What New Books Are Saying About the Impact of the Brown Decision

Roundup: Talking About History

From the Chronicle of Higher Education (April 2, 2004) (subscribers only):

On May 17, 1954, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its landmark ruling Brown v. Board of Education. In a unanimous decision written by Chief Justice Earl Warren, the court famously declared:"We conclude that in the field of public education the doctrine of 'separate but equal' has no place. Separate educational facilities are inherently unequal." Combining cases in five states and the District of Columbia, and drawing on a series of previous Supreme Court cases, Brown is widely credited not just with ordering the desegregation of public schools, but also with launching the modern civil-rights movement and leading to the integration of all public facilities in the United States. The Supreme Court, however, did not say how soon public schools should desegregate until 1955, when it declined to order immediate action and called instead for"all deliberate speed."

As the nation marks the 50th anniversary of Brown, scholars have been weighing in on the impact of the decision. How far has the nation come since Brown ? The following selections from six recent and forthcoming books reveal deep divisions over that question.

A New View of the Role of Courts, by Robert J. Cottrol, Raymond T. Diamond, and Leland B. Ware

The Flawed Compromise of 'All Deliberate Speed', by Charles J. Ogletree Jr.

An Imperfect Desegregation, by Charles T. Clotfelter

The Real Lessons of a 'Magnificent Mirage', by Derrick Bell

The First Step on a Long March, by Richard Kluger

Black Colleges and the Politics of Race, by Albert L. Samuels

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