Lessons to Learn
We expect because we have learned—learned that
there is something to expect, learned that there are
gifts to be had in this world, that something once
was given and that, accordingly, more just might (on
the basis of experience) be forthcoming.… So if
expectation arises from the past, and if the future is
tied up in the past, and if the present, in a way, is the
past being lived out, what hope can we expect to arise
in certain children?
The South Goes North,
Between 1957 and 1966, all the women received high school diplomas. To appreciate this achievement, it is important to look at their educational journey. They attended public schools during a period of political unrest and instability that challenged the very legitimacy of America’s cultural and social institutions. Desegregation of public education stood at the forefront of the call for change. On May 17, 1954, the Supreme Court of the United States announced its landmark decision in the case of Oliver Brown et al. v. Board of Education of Topeka, which rendered racial segregation in public education unconstitutional. But this legal decision held a broader meaning. As Richard Kluger in Simple Justice notes, “Black rights had suddenly been redefined; black bodies had suddenly been reborn under a new law. Blacks’ value as human beings had been changed overnight by the declaration of the nation’s highest court. At a stroke, the Justices had severed the remaining cords of de facto slavery” (Kluger 1975).
In striking down racial segregation in public schools, the justices’ stroke of the pen was indeed a critical legal milestone. However, Brown v. Board of Education was not enough, in and of itself, to sever the deeply