Amdt14.S1. Aftermath of Brown in Education

Fourteenth Amendment, Section 1:

All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

For the next several years, the Court declined to interfere with the administration of its mandate, ruling only in those years on the efforts of Arkansas to block desegregation of schools in Little Rock.1 In the main, these years were taken up with enactment and administration of pupil placement laws by which officials assigned each student individually to a school on the basis of formally nondiscriminatory criteria, and which required the exhaustion of state administrative remedies before each pupil seeking reassignment could bring individual litigation.2 The lower courts eventually began voiding these laws for discriminatory application, permitting class actions,3 and the Supreme Court voided the exhaustion of state remedies requirement.4 In the early 1960s, various state practices—school closings,5 minority transfer plans,6 zoning,7 and the like—were ruled impermissible, and the Court indicated that the time was running out for full implementation of the Brown mandate.8

About this time, freedom of choice plans were promulgated under which each child in the school district could choose each year which school he wished to attend, and, subject to space limitations, he could attend that school. These were first approved by the lower courts as acceptable means to implement desegregation, subject to the reservation that they be fairly administered.9 Enactment of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and HEW enforcement in a manner as to require effective implementation of affirmative actions to desegregate10 led to a change of attitude in the lower courts and the Supreme Court. In Green v. School Board of New Kent County,11 the Court posited the principle that the only desegregation plan permissible is one which actually results in the abolition of the dual school, and charged school officials with an affirmative obligation to achieve it. School boards must present to the district courts a plan that promises realistically to work and promises realistically to work now, in such a manner as to convert promptly to a system without a ‘white’ school and a ‘Negro’ school, but just schools.12 Furthermore, as the Court and lower courts had by then made clear, school desegregation encompassed not only the abolition of dual attendance systems for students, but also the merging into one system of faculty,13 staff, and services, so that no school could be marked as either a black or a white school.14


  1.  Jump to essay-1Cooper v. Aaron, 358 U.S. 1 (1958).
  2.  Jump to essay-2E.g., Covington v. Edwards, 264 F.2d 780 (4th Cir.), cert. denied, 361 U.S. 840 (1959); Holt v. Raleigh City Bd. of Educ., 265 F.2d 95 (4th Cir.), cert. denied, 361 U.S. 818 (1959); Dove v. Parham, 271 F.2d 132 (8th Cir. 1959).
  3.  Jump to essay-3E.g., McCoy v. Greensboro City Bd. of Educ., 283 F.2d 667 (4th Cir. 1960); Green v. School Board of Roanoke, 304 F.2d 118 (4th Cir. 1962); Gibson v. Board of Pub. Instruction of Dade County, 272 F.2d 763 (5th Cir. 1959); Northcross v. Board of Educ. of Memphis, 302 F.2d 818 (6th Cir. 1962), cert. denied, 370 U.S. 944 (1962).
  4.  Jump to essay-4McNeese v. Cahokia Bd. of Educ., 373 U.S. 668 (1963).
  5.  Jump to essay-5Griffin v. Prince Edward County School Bd., 377 U.S. 218 (1964) (holding that under the circumstances the closing by a county of its schools while all the other schools in the State were open denied equal protection, the circumstances apparently being the state permission and authority for the closing and the existence of state and county tuition grant/tax credit programs making an official connection with the private schools operating in the county and holding that a federal court is empowered to direct the appropriate officials to raise and expend money to operate schools). On school closing legislation in another State, see Bush v. Orleans Parish School Bd., 187 F. Supp. 42, 188 F. Supp. 916 (E.D. La. 1960), aff’d, 365 U.S. 569 (1961); Hall v. St. Helena Parish School Bd., 197 F. Supp. 649 (E.D. La. 1961), aff’d, 368 U.S. 515 (1962).
  6.  Jump to essay-6Goss v. Knoxville Bd. of Educ., 373 U.S. 683 (1963). Such plans permitted as of right a student assigned to a school in which students of his race were a minority to transfer to a school where the student majority was of his race.
  7.  Jump to essay-7Northcross v. Board of Educ. of Memphis, 333 F.2d 661 (6th Cir. 1964).
  8.  Jump to essay-8The first comment appeared in dictum in a nonschool case, Watson v. City of Memphis, 373 U.S. 526, 530 (1963), and was implied in Goss v. Board of Educ. of City of Knoxville, 373 U.S. 683, 689 (1963). In Bradley v. School Bd. of City of Richmond, 382 U.S. 103, 105 (1965), the Court announced that [d]elays in desegregating school systems are no longer tolerable. A grade-a-year plan was implicitly disapproved in Calhoun v. Latimer, 377 U.S. 263 (1964), vacating and remanding 321 F.2d 302 (5th Cir. 1963). See Singleton v. Jackson Municipal Separate School Dist., 355 F.2d 865 (5th Cir. 1966).
  9.  Jump to essay-9E.g., Bradley v. School Bd. of City of Richmond, 345 F.2d 310 (4th Cir.), rev’d on other grounds, 382 U.S. 103 (1965); Bowman v. School Bd. of Charles City County, 382 F.2d 326 (4th Cir. 1967).
  10.  Jump to essay-10Pub. L. No. 88-352, 78 Stat. 252, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000d et seq. (prohibiting discrimination in federally assisted programs). HEW guidelines were designed to afford guidance to state and local officials in interpretations of the law and were accepted as authoritative by the courts and used. Davis v. Board of School Comm’rs of Mobile County, 364 F.2d 896 (5th Cir. 1966); Kemp v. Beasley, 352 F.2d 14 (8th Cir. 1965).
  11.  Jump to essay-11391 U.S. 430 (1968); Raney v. Gould Bd. of Educ., 391 U.S. 443 (1968). These cases had been preceded by a circuit-wide promulgation of similar standards in United States v. Jefferson County Bd. of Educ., 372 F.2d 836 (5th Cir. 1966), modified and aff’d, 380 F.2d 385 (5th Cir.) (en banc), cert. denied, 389 U.S. 840 (1967).
  12.  Jump to essay-12Green, 391 U.S. at 439, 442 (1968). Brown II was a call for the dismantling of well-entrenched dual systems tempered by an awareness that complex and multifaceted problems would arise which would require time and flexibility for a successful resolution. School boards such as the respondent then operating state-compelled dual systems were nevertheless clearly charged with the affirmative duty to take whatever steps might be necessary to convert to a unitary system in which racial discrimination would be eliminated root and branch. Id. at 437–38. The case laid to rest the dictum of Briggs v. Elliott, 132 F. Supp. 776, 777 (E.D.S.C. 1955), that the Constitution does not require integration but merely forbids discrimination. Green and Raney v. Board of Educ. of Gould School Dist., 391 U.S. 443 (1968), found freedom of choice plans inadequate, and Monroe v. Board of Comm’rs of City of Jackson, 391 U.S. 450 (1968), found a free transfer plan inadequate.
  13.  Jump to essay-13Bradley v. School Bd. of City of Richmond, 382 U.S. 103 (1965) (faculty desegregation is integral part of any pupil desegregation plan); United States v. Montgomery County Bd. of Educ., 395 U.S. 225 (1969) (upholding district court order requiring assignment of faculty and staff on a ratio based on racial population of district).
  14.  Jump to essay-14United States v. Jefferson County Bd. of Educ., 372 F.2d 836 (5th Cir. 1966), mod. and aff’d, 380 F.2d 385 (5th Cir.) (en banc), cert. denied, 389 U.S. 840 (1967).