Academic journal article The Journal of Negro Education

Nixon's "Southern Strategy" and Forces against Brown

Academic journal article The Journal of Negro Education

Nixon's "Southern Strategy" and Forces against Brown

Article excerpt

The U.S. Supreme Court's 1954 decision in Brown, declaring that state-imposed school segregation was unconstitutional, increased the politics of education rather than decreased its importance in the school desegregation. This article describes the political activities in school desegregation after Brown by the two major political parties, republicans and democrats. In summary, the Republican Party placed its major activities toward winning southerners ' votes in order to change the majority in the U.S. Congress, slowing down the desegregation process, creating alternatives to public school desegregation (such as school-choice option), and making conservative appointments to the federal judiciary. The Democratic Party sought to retain its southern political base by promising an orderly process for implementing the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in Brown, providing legal remedies through the courts with assistance by the Office of the U.S. Attorney General, and providing financial support to local school districts seeking to desegregate their schools. Nevertheless, the conservatives, over a 50-year period, lost a few struggles but won the political war against court-ordered school desegregation. The national political struggle over school desegregation is discussed in this article, and that struggle continues.

The America constitution leaves the role of public education to the individual states. In America we have 50 state educational systems with varying degrees of educational services for their citizens and approximately 16,000 local school Districts (Thompson & Wood, 2001). For the purpose of Brown v. Board of Education (1954), implementing the 1954 Court's decision, plaintiffs must bring legal action in each offending local school districts. The federal government gets involvement in public education by passing and enforcing legislation to protect the legal rights of school children under the general welfare clause of the U.S. Constitution.

After the U.S. Civil War, Congress enacted three Constitutional Amendments: the 13th Amendment ended slavery, the 14th Amendment gave the former slaves legal rights and citizenship, and the 15th Amendment gave Black males the right to vote. The important Amendment for school desegregation under Brown is the 14th Amendment, that applied the Bill of Rights to State Action, provided expanded due process beyond those found in the Fifth Amendment, and added the Equal Protection Clause.

Despite the wishes of the Reconstruction U.S. Congress, the U.S. Supreme Court changed and in 1896 the Court, in Plessy v. Ferguson, upheld a Louisiana statute requiring "separate but equal" facilities as meeting the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment. Louisiana outlawed integrated rail travel within the state. In the 1954 Court, Brown (1954) reversed the decision in Plessy v. Ferguson (1896) and held that the state-enforced "separate but equal" doctrine was in violation of the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment.

The executive branch of government represented by the President of the United States gets involved in public education when it is to his political advantage; and that is what President Richard M. Nixon did in 1968 when he sought the Republican nomination for President. Brown gave birth to the modern reform movement via public vouchers and other educational reform measures under his "Southern Strategy," that was designed to gain the votes of individuals who opposed school desegregation and the votes of northern Whites who did not wish for their children to attend school with urban minorities, but who did not have the resources to move to White isolated suburban communities. The school-choice movement that became the backbone of the "Southern Strategy" in education began in the State of Virginia in late 1950s with attempts to derail school desegregation, and drew national attention with the 1964 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Griffin. In 1959, Prince Edward County, Virginia closed its public schools for five years rather than desegregate. …

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