Academic journal article The Journal of Negro Education

Black Teachers, Black Students, Black Communities, and Brown: Perspectives and Insights from Experts

Academic journal article The Journal of Negro Education

Black Teachers, Black Students, Black Communities, and Brown: Perspectives and Insights from Experts

Article excerpt

This study sought to understand the impact of the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas decision for Black teachers, Black students, and Black communities by eliciting and interviewing expert researchers in the field of education who have studied Brown in some depth over the course of their respective careers. Findings from the three expert participants point to Black-teacher demotion and Black-teacher voicelessness as two of the consequences of the Brown decision for Black teachers. In addition, the study revealed that issues around Black teachers, post-desegregation, cannot be studied in depth without considering the relationship among Black teachers, Black students, Black communities, and Brown.

BACKGROUND

In this article, we consider the impact of the Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas decision of 1954 on the desegregation of public schools in the United States of America, and secondarily on the provision of better learning opportunities for Black students. To this end, we identified researchers in the field of education, noted scholars whose research addressed issues pertaining to the Brown decision. They were interviewed and asked to address several salient questions that might help educators better understand the impact of Brown on Black teachers, Black students, as well as Black communities. Three main issues provide the impetus for this study: (a) the Black teaching force has declined significantly over the last few decades and continues to decline even in 2003; (b) Black students have not been faring well in public schools since the Brown decision; (c) there seems to be important connections among Black teachers, Black communities, Black students and the Brown decision. Indeed, we are mindful of Hudson and Holmes' (1994) perspective that:

...the loss of African American teachers in public school settings has had a lasting negative impact on all students, particularly African American students and the communities in which they reside...[Although the shrinking African American teacher pool has been attributable to several factors, it is partly a fall-out of how Brown was implemented by White American policy makers, (p. 389)

We attempt to understand how the loss of Black teachers in public school contexts may have impacted Black students in schools and how the implementation of Brown may relate to Black teacher attrition, Black student achievement, and Black communities.

A DECISION THAT CHANGED EDUCATION AS WE KNEW IT

In 1951, the family of Linda Brown complained to the NAACP that their daughter was walking over a mile to her Black, segregated elementary school when a White elementary school was located only a few blocks away. Upon the recommendation and guidance of the NAACP, the family attempted to enroll young Linda Brown into the segregated White elementary school, as did many other Black families in the community. These requests were denied, which resulted in a lawsuit, Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas. It is important to note that the Brown case was not the first attempt at dismantling the injustices inherent in the schooling of Black students.

On May 17, 1896, after years of struggle, the Plessy v. Ferguson Supreme Court case decision, which ruled against integration but advanced the notion of "separate but equal," brought attention to segregation and to integration. In essence, the Supreme Court ruled that segregated sections of buses and schools, for instance, were to be equal. The idea was that these buses and schools would be segregated but the facilities and accommodations would be equal to that of White's. Of course, this ruling was never really earned out or actualized as Blacks continued to receive "second-class" facilities and accommodations-especially in schools. Arguments in favor of integration in the Brown case pointed to the harmful effect and psychological messages and images that Black students may have endured as they observed better facilities for White students in comparison to the dilapidated buildings in which Black students experienced from day-to-day. …

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