasty schools. African American schools had to pay for everything while the whites went free. Once the law suit was filed it was called Briggs vs. Elliot because the first man to sign it was Harry Briggs, a father of five African American kids. Robert Figg was the school board lawyer who admitted that African American schools provided poor facilities for African American children. He tried to end the case by saying that they would improve the schools but Marshall wanted to take the case further, trying to prove that it wasn't just about the facilities in Clarendon County but that it was all of the segregated schools in the country. Marshall's assistant Robert Carter called Kenneth Clark to the stand; Clark was an educational psychologist. Clark stated that African American kids weren't getting the same equal opportunities that white kids were getting and in the end it was hurting their education. African American children were feeling hostile towards whites, which made them feel inferior towards them. The trial went on for one and a half days but Marshall ended up losing. Although the schools were kept segregated they were improved a little bit to become equal.

Sweatt vs. Painter- In the late 1940s, Thurgood Marshall was brought to a case involving students that wanted to graduate in states with segregated colleges. Herman Marion Sweatt was one of these students that applied to Texas Law School and was turned down because he was African American. The sued the school saying they had to let him in or open a new school for African Americans. the school decided to open up a new school for African Americans, Prairie View Law School. It had two teachers a few rooms and no library. Sweatt brought the case further with Marshall. They went up against Theophiles Shickel Painter, the president of Texas Law School. painter said that a better school would open but Marshall argued that it wasn't just about the school, it was about the NAACP rights. Professor Robert Redfield was the chairman at the University of Chicago. He said that African Americans were just as smart as whites and could use that knowledge if given the same opportunities. Marshall lost the case but three years later it was brought to the Supreme Court. After battling for it in the Supreme Court Marshall ended up winning and he also won the admission for African Americans to go to white schools.

Brown vs. Board of Education- It's 1954 wouldn't you rather walk three blocks than take an hour and a half bus ride to a school on the other side of town? Most children would, but in Topkea, Kansas that wasn't an option. Linda Brown, a nine year old African American girl lived in Topkea Kanas. Her dad was a local minister, Oliver Brown, that had been part of an African American group for three years that had been fighting to provide a better education in their African American schools. Linda and many other kids were not getting the education that they needed and Brown new that, that had to end. He filed a law suit on June 25, 1951 with the help of well known African American lawyer Thurgood Marshall. It was known as Brown vs. Board of Education. During the civil rights movement there were multiple court cases dealing with segregation in schools. Brown vs. Board of Education was a case that represented seven different cases, on the same issue. Marshall was going up against John Davis, who was said to be one of the best lawyers in the country. The issue laid out was questioning the Constitution. Does the constitution permit segregation? Or does segregation break the rules alid out in the Constitution? Many thought that it was going against the 14th amendment which said "No State shall... abridge the privileges... of citizens of the United States...; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws". Davis was arguing that the constitution had nothing to do with segregation and that each state should be able to determine how they want to be run. All they had to have was equal facilities, which none of the schools did have. The doctrine of "separate but equal" was being confronted. In the Plessy vs. Ferguson case it was ruled that "separate but equal" was constitutional. Because of the Plessy vs. Ferguson case and the ruling of separate but equal, it made the Brown vs. Board of Education case extremely important. After years of the court going back and forth with different ideas something unexpected happened. The head Supreme Court's chief justice died. Due to the startling news President Dwight Eisenhower named Earl Warren, the new chief justice. Warren was known to believe in justice and fairness which his decision showed. He announced the case to be ruled unconstitutional. Not only was this an important event, but it was a turning point in history for all African Americans.