Cover image for Brown v. Board of Education : a civil rights milestone and its troubled legacy
Brown v. Board of Education : a civil rights milestone and its troubled legacy
Patterson, James T.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Oxford ; New York : Oxford University Press, 2001.
Physical Description:
xxx, 285 pages : illustrations, maps ; 25 cm.
Format :


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KF4155 .P38 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area
KF4155 .P38 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks
KF4155 .P38 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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Many people were elated when Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren delivered Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka in May 1954, the ruling that struck down state-sponsored racial segregation in America's public schools. Thurgood Marshall, chief attorney for the black families that launchedthe litigation, exclaimed later, "I was so happy, I was numb." The novelist Ralph Ellison wrote, "another battle of the Civil War has been won. The rest is up to us and I'm very glad. What a wonderful world of possibilities are unfolded for the children!" Here, in a concise, compelling narrative, Bancroft Prize-winning historian James T. Patterson takes readers through the dramatic case and its fifty-year aftermath. A wide range of characters animates the story, from the little-known African-Americans who dared to challenge Jim Crow withlawsuits (at great personal cost); to Thurgood Marshall, who later became a Justice himself; to Earl Warren, who shepherded a fractured Court to a unanimous decision. Others include segregationist politicians like Governor Orval Faubus of Arkansas; Presidents Eisenhower, Johnson, and Nixon; andcontroversial Supreme Court justices such as William Rehnquist and Clarence Thomas. Most Americans still see Brown as a triumph--but was it? Patterson shrewdly explores the provocative questions that still swirl around the case. Could the Court--or President Eisenhower--have done more to ensure compliance with Brown? Did the decision touch off the modern civil rightsmovement? How useful are court-ordered busing and affirmative action against racial segregation? To what extent has racial mixing affected the academic achievement of black children? Where indeed do we go from here to realize the expectations of Marshall, Ellison, and others in 1954?

Author Notes

James T. Patterson is an American historian, and Ford Foundation Professor of History emeritus at Brown University. He wrote "Grand Expectations: the United States, 1945-1974," which received the 1997 Bancroft Prize in American history. (The Bancroft prize is one of the most prestigious honors a book of history can received and was established at Columbia University in 1948. It's considered to be on par with the Pulitzer Prize because an anonymous jury of peers judges it.) "Grand Expectations" is an interpretation of the explosive growth, high expectations and unusual optimism that Americans experienced after World War II that went into the 1960's. It follows the social, economic and cultural trends, and foreign policy issues, which became less optimistic after the assassinations, the Vietnam War and Watergate.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Where interest in civil rights history is strong, this thoughtful analysis of the landmark 1954 decision should circulate. Brown University historian Patterson, whose Grand Expectations: The United States, 1945^-1974 (1996) won the Bancroft Prize, explores the decision's context, early reaction in black and white communities, and the controversies that have surrounded each decade's efforts to implement Brown's rejection of "separate but equal" schools. Even in the '50s, some African Americans felt it was more important to challenge social and economic inequality than segregation itself. Over the decades, particularly as enforcement shifted from the South's de jure segregation to de facto segregation in the North, the tools used to implement Brown, from busing to affirmative action, generated new but still bitter debate. Patterson examines the full range of issues raised by Brown over the years, including the decision's impact on the growth of the civil rights movement, advantages and limitations of court action on issues legislators decline to address, and the recent trend toward resegregation of schools. Appendixes list key court cases and provide relevant statistics. --Mary Carroll

Library Journal Review

Patterson (history, Brown Univ., Grand Expectations) is eminently qualified to lead us through the saga of the Civil Rights movement as it relates to public education. The U.S. Supreme Court's landmark 1954 decision overturned a way of thinking that had persisted largely unchallenged since the end of the Civil War. A commonly accepted legal theory supported by an 1896 Supreme Court decision (Plessy v. Ferguson) was based, the author notes, upon archaic psychological theories that had been superseded by modern theory supporting a linkage between racial segregation and concomitant feelings of inferiority and damage to motivation and, hence, to learning. The author devotes the rest of the book to the tedious and thorny issues of implementation that he believes were needlessly protracted because the Court, in an effort to achieve unanimity and, feeling the need to placate the Southern states by abstaining from inflammatory rhetoric or threat of force, laid down only broad guidelines. The result, notes the author, is a process that has lately actually fluctuated back in the direction of permitting re-segregation in neighborhood schools where demographic changes resulting from private choice rather than public policy have produced a different racial mix. The issues are complex, profound, and ongoing, but the author provides balanced and extensive coverage. Recommended for academic and law libraries.DPhilip Y. Blue, New York State Supreme Court Criminal Branch Law Lib., New York (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

Patterson (history, Brown) has written a superb brief survey of the major Supreme Court decision attacking de jure racial segregation in public schools. He deftly covers the legal background of the case, the events and arguments surrounding the decision, attempts to implement it, and its continuing legacy. He draws sharply etched portraits of the leading players from Chief Justice Earl Warren to black petitioner Oliver Brown. Most impressively, Patterson does not merely catalog facts and write brief biographical sketches; he offers a provocative interpretation, arguing that desegregation--the removal of the legal separation of blacks from whites in public education--was the major positive result of the Brown decision. However, integration--the assurance that most public schools had at least some mixture of black and white students--was a much thornier issue that was not solved by the Brown decision. Patterson also gives voice to black opposition to integration, which helps make this well-written, very nuanced, and complex study simply the best short history of this topic. It belongs in all but the smallest libraries. A. O. Edmonds Ball State University

Table of Contents

Editors' Notep. xi
Preface: Contesting the Color Linep. xiii
1 Race and the Schools Before Brownp. 1
2 The Grass Roots and Struggling Lawyersp. 21
3 The Court Decidesp. 46
4 Crossroads, 1954-55p. 70
5 Southern Whites Fight Backp. 86
6 Striving for Racial Balance in the 1960sp. 118
7 The Burger Court Surprisesp. 147
8 Stalematesp. 170
9 Resegregation?p. 191
10 Legacies and Lessonsp. 206
Appendix I Key Casesp. 225
Appendix II Tables and Figuresp. 227
Notesp. 237
Bibliographical Essayp. 263
Acknowledgmentsp. 269
Indexp. 271