The Ugly Backlash To Brown v. Board of Ed Decision

Today, most Americans think about the segregation-shattering 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision
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Today, most Americans think about the segregation-shattering 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision in one of three ways.

We may think about Linda Brown, the plaintiff in Brown, a little girl forced to walk miles to a segregated Black school instead of attending the white school down the block. We may remember the famed Norman Rockwell painting featuring 6-year-old Ruby Bridges escorted by U.S. Marshals past a wall splattered with tomatoes and a racial slur. Or we may recall the tumult of busing in the South — Alabama, Mississippi, and Georgia… and even much further north of the Mason-Dixon Line in South Boston, too.

But there is plenty that we have not been taught about Brown, which turned 68 Tuesday, or how it continues to impact us.

We know about Linda Brown and Ruby Bridges. But we don’t know about Pressley Giles, Mary Preyer, Virgil Coleman and Jewel Butler. They were among the 100,000 exceptionally credentialed Black principals and teachers illegally purged from desegregating schools in the wake of Brown.

In the years following the Supreme Court ruling, and well into the 1970s, white resistance to the decree decimated the ranks of Black principals and teachers. In large measure, white school boards, superintendents, state legislators — and white parents — did not want Black children attending school with white children. And they certainly did not want Black teachers educating white children and Black principals leading schools and supervising white teachers.

The scheme devised to quickly eliminate Black educators: the closure of Black schools.

Even prior to Black school closures, Black principals and teachers received letters from district superintendents erroneously telling them that the desegregation decree was responsible for their firings, dismissals and demotions. Less-qualified white teachers, many of whom didn’t have credentials, were hired in their stead. Read more.

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