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This Far by Faith

Journeys

Timeline

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About the Series
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1526-1775: from AFRICA to AMERICA1776-1865: from BONDAGE to HOLY WAR1866-1945: from EMANCIPATION to JIM CROW1946-1966: from CIVIL RIGHTS to BLACK POWER1967-TODAY: from CRISIS, A SEARCH FOR MEANINGTODAY: The Journey Continues
1526-1775: from AFRICA to AMERICA1776-1865: from BONDAGE to HOLY WAR1866-1945: from EMANCIPATION to JIM CROW
1526-1775: from AFRICA to AMERICA1776-1865: from BONDAGE to HOLY WAR1866-1945: from EMANCIPATION to JIM CROW
1946-1966: from CIVIL RIGHTS to BLACK POWER
Next Journey
The Walls of Segregation Come Tumbling Down 1967-TODAY: from CRISIS, A SEARCH FOR MEANING



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Timeline: 1946-1966 View Detailed Timeline
1967-TODAY: from CRISIS, A SEARCH FOR MEANINGTODAY: The Journey Continues
1967-TODAY: from CRISIS, A SEARCH FOR MEANINGTODAY: The Journey Continues




1946-1966: from CIVIL RIGHTS to BLACK POWER
The Walls of Segregation Come Tumbling Down




Brown v. Board of Education was actually an amalgamation of several cases challenging the separate but equal doctrine laid down by Plessy in 1890.


Children holding candles outside church.

Children holding candles outside church.


The decision that led to the landmark case was Briggs v. Elliott, a case that originated in Clarendon County, South Carolina. That case was launched in 1950, and involved school principal and AME minister Rev. Joseph Armstrong DeLaine of Liberty AME Church.

Located southeast of Columbia, South Carolina's capital, Clarendon County is filled with rolling fields and woodland. In the late 1940s, the population of the county was 70 percent black. Under the "separate-but-equal" education system, the school board spent $179 on each white child and $46 on each black child. As a result, there were vast discrepancies in the educational facilities for the two groups. In the black schools, there were very few seats, and the state provided no bricks and mortar whatsoever. In many instances, parents had to go to lumber mills to get handouts - lumber that was so badly warped that they couldn't sell it. The parents used this lumber to build schoolhouses. In other cases, churches or Masonic lodges became schools. In addition, black children often had to walk, while white children of the same district were given buses. Rev. DeLaine's request of a bus for his pupils, who walked seven miles daily, was the action that prompted Briggs v. Elliott.


George E.C. Hayes, Thurgood Marshall, and M. Nabrit congratulating each other following Supreme Court decision declaring segregation unconstitutional.

George E.C. Hayes, Thurgood Marshall, and M. Nabrit congratulating each other following Supreme Court decision declaring segregation unconstitutional.


The case began without any thought of integration. Rather, the intent was to make the state of South Carolina provide equal educational opportunity for black children. But when the plaintiffs, led by NAACP Legal Defense Fund lawyer Thurgood Marshall, went before the district courts in Charleston, Judge J. Waites Waring responded by saying, "You are wasting my time - you've got the laws on the book which give you separate but equal, but as long as you have separate, you never will have equality. So go back and amend your case and come back and challenge segregation itself."

On Judge Waring's advice, Thurgood Marshall changed tactics. Briggs v. Elliott was heard by a panel of three federal judges in Charleston, South Carolina, who ruled against them; however, Judge Waring's s' dissent formed the legal foundation for the Supreme Court in the Brown decision.

By this time, however, Rev. DeLaine had been forced to leave South Carolina. His home burned to the ground while local firefighters stood by, claiming the fire lay outside their jurisdiction. He received frequent death threats, and when the AME church reassigned him to neighboring Florence County, his troubles escalated.

DeLaine received a letter telling him if he did not leave South Carolina, he and his family would burn to death in their home. Night-riders fired shots at the DeLaine home. DeLaine fired back - but only, he said, to mark the vehicle the assailants were using.


Nevertheless he was charged with attempted murder. He fled to New York, where he died in 1974.

But Rev. DeLaine maintained faith that his actions had been for the good of his people. In the year 2000, some 45 years later and 25 years after he died, the charges levied against him were finally vacated.

To read an account of the Briggs story, visit:
http://unbrokencircle.org/scripts03.htm



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