Oliver L. Brown vs. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas
Brown v. Board of Education was the landmark court case that ended the “separate but equal” law across the United States.
In preparing for this project, the Committee invited the superintendent of the national Brown historic site to explain the efforts that led to the U.S. Supreme Court's decision. Following is the summary from the Kansas Legislative Research Department:
Beginning in 1881, Kansas was the site for twelve legal challenges to racially segregated schools. Unlike the previous legal challenges that were filed in state court, Brown was filed in federal district court in 1951. When Brown was argued in federal court, the three judge panel was led by Walter Huxman, a former Governor of Kansas. It is believed that Walter Huxman crafted the district court's opinion in a manner that would force the Supreme Court to determine the meaning of the Fourteenth Amendment with respect to all citizens of this country. A psychologist at the Menninger Foundatino testified as an expert witness; it was her words that Judge Huxman and the Supreme Court later used when describing the detrimental effects of legal segregation on children. After the ruling went into effect, President Eisenhower was involved in the first public test of the political will to enforce the court decision when he was called upon to enforce the integration of Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas.
The court case also had international ramifications during the Cold War. The Soviet Union and other Communist-leaning countries had started a propaganda campaign against the United States, saying that the United States was engaged in human rights abuses against African Americans and did not have any moral standing in the world. While Brown was going through the federal courts, and before he left the White House, President Truman directed the U.S. State Department to submit an amicus brief to the Supreme Court. This brief stated the Supreme Court's decision needed to be successful and that a unanimous decision would be beneficial for international relations. The United States needed Brown to counteract Communist propaganda. After Brown succeeded, one of the first things President Eisenhower did was to go on Voice of America radio to announce to the world that the United states was living up to its constitutional promise regarded African Americans.
The effects of Brown went far beyond the education of school children. The case defined the rights of all Americans as guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.