Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas Questions and Answers

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Discuss the strengths and weaknesses of W. E. B. Du Bois's argument, made during the 1930s, that African American children were better off in educational settings where they were accepted.

Du Bois’s strong argument that African American children are better off in educational settings where they are accepted centers on the policy of “separate but equal” schools. He points out that segregated schools are not equal, but if equalized, they would provide the fastest means toward full educational opportunity for blacks. The weaknesses in Du Bois’s argument lie in the fact that even if successful as a model, separate but equal schools are, in fact, not equal.

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In the 1896 United States Supreme Court case of Plessy v. Ferguson, the Court ruled that racially separate facilities, if equal, did not violate the Constitution. The rationale of that decision was based on the notion that segregation is not discrimination. Unfortunately, “separate but equal” was a catch-phrase. The segregated schools at the close of the nineteenth century were not equal at all. They operated under “Jim Crow” laws, which were state and local statutes that legalized racial segregation in order to disenfranchise blacks and remove political and economic advantages that followed the post-Civil War Reconstruction period.

In the 1930s, activist and scholar W.E.B. Du Bois set forth very forceful and rational arguments claiming that the real problem with the separate but equal policy was grounded in the fact that segregated schools were, in fact, not equal. In his opinion, if educational institutions were strengthened intellectually and fiscally and blacks were...

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