School Desegregation


  • Hyde County School Boycott

    Ten years after the Supreme Court ruled that segregated schools were unconstitutional, schools in Hyde County, North Carolina, remained segregated. When the county was forced to desegregate the schools in 1968, the all-white school board decided to close the historically black schools. A yearlong protest revolutionized race relations in the small, rural town, and changed the face of education for its students.
    Grades: 3-12
  • Brown Reactions: Black Educators

    When the United States Supreme Court declared segregated schools unconstitutional in 1954, newspaper editorials and other written commentary reflected a nation's divided response. This collection of primary source documents captures the range of opinions about the Court's ruling.

    Grades: 6-12
  • Brown Reactions: Editorials

    When the United States Supreme Court declared segregated schools unconstitutional in 1954, newspaper editorials and other written commentary reflected a nation's divided response. This collection of primary source documents captures the range of opinions about the Court's ruling.

    Grades: 6-12
  • Brown Reactions: Judge Brady

    When the United States Supreme Court declared segregated schools unconstitutional in 1954, newspaper editorials and other written commentary reflected a nation's divided response. This collection of primary source documents captures the range of opinions about the Court's ruling.

    Grades: 6-12
  • Brown Reactions: Zora Neale Hurston

    When the United States Supreme Court declared segregated schools unconstitutional in 1954, newspaper editorials and other written commentary reflected a nation's divided response. This collection of primary source documents captures the range of opinions about the Court's ruling.

    Grades: 6-12
  • Mendez v. Westminster: Desegregating California's Schools

    In 1946, eight years before the landmark Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education, Mexican Americans in Orange County, California won a class action lawsuit to dismantle the segregated school system that existed there. In this video segment, Sylvia Mendez recalls the conditions that triggered the lawsuit and her parents' involvement in the case.

    Grades: 3-12
  • Implementing Brown

    This video segment reveals conflicting views of President Eisenhower's response to the Brown v. Board of Education ruling against segregated schools. NAACP attorney Constance Baker Motley argues that the president should have done more to enforce the ruling. Former attorney general Herbert Brownell and his deputy, William Rogers, explain the president's cautious response.

    Grades: 6-12
  • Melba Pattillo Beals

    This interview with Melba Pattillo Beals recalls her experience as one of the nine African American students who attended Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas in 1957. Against a backdrop of white resistance and racial violence, Beals and eight other students desegregated Central High School under armed federal escort. Beals was frequently assaulted and harassed by whites while a student at Central High. This resource is part of the Civil Rights collection.

    Grades: 9-12
  • Reconsidering Brown

    In the video segments presented in this activity, historians and legal scholars Sheryll Cashin, Lani Guinier, Charles Ogletree, and Gary Orfield, reflect back on the promise of the Supreme Court ruling in Brown v. Board of Education, and why it remains unfulfilled.

    Grades: 9-13+
  • Reconstruction and Black Education

    Before the Civil War, most southern states made it illegal to educate slaves, but many enslaved people did learn to read and write. During the post-Civil War Reconstruction era, the number of schools and the literacy rate for African Americans increased dramatically. This mini-documentary, produced for the American Experience: "Reconstruction" Web site, follows the development of schools for African Americans as well as the resistance it sparked.

    Grades: 3-12
  • Re-Examining Brown

    This lesson explores the historical complexity of the struggle to desegregate schools, the geographic scope of racism, conditions that prompted activism and litigation, and how laws have changed over time.

    Grades: 9-12
  • Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth

    In this interview, the Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth recalls his involvement in the Civil Rights Movement. Shuttlesworth was a leader of the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights and led civil rights demonstrations in Birmingham, Alabama, once considered one of the most segregated and racially violent cities in the South.

    Grades: 6-12
  • Segregated Schooling in Alabama

    The Supreme Court declared segregated schools unconstitutional in 1954, but it took a separate six-year lawsuit to force officials in Birmingham, Alabama to comply with the Court's ruling. This scrapbook illustrates conditions in the city's black and white schools leading to the lawsuit, shows white parents protesting integration, and includes an executive order signed by Governor George Wallace to block integration.

    Grades: 3-5
  • Segregated Schooling in South Carolina

    In 1950, a group of black parents in Clarendon County, South Carolina filed a lawsuit to equalize education for their children. Encouraged by the NAACP and a local minister, the Reverend Joseph Armstrong De Laine, the case became part of the landmark 1954 Brown v. Board of Education ruling. In this video segment, the Reverend De Laine's children, Joseph De Laine Jr. and Ophelia De Laine Gona, recall conditions in their segregated school.
    Grades: 3-12
  • Segregation Ordinances: Birmingham, AL

    In the years immediately following the Civil War, the Supreme Court passed federal legislation granting African Americans citizenship rights. But by 1910, all of the former Confederate states had adopted segregation laws of their own, designed to prevent African Americans from participating fully in American society. In this primary source document from 1951, the city of Birmingham, Alabama spells out its segregation ordinances, the laws requiring the separation of the races in restaurants, public performance spaces, public transportation, and other social venues.

    Grades: 6-12
  • Sherman Oaks, a Model for Integration

    The Sherman Oaks Center for Enriched Studies was designed as a desegregation tool following a 100-year-old struggle to integrate California's public schools. This audio segment from National Public Radio's All Things Considered tells the story of one school's successful efforts to provide equal education to all students.
    Grades: 6-12
  • Simple Justice 1: A Handful of Lawyers

    On May 17, 1954, the Supreme Court ruled in Brown v. Board of Education that segregated schools were unconstitutional. What happened that day reflected years of work, dating back to the law school days of the NAACP attorneys and the professor who trained them, Charles Houston. This video segment, from American Experience: "Simple Justice", looks at Houston's role in preparing the NAACP attorneys and the strategies they would use later in court to attack segregation.

    Grades: 6-12
  • Simple Justice 2: Social Science Evidence

    In this video segment, African American psychologist Dr. Kenneth B. Clark conducts his famous "doll test," designed to gather social science evidence of the effects of racial discrimination. That evidence would eventually be presented in Brown v. Board of Education. to argue that racial discrimination in public schools was a violation of the Constitution and psychologically harmful to African American children.

    Grades: 6-12
  • Simple Justice 3: The Trial Begins

    After decades of fighting for equal education, the NAACP's legal struggle came before the United States Supreme Court. The Court's decision in Brown v. Board of Education would either affirm or outlaw the segregated schools that existed across the country. This video segment from American Experience: "Simple Justice" recalls the opening arguments.

    Grades: 6-12
  • Simple Justice 4: Arguing the Fourteenth Amendment

    In 1896, the Supreme Court ruled that segregated public facilities did not violate the Fourteenth Amendment's equal protection clause. Forty-eight years later, the Court reconsidered that argument in Brown v. Board of Education. This video segment from American Experience: "Simple Justice" captures the complexity of the issues before the Court.

    Grades: 6-12

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