Challenge To Brown v Board of Education

Segregationists didn’t readily accept the 1954 unanimous Supreme Court ruling of Brown v Board of Education.  Southerners knew the decision would be a major disruption in their way of life, and limit the continued second class system for African-Americans.

southern-manifesto-1After the decision was announced, President Eisenhower lamented his choice of recently appointed Chief Justice Earl Warren (Oct 1953 – June 1969). Warren was the former Governor of California and vice presidential running mate in 1948.  He was also an important campaign supporter for Eisenhower’s run for the presidency in 1952. Ike called Warren’s appointment, “one of his biggest mistakes”.  Warren was now labeled a liberal. Billboards throughout the South called for the impeachment of the Chief Justice, he was the major force in legitimizing the Brown v Board of Education ruling. However, he understood the country would be better served with a unanimous decision. The Southern Manifesto signers considered Brown v Board of Education, judicial overreach. Segregationists felt, Earl Warren, was one of the people advocating illegal or unconstitutional change during the mid-1950’s in the South.







Congressional members, numbering 101, banned together to show their disdain for the Court’s decision by issuing the Southern Manifesto. Southern federal officials, Senators and Congressman, supported state political alleys alleging a violation of states rights, a prime justification for segregation and racially centered statutes, like racist Jim Crow Laws. The right to continue the failed policy or pretense of “separate but equal”, supported by the 1896 Supreme Court case of Plessy v Ferguson, would have remained the federal law keeping Blacks subjugated to unequal public and private lives.  The fear of integration was the root of the Southern Manifesto. The mixing of black and white children.  The Southern way of life was not going to be the same.

Under attack was the original intent of the 14th Amendment, and it’s implied equal protection under the law. Not all Southern politicians signed the Manifesto however, but those that did vowed to fight the Brown decision by any means. In some school systems in the South, it took nearly 20 years to implement integration. In fact some Schools boards disbanded the public school system all together.

The two U.S. Senators of Tennessee and future vice president and 36th president, U.S. Senator and majority leader of the Senate, Lyndon B. Johnson would not sign the Southern Manifesto.  Johnson began his professional career as a teacher, teaching Mexican American children in rural Texas, he saw the effects of integration first hand. President Johnson went on to sign major civil rights legislation that further implemented fairness in the United States. Johnson, as president, signed The Civil Rights Law of 1964, The Voting Rights Law of 1965 and The Fair Housing Act (Civil Rights Act of 1968).





Today’s segregation is more de facto.  Although some would say segregation is still planned. When parents and school officials desire neighborhood schools, integrated schools are the result. Whether current day separation of school children is by design or a by product of housing patterns, is debatable, the out come is the same. Stated in the Southern Manifesto (also known as, The Declaration of Constitutional Principles), the signers vowed to continue to fight the Brown v Board of Education decision. Many who opposed the ruling saw, a possible “loophole” in the decision. The Court ruling ordered desegregation “with all deliberate speed”, an excuse for Southerners to slow compliance with the Court’s decision. Even today elaborate schemes are sold to the gullible, sponsored and advocated as an answer to better schooling when in fact they continue to segregate children.

The legacy of Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, demonstrates the determination and brilliance of the legal team that fought the inherently unequal political, social and economic system that legitimized brutal Jim Crow Laws.  It also set a pattern for long over due American fairness. As Dr. King would said in his famous “I Have a Dream”speech, that this nation would rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal”.


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