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Freedom: A History of US.
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Webisode 13: Democracy and Struggles
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Thurgood Marshall
Segment 8
Mother and child at the Supreme Court Brown v. Board of Education

Linda Carol Brown—who is seven-years-old and lives in Topeka, Kansas—has to walk across railroad tracks and take an old bus to get to school, even though there is a better school five blocks from her house. Linda can't go to that school because she is black, and the schools in Topeka are segregated. In 1951, Linda's father, the Reverend Oliver Brown, goes to court to try to do something about it. Their case becomes known as Brown v. Board of Education, and it goes all the way to the Supreme Court. Thurgood Marshall, the great-grandson of a slave, is the lawyer who reads the opening argument in the case See It Now - Thurgood Marshall. It is December 9, 1952. He says, Hear It Now - Thurgood Marshall "Ever since the Emancipation Proclamation, the Negro has been trying to get the same status as anybody else regardless of race."

Does segregation break the rules of the Constitution? Marshall and the lawyers for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People say it does. They read the words of the Fourteenth Amendment— "No state shall abridge the privileges of citizens of the United States, nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws." That, says Thurgood Marshall, makes the doctrine of "separate but equal" unconstitutional. He says that segregated schools can never be truly equal—separating people makes them feel unequal and inferior. Hear It Now - Thurgood Marshall "Like a cancer, segregation destroys the morale of our citizens and disfigures our country throughout the world," he says.


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Did You Know?
There was segregation in the South, but there was also segregation in other parts of the country at this time, like Alaska. There were signs all over Alaska that said "No Natives Allowed." Eskimos, Aleuts, and Native American tribes were all discriminated against in similar ways to the African-Americans of the South.


Did you know that Freedom is adapted from the award-winning Oxford University Press multi-volume book series, A History of US by Joy Hakim?



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