Tomorrow marks the 60th anniversary of the Brown v. Board of Education, a momentous date when the U.S. Supreme Court declared that the "separate but equal" doctrine of the Plessy vs. Ferguson case in 1896 was unconstitutional. The ruling in Brown v. Board of Education mandated that segregation in public schools violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. It's important to note that Brown vs. Board of Education consisted of five lawsuits against school districts in Kansas, South Carolina, Delaware, Virginia and the District of Columbia.
Brown v. Board of Education was the foundation for school integration. However, desegregating public schools was met with resistance in the South. In 1958, the state of Arkansas and the Little Rock school board gained national attention when nine African American students were prevented from entering Little Rock Central High School. President Dwight D. Eisenhower delivered a speech announcing that the Arkansas National Guard would protect the nine African American students from the mobs. Ultimately, the Supreme Court ruled that the integration of public schools had to continue as the school board planned despite the opposition within the community.
Locally, the Jacksonville community struggled with school integration as well. According to The Community Foundation for Northeast Florida's timeline of major events in 1960, 89 Caucasian and 24 African-American schools were totally segregated by students, teachers and administrators. It wasn't until 1988 when the courts ruled that the Duval County School District had eliminated segregation and was operating under a unitary school system.
As a former graduate from the Duval County public schools district, I am thankful for school integration. According to the Duval County Public School district's website for the 2013-2014 school year, here's the breakdown of the current student population:
44% African American
Although there's an achievement gap among minorities and Caucasian students, progress has been made in the state of Florida. According to the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), 2013 Nation's Report Card Florida is the only state to narrow the achievement gap in fourth and eighth-grade reading and math between Caucasian and African American students since 2011. Click here to see the Learn More. Go Further. initiative's visual highlights from the 2013 Nation's Report Card.
For more reflections about Brown v. Board of Education, check out the following links:
- 60 Years After Brown, School Diversity More Complex Than Ever - EdWeek
- 60 Years After Brown, Reflections On Desegregation In Florida - State Impact