Brown v. Board of Education: A Civil Rights Milestone and Its Troubled Legacy

By James T. Patterson | Go to book overview

4
CROSSROADS, 1954–55

The long-awaited Brown ruling aroused great excitement among blacks during the next few days, many of whom shared Ralph Ellison's belief that it could open up a “wonderful world of possibilities” for black children. News of the case, indeed, carried to the byways of the South. Julius Chambers, a black teenager in rural North Carolina who was later to become director-counsel for the Fund, remembered hearing about the decision and gathering his schoolmates and teachers to celebrate. “We assumed that Brown was self-executing. The law had been announced, and people would have to obey it. Wasn't that how things worked in America, even in white America?”

Other black people wept with joy. Sara Lightfoot, a ten-year-old black girl, vividly recalled the moment that news of Brown reached her house. “Jubilation, optimism, and hope filled my home,” she wrote later. “Through a child's eye, I could see the veil of oppression lift from my parents' shoulders. It seemed they were standing taller. And for the first time in my life I saw tears in my father's eyes. ‘This is a great and important day,’ he said reverently to his children.” Robert Jackson, a black history professor at Virginia Union University, added,

This is a most exciting moment. I haven't seen such collective emotion since
the day Roosevelt died. A lot of us haven't been breathing for the past nine
months. But today the students reacted as if a heavy burden had been lifted
from their shoulders. They see a new world opening up for them and those
that follow them.

-70-

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Brown v. Board of Education: A Civil Rights Milestone and Its Troubled Legacy
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Pivotal Moments in American History iii
  • Brown v. Board of Education - A Civil Rights Milestone and Its Troubled Legacy v
  • Contents ix
  • Editors' Note xi
  • Preface - Contesting the Color Line xiii
  • 1: Race and the Schools Before Brown 1
  • 2: The Grass Roots and Struggling Lawyers 21
  • 3: The Court Decides 46
  • 4: Crossroads, 1954–55 70
  • 5: Southern Whites Fight Back 86
  • 6: Striving for Racial Balance in the 1960s 118
  • 7: The Burger Court Surprises 147
  • 8: Stalemates 170
  • 9: Resegregation? 191
  • 10: Legacies and Lessons 206
  • Appendix I - Key Cases 225
  • Appendix II - Tables and Figures 227
  • Notes 237
  • Bibliographical Essay 263
  • Acknowledgments 269
  • Index 271
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