Foundations and Assessment of Education/Edition 1/Foundations Table of Contents/Chapter 5/5.3.2

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Brown vs Board of Education: How Far Have We Come?
By: Erica Corbett

"Statistics have proven

that children who LEARN TOGETHER


-Bryant Smith

Learning Targets
Readers should be able to discuss the court case Brown vs Board of Education
Readers should be able to discuss the court case Plessy vs Ferguson
Readers should be able to discuss the Michigan court case

History of Desegregation

If one takes a glimpse at American history, one may notice a huge stain concerning race relations. Africans were sold as slaves to their white counterparts. The institution of slavery reduced blacks to property, chattel, and things. Blacks were deprived of their humanity or at least their essential humanity (Cook, 2005). As history progressed African Americans started to gain status , by not being labeled as property, but as people, 3/5 to be exact., which is stated in the 3/5ths Compromise. "Significantly, both the South and the North, in the 3/5 Compromise, used and exploited slaves to increase their power, advantage, and regional self-interest: the South in terms of representation and the North in terms of taxation. Slaves, of course, were completely excluded from voting and other forms of participation in the political process. They were not persons, but things; not subjects but objects, not moral and political agents but helpless, exploited victims deprived of all constitutional protection and all human rights and civil liberties" (Cook, 2005). In other words, African Americans were labeled as 3/5 as a person for representation in the south and taxation in the north, yet they were not given basic rights of humans , even though they were considered 3/5ths of one.

Fast forwarding through history, the lack of rights of African Americans were examined through cases such as the Dred Scott decision and events such as the Civil War. One court case however was very pivotal concerning the rights of African Americans. "Plessy v. Ferguson, 1896, involved segregation in transportation. It was a historic, landmark case which established and affected patterns of race relations and human relations over the total institutional and social landscape of the South for generations. The Supreme Court declared, in Plessy v. Ferguson, that racial segregation did not violate the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment. Separate but equal facilities were constitutionally permissible for blacks and whites. The key, of course, was "separate." The "equal" was never enforced or taken seriously. No standard of equality was even considered across racial lines" (Cook, 2005). This court case was pivotal because it acknowledged the rights of African Americans besides human rights. It acknowledged the rights to common utilities used by whites, meaning the same restaurants, bathrooms, and even schools. The only downturn was that facilities had to be separate and equal was at the discretion of others. As Cook stated equal was not taken seriously, therefore the quality of bathrooms, water fountains and schools didn’t really matter, as long as it was separate. Schools were definitely subject to the ruling of Plessy vs Furguson. White children had the advantage of new textbooks, better classrooms, thus a better education, while minority children were at a disadvantage of older, used textbooks and less than stellar classrooms, thus a substandard education.

On May 17, 1954, the barrier of segregation within the school system was broken . According to the National Archives and Records Administration, “On May 17, 1954, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Earl Warren delivered the unanimous ruling in the landmark civil rights case Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas. State-sanctioned segregation of public schools was a violation of the 14th amendment and was therefore unconstitutional. This historic decision marked the end of the "separate but equal" precedent set by the Supreme Court nearly 60 years earlier in Plessy v. Ferguson and served as a catalyst for the expanding civil rights movement during the decade of the 1950s”. In other words, this court case set the precedent for school desegregation. This court case finally broke the barrier concerning "separate but equal" within the American school system. Busing was a major way to ensure desegregation within the American school system.


The concept of race and education is still a prevalent issue, even today. Now that Brown vs Board of Education set the precedent of desegregation in the school system, what about other questions concerning race relations and the school system. Questions such as “Can race be a factor, concerning college admissions?“ “Can there be a quota set for minorities within public schools and colleges?“

The most recent court case dealing with questions like these is the University of Michigan case. According to the Cornell University Law School Supreme Court Collection, “When the Law School denied admission to petitioner Grutter, a white Michigan resident with a 3.8 GPA and 161 LSAT score, she filed this suit, alleging that respondents had discriminated against her on the basis of race in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment, Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and 42 U.S.C. § 1981; that she was rejected because the Law School uses race as a “predominant” factor, giving applicants belonging to certain minority groups a significantly greater chance of admission than students with similar credentials from disfavored racial groups; and that respondents had no compelling interest to justify that use of race. The District Court found the Law School’s use of race as an admissions factor unlawful”. In other words, race cannot be used as a factor concerning college admissions, which I agree with because if one is not qualified to enter a university, then one is not qualified to enter regardless of their race.

We have come a long way concerning race and public schools. As of 2006, 41% of elementary and high school students were minorities (U.S. Census Bureau, 2008). As time progresses we are more accepting of our differences and agree that every child deserves a great education. However, there are still some schools that are predominately black and predominately white, but there are not as much as it was 50 years ago. We are eventually learning the mistakes of the past and preparing for a better future for future generations. "Statistics have proven that children who learn together also learn to live together" (Smith, 2008). I agree with this quote because with this ever changing world, we all need to learn how to live together even it means learning with each other.


1. Reversed Plessy vs Ferguson

a. Michigan Court Case

b. Plessy vs Ferguson

c. Brown vs Board of Education

d. 3/5ths Compromise

2. Established "separate but equal"

a. Michigan Court Case

b. Plessy vs Ferguson

c. Brown vs Board of Education

d. 3/5ths Compromise

3. The year is 1930 and Martha is an African American young girl. She has a friend named Mary who is white. During this era, which facilities CAN they share TOGETHER?

a. schools

b. water fountains

c. bathrooms

d. none of the above

4. Jessica, who has the proper credentials, applies to Lakewood University. She is rejected, files a lawsuit against the school and wins. According to the Michigan Court Case, which of the following is the reason why she won?

a. Lakewood University probably used race as a factor within the admissions process.

b. Lakewood University probably used gender as a factor within the admissions process.

c. Lakewood University probably used sexual orientation as a factor within the admissions process.

d. Lakewood University probably used religion as a factor within the admissions process.

answers: 1.c 2.b 3.d 4.a


Cook, Samuel DuBois.(2005).The Negro Educational Review.The Negro Educational Review 56(1), 3-10

Smith, Bryant.(2008).Far Enough or Back Where We Started: Race Perception from Brown to Meredith.Journal of Law and Education37(2),297-305

National Records and Archives Administration.Brown vs Board of Education 1954. Retrieved February 8, 2009 from Website

Cornell University Law School Supreme Court Collection.Grutter vs Bollinger. Retrieved February 8, 2009 from Supreme Court Collection Website

Facts for Features.2008.Retrieved February 9, 2009 from U.S. Census Bureau Website

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