The Short Term Significance of the Brown vs. The Board of Education ruling of 1954?

The Short Term Significance of the Brown vs. The Board of Education ruling of 1954?

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The Brown v. Board ruling declared segregation in schools unconstitutional, therefore promoting integration. Many viewed this as a turning point, the start of a social revolution. However, there is a view that, although positive, the ruling did not do enough to force real change. It is even possible to argue that it increased white opposition, actually hindering the case of Civil Rights. Overall, however, the positive aspects outweighed the negatives, with the psychological effect and legal backing from the court being most important.

The significance of Brown directly following the court ruling has been called a ‘Supreme Court Bomb’1, as depicted in an image published five days later in a Richmond paper. The San Francisco Chronicle felt that Brown would have an immediate and great ‘impact of anti-Segregation’, calling it ‘a social revolution’2. Judge Constance Motley called it ‘the catalyst for all the demonstrations’3 that followed. The last of these sources was from an NAACP lawyer, the other two from pro-Civil Rights publications. It is hardly surprising, therefore, that these people wished to promote the success of the ruling, perhaps leading them to exaggerate its significance. By overstating how much they thought would be changed by the court’s decision, they could have been promoting their own hopes. It remains a fact, however, that the ruling did overturn the precedent set by Plessy v. Ferguson sixty years earlier. The Supreme Court went against that ruling’s central idea, ‘separate but equal’, saying it had ‘no place’ in the American constitution, and that ‘separate educational facilities are inherently unequal’4. Willoughby and Paterson claim that Brown managed to ‘end the vice-like grip of the Plessy precedent’. ...


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...s, New York, May 22nd 1954.9 Denver Post, Colorado, May 18th 1954.10 Louisville Courier-Journal, Kentucky, May 18th 1954.11 Paterson and Willoughby, Civil Rights in the USA, p. 119.12 Mark Rathbone, The US Supreme Court and Civil Rights, History Today.13 Extract from President Eisenhower’s letter to a personal friend, 195714 James T. Patterson, The Troubled Legacy of Brown v. Board, p. 7.15 Statement from Conference of Negro Educational Leaders, October 195416 Daily News, Starkville, Mississippi, May 18th 1954.17 Cavalier Daily, Charlottesville, Virginia, May 18th 1954.18 Extract from President Eisenhower’s letter of personal friend, 195719 Tom P. Brady, Black Monday, p.7.20 James T. Patterson, The Troubled Legacy of Brown v. Board of Education, 2004, p. 7.21 James T. Patterson, The Troubled Legacy of Brown v. Board of Education, 2004, p. 8.

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