Remember: The Journey to School Desegregation

Timeline of School Desegregation

1857 With the Dred Scott decision, the Supreme Court upholds the denial of citizenship to African Americans and rules that descendants of slaves are "so far inferior that they had no rights which the white man was bound to respect."

1868 Fourteenth Amendment is ratified, extending citizenship to African Americans.

1875 Congress passes the Civil Rights Act of 1875, banning racial discrimination in public accommodations.

1883 The Supreme Court strikes down the Civil Rights Act of 1875 finding that discrimination by individuals or private businesses is constitutional.

1890 Louisiana passes the first Jim Crow law.

1896 The Supreme Court authorizes segregation in Plessy v. Ferguson, finding Louisiana's "separate but equal" law constitutional and providing legal justification for Jim Crow.

1940 30% of Americans — 40% of Northerners and 2% of Southerners — believe that Whites and Blacks should attend the same schools.

1947 In a precursor to the Brown case, a federal appeals court strikes down segregated schooling for Mexican American and white students. (Westminster School Dist. v. Mendez)The verdict prompts California Governor Earl Warren to repeal a state law calling for segregation of Native American and Asian American students.

1948 Arkansas desegregates its state university.

The Supreme Court orders the admission of a black student to the University of Oklahoma School of Law, a white school because there is no law school for Blacks. (Sipuel v. Board of Regents of the University of Oklahoma)

1950 The Supreme Court rejects Texas' plan to create a new law school for black students rather than admit an African American to the state's whites-only law school. (Sweatt v. Painter)

1954 In a unanimous opinion, the Supreme Court in Brown v. Board of Education overturns Plessy and declares that separate schools are "inherently unequal." The Court delays deciding on how to implement the decision and asks for another round of arguments.

1955 In Brown II, the Supreme Court orders the lower federal courts to require desegregation "with all deliberate speed."

1955 Between 1955 and 1960, federal judges will hold more than 200 school desegregation hearings.

1956 49% of Americans —61% of Northerners and 15% of Southerners —believe that Whites and Blacks should attend the same schools.

1958 The Supreme Court rules that fear of social unrest or violence, whether real or constructed by those wishing to oppose integration, does not excuse state governments from complying with Brown. (Cooper v. Aaron)

10,000 young people march in Washington, D.C., in support of integration.

1959 25,000 young people march in Washington, D.C., in support of integration.

1963 62% of Americans —73% of Northerners and 31% of Southerners —believe Blacks and Whites should attend the same schools.

1964 The Civil Rights Act of 1964 is adopted. Title IV of the Act authorizes the federal government to file school desegregation cases. Title VI of the Act prohibits discrimination in programs and activities, including schools, receiving federal financial assistance.

1972 The Supreme Court refuses to allow public school systems to avoid desegregation by creating new, mostly or all-white "splinter districts." (Wright v. Council of the City of Emporia; United States v. Scotland Neck City Board of Education)

Brown's legacy extends to gender. Title IX of the Educational Amendments of 1972 is passed prohibiting sex discrimination in any educational program that receives federal financial assistance.

1973 The Supreme Court rules that states cannot provide textbooks to racially segregated private schools to avoid integration mandates. (Norwood v. Harrison)