LINDA BROWN, A 3RD GRADER FROM KANSAS
The United States Supreme Court hears arguments in Brown v. Board of Education. The case is named for Linda Brown, a 3rd grader in Topeka, Kansas, who was denied admission into a white school. Her father, Oliver Brown, challenged the segregation laws in the Supreme Court. Five cases were consolidated under the Brown case--all involved elementary children and all attended Black schools that were inferior to white schools. In each case, lower courts had ruled against the children based on the United States Supreme Court decision in Plessey v. Ferguson. The "separate but equal" decision became the basis for segregation.
Thurgood Marshall became the lead counsel for the school children in 1952 and 1953. He later becomes the 1st African American to serve on the Supreme Court.
BROWN V. BOARD OF EDUCATION OF TOPEKA
In Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, 1954, the Supreme Court struck down the 1896 Plessy v. Ferguson ruling (in place since 1896) and unanimously ruled “separate educational facilities are inherently unequal.” The separate system violated the 14th Amendment, prohibiting states from denying equal protection of the laws to all persons born or naturalized in the United States.
The Court seeks another round of arguments to decide how to implement the decision.
NC RESPONSE TO BROWN V. BOARD OF EDUCATION COURT RUILING
August 1954: Governor William B. Umstead and Thomas Pearsall created a “Governor’s Special Advisory Committee on Education” to study the issue of segregation.
The advisory committee, which included twelve whites and three blacks, concluded that integration in the public schools could not be accomplished nor should it be attempted.
THE PEARSALL PLAN RATIFIED
THE NEW PEARSALL COMMITTEE
Governor Umstead’s successor, Luther H. Hodges supported the committee’s conclusion and created a new committee that became known as The Pearsall Committee. No Black people were on the committee
The Pearsall Committee recommended a state constitutional amendment to prevent integration. For example, school districts could stop operations (any local official can padlock classrooms in the advent of ‘intolerable” racial situations)
BI-RACIAL COMMITTEE FORMED
Schools in Winston-Salem and Forsyth County were segregated. Boards of Education of Winston Salem and Forsyth County meet to determine possible effects of segregation. City Board appointed Biracial Committee, comprised of its own members. The County named a biracial committee to advise it.
September 1956 North Carolinians voted five to one to uphold racial segregation in the state’s public schools. Few Black people had the right to vote.
The Pearsall Plan was overwhelmingly ratified by North Carolina voters in a special referendum; school officials can padlock classroom doors if there are intolerable racial situations; and the General Assembly can use public funds for private schooling if any school is closed.
September 1956 (or July 1956): The General Assembly adopted the legislation, which became the Pearsall Plan.
WINSTON-SALEM SCHOOLS INTEGRATE
The City adopts a voluntary program of desegregation starting with Reynolds High School.
Across North Carolina, students were selected to be the “First Negro” students to integrate into high schools. Gwendolyn Bailey became the first Negro to attend Richard J. Reynolds High School and the first to graduate (1959). As this was the beginning of integration, Gwendolyn’s admission to Reynolds made national news.
The “first Negro students” enrolled in WS elementary school: Kenneth Richard Cooper, Norma Earnestine Corley, and Roslyn Dianne Cooper; driven to school by Mrs. Lovie Cooper (mother of Kenneth and Roslyn) and accompanied by Mrs. Ernest Corley, mother of Norma. Police Chief James Waller and nine policemen were at the school, along with photographers. The families spent approximately 10 minutes at the school for registration. The children were assigned to Easton by the school Board on August 18, 1958. Prior to enrollment, both families were visited by an “unidentified” white man who stated all would be better “if the children did not attend Easton.”
< CLICK TO HEAR FROM NORMA
AT EASTON ELEMENTARY
Gwendolyn Bailey, the first Negro to attend Richard J. Reynolds High School, graduated.
The article contained the following:
“ She didn’t go to the Junior-Senior. School rules have always ruled out escorts not in the high school, and she’d have been even lonelier there than she has been in school. She didn’t go to the senior picnic. It’s traditionally held at Crystal Lake. She couldn’t have gone to Crystal Lake. She went to the thing that counted most: Graduation last night.”