In one of the most explosive legal decisions of the century, Brown v. the Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas
, the U.S. Supreme Court declared that racial segregation in America's public schools was unconstitutional. The chief attorney for the African American families who initiated the legal challenge was Thurgood Marshall, who later became the first black person to serve as a Supreme Court Justice. In this brief, detailed book, historian James Patterson reconstructs the complex history of the watershed 1954 case, from its legal precursors to its troubling legacy. "To be sure, Brown called for changes that the Court itself could not enforce," he writes. "In time, however, some of those changes came to pass, even in schools, those most highly sensitive of institutions."
Patterson outlines the stories of several influential pre-Brown cases and details the thinking and exploits of the legal minds involved with Brown, including Marshall and Chief Justice Earl Warren. He also follows the various responses to the decision by those most affected by it, including bigoted Arkansas governor Orval Faubus as well as President Dwight Eisenhower. More than a simple chronology, Brown v. Board of Education raises many questions about America's unfinished business of truly democratizing its educational system once and for all. Both instructive and disturbing, this book calls for us to question whether we will turn back the clock or demand movement forward. --Eugene Holley Jr.
From Library Journal
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Court decision (Plessy v. Ferguson) was based, the author notes, upon archaic psychological theories that had been superseded by modern theory supporting a linkage between racial segregation and concomitant feelings of inferiority and damage to motivation and, hence, to learning.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
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.