Catalyst for change

There are a few Supreme Court rulings that are so significant that virtually everyone who attended school has heard of them:

• Marbury v. Madison was the first case the court decided that deemed a law passed by Congress was unconstitutional, thereby establishing its right to do so.

• New York Times v. Sullivan extended press protection under the First Amendment.

• Miranda v. Arizona established that suspects must be advised of their rights before questioning by authorities, including the right to counsel.

• Roe v. Wade established a woman’s right to have an abortion.

Today is the anniversary of another landmark ruling by the court. In Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People represented the case of a young Kansas black girl. Future Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall was a prominent member of the NAACP’s legal team.

Sixty-five years ago, May 17, 1954, the Supreme Court ruled that “separate but equal” was not acceptable in education — racial segregation of schools was inherently unequal and, therefore, unconstitutional.

Within a year, the court ruled that schools should be integrated “with all deliberate speed.”

The unanimous decision in the young girl’s favor served as an inspiration and a catalyst for the civil rights movement. For the next decade-and-a-half, heroic figures led the charge and barriers to integration in public facilities fell like dominoes.

It all began with Brown v. Board of Education.

Sources: History.com; PBS.org

* Editorials reflect the opinion of the publisher.