The Judicial Betrayal of Blacks - Again: The Supreme Court's Destruction of the Hopes Raised by Brown V. Board of Education
Jones, Nathaniel R., Fordham Urban Law Journal
On May 17, 1954, the United States Supreme Court handed down its historic decision in Brown v. Board of Education, (1) and almost immediately officials of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People met in Atlanta, Georgia, to celebrate and to confer. On May 23 and 24, they met to plan for a future filled with hope. With the firm belief that their goals could be realized in the wake of Brown, they issued a statement that has come to be known as the "Atlanta Declaration." (2)
Over time, this document has been obscured, to an extent that few students of civil rights are familiar with it. But this declaration is, in fact, the most authentic and definitive commentary on the hopes of black Americans following Brown. The NAACP, with other individuals, developed a strategy and embarked on a mission to eradicate the pernicious separate-but-equal doctrine that had been enunciated as the law of the land in Plessy v. Ferguson, (3) a decision in which the Court ignominiously betrayed the hopes of black Americans.
No commemoration of Brown can be credible, nor can the decision be evaluated effectively at this point in history, without revisiting and understanding the Atlanta Declaration. The full text of the declaration reads:
We, as representatives of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People from seventeen Southern and Border States and the District of Columbia, have assembled here in Atlanta, Georgia, May 22-23, for the purpose of collectively developing a program to meet the vital and urgent issues arising out of the historic United States Supreme Court decision of May 17 banning segregation in public schools. All Americans are now relieved to have the law of the land declare in the clearest language: "... in the field of public education the doctrine of 'separate but equal' has no place. Separate educational facilities are inherently unequal." Segregation in public education is now not only unlawful: it is un-American. True Americans are grateful for this decision. Now that the law is made clear, we look to the future. Having canvassed the situation in each of our States, we approach the future with the utmost confidence. This confidence is based upon the many factors including the pledges of support and compliance by governors, attorney generals, mayors, and education officials; and by enlightened guidance of newspapers, radio, television and other organs of public communication and comment. We stand ready to work with other law-abiding citizens who are anxious to translate this decision into a program of action to eradicate racial segregation in public education as speedily as possible. We are instructing all of our branches in every affected area to petition their local school boards to abolish segregation without delay and to assist these agencies in working out ways and means of implementing the Court's ruling. The total resources of the NAACP will be made available to facilitate this great project of ending the artificial separation of America's children on the irrelevant basis of race and color. While we recognize that school officials will have certain administrative problems in transferring from a segregated to a non-segregated system, we will resist the use of any tactics contrived for the sole purpose of delaying desegregation. In pursuit of our objectives, we will accelerate our community action program to win public acceptance of the Court's desegregation order from all segments of the population. To this end, we are confident of the support of teachers, parents, labor, church, civic, fraternal, social, business and professional organizations. We insist that there should be integration at all levels including the assignment of teacher-personnel on a non-discriminatory basis. …