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Brown Vs Board of Education: Pages from the Struggle for Racial Equality

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During WWII some black people enjoyed a taste of racial integration as those who went abroad to fight for their country demonstrated their abilities leading to a positive change in white attitudes towards the legal and social status of black Americans. However, in the education system, there was still inequality. For example, in 1949 in South Carolina, an average of $179 was spent on a white child whereas only $43 was spent on a black one. 

One of the most famous cases that reached the Supreme Court in 1954, ‘Brown vs Board of Education, Topeka’, showed that there was still inequality within the education system. Linda Brown lived in Kansas and there was a local school nearby however she wasn’t permitted to attend because was black and she had to travel to attend an all-black school which was over a mile away. The verdict of this case was given in favor of the Browns which then was expected to produce major change. Other schools began to integrate such as in Washington, Baltimore, and St Louis however of the 6300 schools in the south, less than 12% were integrated. One of the most significant events was ‘Little NineNine’, which occurred in the state of Arkansas on the 3rd of September 1957. Some photos from 1957, show four of the 9 students and an Army escort on their way to Central High. It also shows a white mob waiting for them in front of the school holding up boards and posters to demonstrate against the integration of blacks and whites in desegregated schools. 

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After the ‘Brown vs Board of Education, Topeka’ 75 black children had applied to the school, 50 were rejected and a further 16 rejected the offer due to the hostile conditions and abuse they would face in the white community where the school was situated leaving 9 students remaining. It illustrates that although there was legal change by the Supreme Court in education, many southern states actively opposed the legislation and prevented black children from attending white schools. The pictures of this time are limited because it only encapsulates a small moment of the event and fails to show that initially, the children had to be sent home to protect their safety and that the Governor of Arkansas Orval Faubus went on national television to say that if the nine students had entered the school ‘blood would run in the streets.’ This suggests that although the Supreme Court had made a ruling changing the legal status of black Americans, individual states didn’t always comply. In the case of Little Rock Nine, President Eisenhower sent 10,000 troops to bar the white protestors and escort the children into the school. Faubus, rather than accepting the federal ruling, closed down the school a year later and it wasn’t re-opened until 1959. It is invaluable in showing us how newspapers and television impacted changing white attitudes. 

As a result, black people were becoming much more willing to protest about their lack of rights and this was recorded in photographs and on the new emergence of the television for the world to see.  

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