This Essay, which commemorates the fiftieth anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education, canvasses three issues: (1) why Brown was a hard case for the justices; (2) how the justices were able to overcome their legal doubts about invalidating school segregation to achieve a unanimous decision invalidating that practice; (3) and the consequences of Brown. With regard to the last point, the essay summarizes an argument developed at greater length in my book From Jim Crow to Civil Rights: The Supreme Court and the Struggle for Racial Equality, asserting that Brown radicalized political opinion in the South, thus creating a climate ripe for violence. When the brutalization of peaceful black protestors by white law enforcement officers was broadcast on national television, it helped transform national opinion on race, leading directly to the enactment of landmark civil rights legislation.
Click on a link below to access the full text of this article. These are third-party content providers and may require a separate subscription for access.