The Michigan Daily - Tuesday, May 15, 1984 -Page 13
BROWN VS. BOARD OF EDUCA TION
Anniversary marks 30 years of change
Thursday marks the 30th anniver-
sary of the Supreme Court's ruling
that segregation in public schools is
unconstitutional. Gradually, laws
and attitudes have changed. The
evidence does not suggest equality
has been achieved, but it points to
sustained progress and a lessening
From the Associated Press
Scene One: September 1957. A
thousand Army paratroopers holding
bayonet-tipped rifles protect nine black
teen-agers enrolling at all-white Little
Rock Central High Schoiol despite the
vehement protests of Arkansas Gov.
An ardent segregationist, Faubus had
summoned tbe state-controlled
National Guard to resist the Supreme
Court's 1954 decision to desegregate
schools, calling Little Rock Central "off
limits" to blacks.
Scene Two: December 1983.
Roosevelt Thompson, a black 1980
graduate of Little Rock Central and a
senior at Yale University, is awarded a
prestigious Rhodes scholarship based
on his academic excellence.
Sadly, Thompson's fairy-tale success
story ended in tragedy when he was
killed March 22 in a car accident. But
his father points to Thompson's accom-
plishments with pride - an illustration,
he says, of three decades of progress
since the high court handed down one of
its most far-reaching decisions.
"Roosevelt never believed there were
any barriers to what he could achieve,"
Rev. C.R. Thompson said of his son, a
Phi Beta Kappa student and an offen-
sive lineman on the Yale football team.
"Blacks have made tremendous gains
and many of the doors open to
Roosevelt would not have been there
without the Brown decision."
THE "BROWN decision" is the
Supreme Court's historic ruling on May
17, 1954 in the case known formally as
Brown vs. Topeka Board of Education.
By a unanimous vote, the justices said
Linda Brown, a black fifth-grader from
Topeka, Kan., had the right to attend
the school of her choice, which hap-
pened to be an all-white public school
five blocks from her home.
Then-Chief Justice Earl Warren
wrote, "Separate educational facilities
are inherently unequal," and "in the
field of public education the doctrine of
'separate but equal' has no place."
The ruling struck down segregation
laws in 17 states and received world-
wide attention, but it did not end racial
prejudice in America. Its implemen-
tation was a slow process that faced
some fierce resistance.
SHORTLY AFTER the Brown ruling,
Sen. James Eastland of Mississippi
said: "To resist is the only answer. I
know Southern people will not surren-
der their dual school system and their
racial heritage at the command of this
crowd of racial politicians in judicial
North Carolina Gov. Luther Hodges
went on television in August 1955 and
appealed to blacks to accept voluntary
segregation, arguing the alternative
could mark the end of public education.
Georgia, Mississippi and South
Carolina adopted standby legislation to
abolish public schools and planned a
substitution of private, segregated
schools subsidized by state funds.
THE FIRST black student did not ap-
pear at the University of Mississippi
until 1962 and at some Southern univer-
sities, blacks did not appear on the
schools' athletic teams until the early
"We have not reached the point of an
egalitarian society in America," says
Dr. C.T. Enus Wright, president of
Cheyney University in Pennsylvania,
the nation's oldest black university.
"Throughout our history, blacks have
been able to hold our heads above
water. Now we're beginning to swim."
"You must never forget that change
comes slowly," says James Nabrit, 83,
retired dean of Howard University Law
School in Washington and one of four
lawyers to argue before the Supreme
Court on Linda Brown's behalf.
"I'd like to see things change faster,
but you can still see the tremendous
progress we've made," Nabrit said. "It
was a struggle just to have our day in
court, and now Thurgood Marshall
(who also argued the Brown case) is
sitting ont he Supreme Court."
Blacks still trail whites in educational
achievement, but recent studies show
the gap has narrowed significantly in
the past 30 years.
TheCommerce Department repor-
ted in 1982 that blacks are less likely
than whites to have completed four
years of high school (72.8 percent to 58.1
percent) and less likely to complete
four years of college (18.5 percent to
But in 1950, whites were completing
high school at a rate more than 2%
times that of blacks (35 percent to 13
percent), and completing college at a
rate nearly three times as high (6.4
percent to 2.2 percent).
" The U.S.Commission on Civil Rights
studied 47 school districts around the
country in 1979 and concluded,
"Equality of educational opportunity is
beginning to take on real meaning."
The report noted successful in-
tegration programs could be found in
the North and South alike: Denver, Lit-
tle Rock, Seattle, Providence, R.I.,
Tampa, Fla., and Charlotte, N.C.,
But the commission also said 6.2
million minority students, or 60 per-
cent, "attended schools that were at
least 50 percent minority, and 37 per-
cent attended schools that were at leat
" The difference between what blacks
and whites score on the Scholastic Ap-
titude Test is 39 points less than seven
years ago, but whites still score 219
points higher, the College Board said in
reporting 1983 scores.
Blacks averaged 708 and whites 927
on the two-part test weighted on a scale
of 400 to 1,600. The black-white gap has
narrowed by 15 points in verbal section
and 24 points in math since 1976, and
the 219-point difference is the smallest
between blacks and whites since the
College Board began keeping records.
Despite the strides blacks and other
minorities have made, desegregation
programs remain a divisive and
unresolved issue for many of the over
400 school districts under court orders
to integrate their classrooms.
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Earlier this year, the Reagan ad-
ministration, which opposes forced
busing to achieve integration, endorsed
the voluntary desegregation plan of the
Bakersfield, Calif., school system
designed to lure whites to predominan-
tly minority schools.
. THE SO-CALLED magnet school
program will offera special curriculum
ranging from computer instruction to
performing arts programs and the
possibility of foreign travel.
The plan requires the local school
district to create a magnet program at
two predominantly black and Hispanic
schools to attract whites now attending
mostly white schools.
"This is the blueprint for school
desegregation in the future," Assistant
Attorney General William Bradford
Reynolds, head of the Justice Depar-
tment's civil rights division, said in
January. "It's an innovative, exciting
and meaningful way" of achieving in-
HUT BEVERLY Cole, director of
education for the National Association
for the Advancement of Colored People,
said: "Magnet schools don't attract
enough students to significantly alter
the racial make-up of school districts.
They can be part of an overall
desegregation effort, but they are not
enough by themselves."
Cole, a member of a recent National
Education Association panel that
studied desegregation in several cities,
said, "our biggest battle now is to keep
from regressing under an ad-
ministration that is against court-
The question, she said, is no longer
the validity of segregation but how best
to promote integration.
FINANCIALLY STRAPPED school
districts in such cities as Chicago, St.
Louis and Cincinnati have called busing
and magnet school programs too ex-
pensive and repeatedly appealed court-
The Supreme Court remains in the
fray, as evidenced by its April 16 ruling
that the Buffalo, N.Y. school system is
legally bound to spend an additional
$7.4 million for ongoing desegregation
costs, despite protests from the mayor
and the city council.
But while the search for solutions
continues, the signs of change are
In March, former Arkansas Gov.
Faubus, still remembered for his
segregationist stance in the 1950s, sent
the Rev. Jesse Jackson a letter com-
plimenting his campaign for the
Democratic presidential nomination.th
Jackson was attending a segregated
black high school in Greenville, S.C.,
when Faubus sought to block the in-
tegration of Arkansas' public schools in
Arkansas' current governor, Bill
Clinton, paid a visit to Little Rock Cen-
tral High School on March 30.-His pur-
pose was not to keep blacks out, but to
eulogize one of the school's most
distinguished graduates, Roosevelt
At a memorial service that drew 1,200
people to the school's gymnasium, Clin-
ton said of Thompson: "He was the
finest example of all the best in Arkan-
sas and of the long road we have
traveled in our state."
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