Civil RightsHistory

Racially segregated schools in the United States

Racially segregated schools in the United States were educational institutions that practiced the separation of students based on their race or ethnicity. These schools were prevalent primarily in the southern states from the late 19th century until the mid-20th century. The legal basis for racially segregated schools was established by the landmark Supreme Court case Plessy v. Ferguson in 1896. The court’s decision, in that case, established the “separate but equal” doctrine, which allowed for racially segregated public facilities as long as they were deemed to be equal in quality.

White students in Birmingham, Alabama, drag an African American effigy past West End High School, on September 12, 1963. Two African American girls attended the desegregated school and a majority of the white students were staying away from classes. Police stopped this car in a segregationist caravan in front of the school to caution them about fast driving and blowing auto horns front of a school.

However, in 1954, the Supreme Court issued its ruling in the case Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, overturning the “separate but equal” doctrine and declaring that segregated schools were inherently unequal and violated the Fourteenth Amendment’s equal protection clause. The decision marked a significant turning point in the civil rights movement and set the stage for desegregation efforts across the country.

Following the Brown v. Board of Education decision, the process of desegregation was gradual and met with resistance in many areas. Some states, school districts, and local communities resisted desegregation efforts, leading to a period known as “Massive Resistance.” It took several years, court battles, and federal intervention to enforce desegregation and bring about more integrated schools.

Women at William Franz Elementary School yell at police officers during a protest against desegregation at the school, as three black youngsters attended classes at the school for the second day. Some carry signs stating “All I Want For Christmas is a Clean White School” and “Save Segregation Vote, States Rights Pledged Electors”

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 and subsequent legislation further supported the desegregation of schools and prohibited discrimination based on race or ethnicity in educational institutions that received federal funding. While significant progress has been made since then, achieving true educational equity and eliminating the effects of historical segregation remains an ongoing challenge in the United States. Efforts to address disparities and promote equal opportunities in education continue to this day.

Black school children pose with their teacher outside a segregated one-room school in South Carolina, in 1916

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