Mississippi: A Documentary History

By Bradley G. Bond | Go to book overview

Chapter 12
REACTIONS TO BROWN

By 1954, when the U.S. Supreme Court handed down its Brown v. Board of Education decision, Mississippians—white and black—had long anticipated that the court would overturn the 1898 Plessy v. Ferguson decision, which had sanctioned the creation of separate but equal public facilities. Although the Supreme Court failed to dictate how and when desegregation should occur, the court's follow-up decision in 1955 ordered desegregation to take place with “all deliberate speed.” In Mississippi, desegregation proceeded at a painfully slow pace. Between 1954 and 1970, local school districts stymied efforts to end the dual-race public school system. The tactics of massive resistence used to undermine the court decision included so-called “freedom-of-choice” plans and the creation of elaborate and slow processes for desegregating one grade at a time. In 1969, however, the time for foot dragging ended. The Supreme Court, through its Alexander decision, ordered Mississippi to dismantle its dual-race system immediately.

The reaction of white Mississippians to the Brown decision might have been predicted. For more than two decades, whites had denounced every effort to end Jim Crow and desegregation. Wartime measures like the Fair Employment Practices Commission, as well as congressional efforts to pass anti-poll tax and anti-lynching laws, earned the particular wrath of white Mississippians. To Secure These Rights, a 1948 report that called for the Federal government to eradicate all vestiges of Jim Crow, garnered the

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