28 Pages Posted: 11 Nov 2005
Half a century after Brown v. Board of Education, 347 U.S. 483 (1954), some truths have emerged. School desegregation came late and accomplished far less than its beneficiaries might have hoped and certainly deserved. Like the Civil War, however, Brown merits respect if only because the contrary outcome would have been so abominable. For all its flaws, the judicial sequence beginning with Brown is vastly preferable to its obvious alternative: a perpetuation of racial segregation by law under the odious separate but equal doctrine of Plessy v. Ferguson, 163 U.S. 537 (1896). In this light, it seems as discourteous to condemn Brown as it is to lament Union victory in the Civil War. The day on which the Supreme Court of the United States finally abandoned Plessy and repudiated public school segregation as a practice repugnant to the Constitution therefore deserves to be memorialized in a fashion befitting the jubilee known as Juneteenth. Indeed, May 17, 1954, deserves a name of comparable mirth. Mayteenth will do.
Keywords: Brown, desegregation, separate but equal, Plessy, Civil War, civil rights, equal protection, Warren Court, Cold War
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