Look back: 60 years since Brown v. Board of Education

  • Portrait of African American students for whom the Board of Education case was brought (Left to right)- Vicki Henderson, Donald Henderson, Linda Brown, James Emanuel, Lucinda Todd and Lena Carper. Topeka, Kansas, 1953.
  • L: Sisters Linda and Terry Lynn Brown sit on a fence outside of their school, the racially segregated Monroe Elementary School, Topeka, Kansas, March 1953. R: Caption: African American elementary school children get off a school bus in Kansas, 1953.
  • Black and white fourth graders at St. Martin School, Washington, DC, dash for the playground at recess, September 17, 1954. While the District of Columbia and four states acted to end segregation in the schools, other states either resisted the Supreme Court's desegregation ruling, or waited for a decision, due in the fall, on ways to carry out the ruling.
  • Vew of the interior of a classroom at the racially segregated Monroe Elementary School, Topeka, Kansas, March 1953. Among the students are Linda Brown (front row, right) and her sister Terry Lynn (far left row, third from front) who, with their parents, initiated the landmark Civil Rights lawsuit 'Brown V. Board of Education.'
  • Portrait of the African-American students for whom the famous Brown vs Board of Education case was brought and their parents: (front row L-R) Vicki Henderson, Donald Henderson, Linda Brown, James Emanuel, Nancy Todd, and Katherine Carper; (back row L-R) Zelma Henderson, Oliver Brown, Sadie Emanuel, Lucinda Todd, & Lena Carper, Topeka, Kansas, 1953.
  • R: NAACP chief counsel Thurgood Marshall outside the Supreme Court before going to hear of his latest success in the drive for desegregation L: Thurgood Marshall arriving at the Supreme Court building with aides to argue the Brown vs. Board of Education Case, Dec. 11, 1953.
  • African American and white girls stand together at Barnard School, in Washington, D.C., May 27, 1955.
  • Nathaniel Steward, 17, recites his lesson in an integrated classroom, 21 May 1954 at the Saint-Dominique school, in Washington, where for the first time in USA the Brown v Board of Education decision which outlaws segregation in state schools is applied.
  • Paratroopers outside of Little Rock High on the first day of integration, Little Rock, Arkansas, 1957.
  • A group of youths with a pro-segregation banner in Arkansas, 1957.
  • L: White boys chase African American students on the first day of integration in  Little Rock, Arkansas, 1957.
R: The first nine black students to attend Little Rock High School in 1957. Among these students is Mrs. Daisy Bates and Minnie Jean.
  • Two African-American students are harrassed by other students on their way to school in Little Rock, Arkansas, 1957.
  • The first nine black students to attend Little Rock Central High School. Among these students is Mrs. Daisy Bates, president of the National Association for Advancement of Colored People's Arkansas Branch, with, on right, Minnie Jean Brown, Thelma Mothershed, and Melba Pattilo.
  • White youth throwing things across the street on the occasion of the Little Rock High School integration in Arkansas, 1957.
  • White youths stand by on the first day of integration at Little Rock High School in Arkansas, 1957.
  • One of the black students to attend the Little Rock Central High School during integration is interviewed in Arkansas, 1957.
  • Girls adjust their makeup at a party to introduce blacks to whites in Virginia, 1958.



It has been 60 years since the landmark Supreme Court ruling in Brown v. Topeka Board of Education outlawed school segregation in America. The decision shook the country to its core, defying the fundamentals of the country’s most ardent and longstanding manifestations of racism – the legal, physical separation of the races. 

The 1954 decision ruling that racial segregation in public schools violated the Fourteenth Amendment (guaranteeing equal protection), as well as the Fifth Amendment (guaranteeing due process), forced the country – and the court, for that matter – to reckon with the unfulfilled Constitutional rights of countless African Americans who’d for generations been denied the most basic rights.

But many cities and school districts fought compliance of the law. And a year later, in 1955, the Supreme Court ordered that districts desegregate with “all deliberate speed.” While some schools integrated with varying degrees of success, the decision sparked a mass exodus of white students from desegregated public schools.

“If we can organize the Southern States for massive resistance to this order I think that, in time, the rest of the country will realize that racial integration is not going to be accepted in the South,” former Sen. Harry Flood Byrd of Virginia, said in 1954. He called the decision “the most serious blow that has yet been struck against the rights of the states in a matter vitally affecting their authority and welfare.”

In many cases, rather than integrate, state school officials simply shutdown public schools. In one case, in 1959, officials in Prince Edward County Virginia closed the school system, which remained closed for the next five years.

In another act of resistance, white parents began removing their children from the public school system all together. Because Brown v. Board only applied to public schools,  white parents across the country began to form what came to be known as “Segregation Academies,” all-white private schools that skirted the Supreme Court’s mandates. The so-called “Seg Academies” flourished throughout the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. And even into the late 1970s and 1980s, when districts began bussing programs to diversify stubbornly segregated public schools, many whites erected barricades, hurled insults and in some cases resorted to petty violence.

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