Social Scientists for Social Justice: Making the Case against Segregation

By John P. Jackson Jr. | Go to book overview

1
Introduction
Framing the Historical Problem

In 1951, when the attorneys of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People–Legal Defense and Education Fund (NAACP-LDEF) began litigation to desegregate primary and secondary schools in the United States, they called on social scientists for help. Organized by social psychologist Kenneth B. Clark, social scientists testified at several trials and wrote briefs, submitted to the Supreme Court, arguing that segregation was psychologically damaging and that the desegregation process could be expected to proceed smoothly. In 1954, when the Supreme Court found segregation in schools unconstitutional in Brown v. Topeka Board of Education, Chief Justice Earl Warren, writing for the unanimous Court, cited social-scientific evidence as one basis for the Court’s opinion. The 1954 decision delayed any order regarding remedy, and social scientists continued to work with the NAACP-LDEF through 1955, when the Supreme Court handed down Brown II, ordering desegregation with “all deliberate speed.”1

The year 1979 marked the twenty-fifth anniversary of the first Brown decision, and the American Psychological Association asked some of the psychologists involved with the NAACP-LDEF to speak on their experiences in the Brown campaign as well as on their hopes for the future. Yet, far from celebrating their involvement with Brown, the speakers were defensive about their actions. M. Brewster Smith, who had served as an expert witness and had signed the Social Science Statement, complained, “It is hinted in various quarters and said openly in others that the social science testimony on the cases culminating in Brown v. Board of Education was tendentious and ungrounded.”2 Against these charges, Isidor Chein, perhaps Kenneth B. Clark’s closest confidant during the Brown decision, declared: “Let me state at the outset that I know of no serious reason for retracting anything that was said in the so-called Social Science Brief submitted in Brown v. Board of

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Social Scientists for Social Justice: Making the Case against Segregation
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page v
  • Contents ix
  • Acknowledgments xi
  • 1 - Introduction 1
  • Part I - Background 15
  • 2 - The Study of Race between the Wars 17
  • 3 - The Effect of World War II on the Study of Racial Prejudice 43
  • Part II - Forging the Alliance 61
  • 4 - The American Jewish Congress 63
  • 5 - Pre-Brown Litigation 79
  • Part III - Brown Litigation 107
  • 6 - Recruiting Expert Witnesses 109
  • 7 - Testimony of the Experts 125
  • 8 - Supreme Court Hearings and Decision, Brown I 153
  • 9 - Supreme Court Hearings and Decision, Brown II 182
  • Part IV - Dissolution 197
  • 10 - Committee of Social Science Consultants 199
  • 11 - Conclusion 213
  • Notes 227
  • Bibliography 267
  • Index 285
  • About the Author 291
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