What was the immediate impact of Brown v. Board of Education? What was the long term impact? Why did the government refrain from getting involved in the conflict in the southern states? How and why did the federal government get involved when it did?
The immediate impact of Brown v. Board of Education was that schools had to be integrated. The Supreme Court gave no guidelines on how to achieve this. The federal government intervened to uphold the SCOTUS decision when the Arkansas governor tried to prevent integration. The long-term impact was increased legal activism and the passage of the Civil Rights Act ten years later.
The lawsuit Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka is a landmark case which the US Supreme Court came to a decision about on May 17, 1954.
The basis of the suit brought by Oliver Brown and other Topeka, Kansas residents with children in the city's public schools was the constitutionality of Topeka's segregation policy. In a unanimous decision, the Supreme Court overturned the 1896 Plessy v. Ferguson decision that supported the "separate but equal" doctrine justifying racial segregation to that point. At least in the area of public schools, the Court ruled "separate but equal" was unconstitutional. The Court specified no procedure for integrating schools. Still, the decision forced a change away from school segregation and, based on that precedent, other public institutions.
The immediate effects included widespread resistance, both legal and practical, to implementing integration in many Southern states. Within a few years integration began. It sometimes required support from federally deployed troops. A notable case of military assistance occurred in Little Rock, Arkansas. The governor sent his National Guard to prevent African American students from entering the city's Central High School. This led President Eisenhower to send in army troops.
The Court ruling also stimulated other lawsuits, gave a boost to civil rights activism nationwide, and helped generate the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Attorney Thurgood Marshall of the NAACP successfully argued the case, and continued with legal activism. He later became a judge on the US Court of Appeals. In 1967 he became the first African-American justice on the Supreme Court.
The long-term effects of Brown v. Board are still being felt. Although segregation has legally ended, public schools in predominantly non-white areas tend to have less resources than their counterparts in predominantly white areas.
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