Ever since the 1870’s, the Court had been eviscerating the congressional legislation and constitutional amendments that had been established at the height of Reconstruction to protect some of the basic citizenship rights of black people. 1954 was a new time and more than tears and words were needed. Just about everyone that was black and alive at the time realized that the long, hard struggles, led by the NAACP, had forced the Supreme Court to take a major stand on the side of justice in the Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka decision.
“We conclude, unanimously, that in the field of public education the doctrine of ‘separate but equal’ has no place. Separate educational facilities are inherently unequal. ” A salvation of freedom was in the making, but the making proved difficult indeed. The next decade brought racial war to the South. The eleven years between the Brown decision in 1954 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 appeared to be a prolonged series of bloody conflicts and irrational white pig-headedness, with fiery protestations that the white south would never cave in.
In December 1955, a mass movement that would change the system of segregation is sparked by Rosa Parks in Montgomery, Alabama. Rosa Parks, tired after a long day’s work and tired of a lifetime of discrimination, was resting in her seat on the way home when several white men loaded on the bus, more than the existing white section could hold. The bus driver then yelled to the blacks, “Niggers, move back. ” Rosa Parks refused to budge.
The bus driver stopped the bus and had her arrested. Her case prompts JoAnn Robinson, and the Woman’s Political Council, along with the local black leadership to call for a boycott of Montgomery’s segregated bus system. Martin Luther King Jr. becomes leader of the 12- month boycott. In November of 1956, the U. S.
Supreme Court rules the Montgomery’s segregated bus system is unconstitutional. Although the Brown ruling of 1954 was a unanimous decision, the American public’s reactions to it varied greatly. In the North, where segregated schooling was not a matter of public policy, blacks viewed the decision as a victory for equality. Most whites in Northern states felt that the decision had little meaning for them. In the South, however, many whites viewed the Court’s decision as an intrusion of the federal government into their way of life. Southerner’s pointed out that the North, too, was segregated.
Black people in the South were profoundly affected by the court decision. Many felt for the first time that the government might be on their side, and that it might now be possible to throw off years of oppression. But a year passed before the Court delivered its instructions on just how school desegregation was to be implemented. When the Court’s directions in what has to be known as Brown II were summarized in the phrase “with all deliberate speed,” many black people were disappointed and felt that the government would not support desegregation.
In 1957, the Little Rock School Board decides to admit nine black students to its Central High School. The Governor calls out the National Guard to prevent integration of Central High; the soldiers surround the high school and admit white only. An angry mob appears at the school to harass the black students. The local NAACP goes to court to support the nine students. President Eisenhower, reluctant to act first, intercedes, saying that the mob violence will not overrule court decisions. Eisenhower sends in the 101st Airborne Division.
Under protection of the federal government, the students are finally admitted and escorted to classes by soldiers. Black college students in the early 1960’s had much in common — particularly the memory of Little Rock in 1957, where students their own age had defied white mobs to integrate Central High School. This generation of black students entered colleges with high hopes. They felt they .