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