Road to Brown



“The Road to Brown” was lead by a man named Charles Houston. Houston devoted his entire life to try and get equal treatment for blacks. But in order to begin the road to equality, a previous decision, Plessy v. Ferguson, which gave the “separate but equal” clause, had to be overturned. This was eventually accomplished in the Supreme Court decision of Brown v. the Board of Education. Brown v. the Board of Education was the result of many court decisions and developments in Civil Rights prior to 1954.
Many developments in the area of Civil Rights helped contribute to the end of “separate but equal”. In 1947 Jackie Robinson integrated baseball by becoming the first black to play in the major league. An African-American was now a part of America’s pastime. Another development in Civil Rights was the creation of the Fair Employment Practices Commission, which was created to discourage employment based on race. This was the first large-scale government action on equal rights. Another government action to improve equal rights was the desegregation of the Army ordered by President Truman in 1948. With developments like these, many blacks began to see equality on the horizon.
There was a lot of legal groundwork that was laid before the decision of Brown v. the Board of Education was made. Charles Houston and the law students he trained laid this legal groundwork. Houston, after seeing first hand the treatment of black soldiers by whites in World War I, decided to devote his life to fighting for equal treatment for blacks. He knew the fight had to be done legally, so he went to law school and became a lawyer. Houston decided to target education because the discrimination in schools was symbolic of the discrimination found in other parts of life. First, Houston and the NAACP made a movie about the schools in South Carolina, which showed that black’s schools were not equal to white’s. Then came Houston’s first case, Murray v. Maryland. Murray, an African-American, wanted to attend the University of Maryland and the University would not accept him. But since the University was the only law school in the state, the court forced them to accept Murray. Yet this was not a federal case and so it did not affect the other states. But Houston got his chance to go to the Supreme Court after the Missouri State Court ruled against Houston in the case of Gaines v. Missouri, which was about blacks being able to attend the only law school in Missouri. The Missouri State Court ruled that because there were law schools bordering the state, Gaines could go to one of those schools. Then when the case was taken to the Supreme Court, Houston won and Gaines had the right to attend the Missouri law school. Another huge precedent of Brown v. the Board of Education came when Texas built a separate law school for one black after Houston’s legal team brought a lawsuit against Texas, which was for their denial of admission of Sweat into the law school. Sweat v. Painter was then taken to the Supreme Court, where they ruled that the intangibles of a separate school were not equal, such as the schools heritage, teacher experience, credibility, etc. Now Houston’s legal team was ready to challenge the ruling of Plessy v. Ferguson in the landmark case, Brown v. the Board of Education. In this case the Supreme Court ruled that separate was inherently unequal and separation had no place in the school, overturning Plessy v. Ferguson.
The decision that separate was inherently unequal in the schools did not just come out of the blue. There were many court decisions and developments that led up to it, such as the desegregation of the Army and the case of Gaines v. Missouri. Brown v. the Board of Education not only ended segregation in the schools, it laid the groundwork for challenging every other aspect of segregation.




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