The following essay is copyrighted and submitted by a DayInBlackHistory.com contributor (T.O.). It describes further history on this ruling.
The Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka ruling in 1954 still stands as the breaking point of the “color barrier.” It was the first time that racial discrimination between whites and blacks became a federal priority. Related to and annulling the Plessy v. Ferguson case of 1896, Brown discarded the “separate but equal” doctrine and began integration of public schools. Although “separate but equal” was the final ruling of Plessy v. Ferguson, Justice John Marshall Harlan was a dissenter of this decision. His opinion coincides with the Brown case, because he supported racial equality.
Despite the fact that his words were said 58 years earlier, Harlan foreshadowed the coming of the Brown v. Board ruling. Even then, he knew that the “separate but equal” decision would not fool any advocates of civil rights into believing equality had been achieved. Plessy v. Ferguson did “not mislead anyone, nor atone for the wrong [that] day done,” Harlan declared. Only genuine and equal integration of races would satisfy the need for justice, and this is what Brown provided for the country. As the Civil Rights Era demonstrated, “the thin disguise of ‘equal’ accommodations” would only last for a limited amount of time.
Not only did the Brown ruling promote the rights of African Americans, it also led to later decisions which pushed equality for women and immigrants. It was the beginning of the end of the “separate but equal” doctrine. Civil rights for all were starting to prevail, and the nation was finally uniting.
Some states in the South revived the idea of states’ rights, believing it was the right of individual states to choose whether or not to adhere to the Brown ruling. Texas and Arkansas were the first two Southern states to actually begin integrating. In 1960, six years after the decision, still less then one percent of students in the South were attending integrated schools.