Abigail Perkiss: From Policy to Practice: Remembering Brown II

Roundup: Talking About History

Abigail Perkiss is an assistant professor of history at Kean University in Union, New Jersey, and a fellow at the Kean University Center for History, Politics and Policy.

Two weeks ago, we commemorated the 58th anniversary of one of the most foundational legal decisions in contemporary American history.

This week marks another milestone in the civil-rights movement: the Supreme Court decision known as Brown II.

On April 17, 1954, in Brown v. Board of Education, the nation’s highest court declared segregation in public schools to be unconstitutional.

Chief Justice Earl Warren, writing for a unanimous bench in Brown I, held that “in the field of public education, the doctrine of ‘separate but equal’ has no place.  Separate educational facilities are inherently unequal.”

The first Brown verdict was no doubt momentous.  But it was also largely symbolic.  It would take more than a year for the Supreme Court to determine how to implement this new integrationist mandate.

It was 57 years ago tomorrow that the same court delivered a decision that would chart the course of public education in the United States for more than half a century.

On May 31, 1955, the last day of the spring term, the Warren bench issued its judgment in Brown II, placing the practice of desegregation in the hands of local governments....

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