From the Civil War to Civil Rights, whites treated African Americans poorly, brutally, and savagely: solely, because of the color of their skin. African Americans were branded as second-class citizens, and they received the worst paying jobs; education, homes and legal representation. During the 1950's, there were many disadvantages for African Americans, and the nation was so crippled with blatant racism and violence. African Americans were discriminated against in many public and private services, as well as restaurants and schools. They were expected to attend schools with large class sizes, and received books that were used and abused, opposite to their white counterparts where the resources were current and class size much more manageable. Also, the white schools had well-trained teachers, while the African American schools were staffed with untrained and poor teaching. One of the landmark cases that the NAACP was involved in was Brown v. Board of Education. The case addressed the issue of segregation and whether an African American girl, Linda Brown could attend a local, all-white school. Linda had to walk over twenty blocks to get to her school in Topeka even though there was a neighborhood school. On May 19, 1954, The Supreme Court determined that the constitution was "color-blind". The outcome of this lengthy battle led the Supreme Court ordering the Topeka Board of Education to end segregation in its schools. My students will be able to determine why the Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, 1954 case had an effect on public schools under the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th amendment of the U.S. Constitution; which prohibits states from denying any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws. Probably no 20
century Supreme Court decision so deeply stirred and changed life in the United States as Linda Brown. Many towns and cities began to desegregate their schools. Often the most run-down African American schools were simply closed down, and the children were sent to the nearest white school. Although the desegregation is what African American people were aiming for, it brought along with it several condemnations, mainly angry white people. When Clinton, Tennessee began to integrate its Central High School in 1956, massive riots broke out. Brown itself was not a single case, but rather a collective group of five lawsuits against school districts in Kansas, South Carolina, Delaware, Virginia, and the District of Columbia. As indicated in Micheal Klarman's book, From Jim Crow to Civil Rights, Thurgood Marshall, an attorney for the NAACP, litigated these cases over the next two decades. Marshall recruited Constance Baker Motley, a New Haven native to assist him in litigating these cases. Marshall's summation of the case focused on segregation and discrimination. He completed his summation emphasizing that segregation was rooted in the desire to keep "the people who were formerly in slavery as near to that stage as is possible."
There are many accounts of the horrific ordeals that the students had to encounter while courageously integrating schools in the south. By researching the events of the Little Rock Nine, and examining how the NAACP fought to integrate schools, my focus will be to assist my students in valuing education and developing empathy for the pioneers of the integration movement. One of the Little Rock Nine, Melba Patillo Beals explains in her book, "Warriors Don't Cry", her dramatic battle to integrate Little Rock's Central High School. Beals writes compassionately by using her diaries and the current media coverage to provide an account; and a re-creation of her devastating walk through the halls of Central High School. The backlash of Brown v. Board of Education's decision carried with it more than the opportunity to attend school with white children, and integration had its price. One of the newspapers reported that, "one of Little Rocks Nine, Ernest Greene's diploma cost taxpayers half a million dollars", but Melba said it cost them much much more. "It cost them their innocence and a precious year of their teenage lives." Her home was her shelter and refuge, and other times she felt like it was a prison. She lost her friends from her former school, and reverted her to exhibit low self-esteem. She felt inferior to white people and invaluable to her race. Also, it cost these students embarrassment, jobs, foreclosures, bruises, cuts and scars. Beal's book will be used to examine some of the NAACP's strategy meetings that were held to create their master plan for integration, as well as to understand how important the media coverage was then and is to our society today.