Roughly 15 years after the Supreme Court’s decision to end racial discrimination in the Brown vs. Board of Education ruling, the nation’s highest court again spoke to the issue of integrating public schools.
The court ruled that school districts must end segregation “now and hereafter” on Oct. 29, 1969. With this clear-cut language, the court, which now had Thurgood Marshall as its first Black member, left no room for doubt or delay.
The Supreme Court was responding to a legal challenge from die-hard segregationists, but they had received a defeat earlier when the court ruled unanimously that Mississippi — and, by extension, the entire country — was obliged to integrate public schools “at once.”
This was a dramatic change from the language of the 1955 decree implementing Brown vs. Board of Education, which had required integration of educational facilities “with all deliberate speed.”
In many parts of the country, this was interpreted by local school boards as carrying out the court's mandate only when they felt comfortable getting around to it.
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(Photo: Library of Congress)