Beyond Brown: Pursuing the Promise Image Strip of Linda Brown walking to school, girl taking test at desk, Nettie Hunt and daughter with newspaper headline on steps of Supreme Court, present day children raising hands, children at computers
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The History of Brown v. Board of Education Timeline

Thurgood Marshall graduates first in his class from Howard University's School of Law. Oliver Hill, also a classmate and one of the Brown counsels, graduates second. Marshall and Hill were both mentored by the Law School's vice-dean Charles Hamilton Houston.

The Maryland Court of Appeals rules that Donald Murray, the first black applicant to a white southern law school Law School, must be admitted.

In the case Missouri ex rel. Gaines v. Canada, the U.S. Supreme Court invalidates state laws that required African-American students to attend out-of-state graduate schools to avoid admitting them to their states' all-white facilities or building separate graduate schools for them.

Thurgood Marshall writes the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund's corporate charter and becomes its first director and chief counsel.

In the case Alston v. School Board of City of Norfolk, a federal appeals court orders that African-American teachers be paid salaries equal to those of white teachers.

Charles Hamilton Houston, the chief architect of the legal strategy for racial equality, dies. He was Thurgood Marshall's teacher and mentor, and Dean of Howard University's Law School.

In the case McLaurin v. Oklahoma State Regents, taken to the Supreme Court by the NAACP, the Supreme Court holds that an African-American student admitted to a formerly all-white graduate school could not be subjected to practices of segregation that interfered with meaningful classroom instruction and interaction with other students, such as making a student sit in the classroom doorway, isolated from the professor and other students.

In the case Sweatt v. Painter, another NAACP Legal Defense Fund case, the Supreme Court rules that a separate law school hastily established for black students to prevent their having to be admitted to the previously all-white University of Texas School of Law could not provide a legal education “equal” to that available to white students. The Court orders the admission of Herman Marion Sweatt to the University of Texas Law School.

Brown v. Board of Education:
The Supreme Court rules that racial segregation in public schools violates the Fourteenth Amendment, which guarantees equal protection, and the Fifth Amendment, which guarantees due process. This landmark case overturned the “separate but equal” doctrine that underpinned legal segregation.

The racial climate in the south intensifies, due in part to the Supreme Court decision. In August, Emmett Till, a 14 year-old African American, is murdered in Mississippi for whistling at a white woman. His open-casket funeral in Chicago drew 50,000 mourners. In November, Rosa Parks refuses to give her bus seat to a white passenger and move to the rear section designated for black passengers. Ms. Parks's arrest inspires the 382-day Montgomery bus boycott, led by Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. Both events sparked the mass movement for civil rights.

President Eisenhower orders National Guard to Little Rock, Arkansas to escort nine black students to Central High School to enforce Brown.

The NAACP Legal Defense Fund wins a Supreme Court ruling that barred Arkansas Governor Orval Faubus from interfering with the desegregation of Little Rock's Central High School. The decision affirms Brown as the law of the land nationwide.

Prince Edward County, Virginia closes all of its public schools rather than desegregate them.

A lawsuit forces the University of Georgia to admit its first two African Americans, Charlayne Hunter and Hamilton Holmes.

James Meredith finally succeeds in becoming the first African-American student to be admitted to the University of Mississippi (Ole Miss) through the efforts of a legal team led by Constance Baker Motley.

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 is passed by Congress. It bans discrimination in voting, public accommodations, schools, and employment.

The five-day Selma to Montgomery march for voting rights, led by Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.

The Voting Rights Act, which outlaws the poll tax, literacy test, and other obstacles to black voters is passed by Congress.

Thurgood Marshall is appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court, becoming the first African-American to sit on the bench.

In the case Green v. County School Board of New Kent County (Virginia), the Supreme Court holds that “freedom of choice” plans are ineffective at producing actual school desegregation and must be replaced with more effective strategies.

Swann v. Charlotte-Mecklenberg Board of Education:
The Supreme Court upholds the use of busing as a means of desegregating public schools.

In the case Norwood v. Harrison, the Supreme Court rules that States cannot provide free textbooks to segregated private schools established to allow whites to avoid public school desegregation.

A federal appeals court approves a district court order requiring federal education officials to enforce Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act (which bars discrimination by recipients of federal funds) against state universities, public schools, and other institutions that receive federal money.

Milliken v. Bradley: The Supreme Court rules that, in almost all cases, a federal court cannot impose an inter-district remedy between a city and its surrounding suburbs in order to integrate city schools. Such integration plans must be voluntary.

After a long court battle, Boston was ordered to desgregate its public schools. Busing to achieve integration ripped the city apart, and made Boston a symbol of northern resistance.

Bakke v. Regents of the University of California: The Supreme Court rules that schools can take race into account in admissions, but cannot use quotas.

In the case Dowell v. Oklahoma City, the Supreme Court authorized a return to neighborhood schools even if the change in policy would create re-segregation.

Boston ends its busing plan under threat of court action by white opponents. Five years later, Boston public schools are 85% African American and Latino, and 1400 of 60,000 students drop out.

Thirty years of court-supervised desegregation ends in Charlotte-Mecklenburg school district.

In Gratz v. Bollinger and Grutter v. Bollinger a major victory for affirmative action, the Supreme Court rules in favor of diversity as a compelling state interest in the University of Michigan admissions case.

43,000 Florida students are forced to repeat third grade after failing the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test. Most are African American. High-stakes testing has been instituted in 14 states and the City of New York.

Excerpted with permission from (

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