A Journey to Educational Equality

A Virtual Exploration of the Civil Rights Movement

Greyhound Bus Terminal Sign in Rome, Georgia (1943-09)Georgia Public Broadcasting

After the Plessy v. Ferguson ruling in 1896 and through the early twentieth century, formalized racial segregation continued in the South, and signs announcing the separation of the races became common.

County Courthouse Drinking Fountain in Halifax, North Carolina (1938)Georgia Public Broadcasting

Restaurants, hotels, and waiting rooms were not the only segregated spaces.

Even openly public facilities like water fountains were labeled to remind southerners that integration would not be tolerated.

Did the Civil Rights Movement Achieve Educational Equality?Georgia Public Broadcasting

Complaint in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka Kansas. Summary of ArgumentGeorgia Public Broadcasting

Can Separate Actually Be Equal?

In the Brown v. Board of Education landmark civil rights case, several complainants asserted that the policy of separate but equal was unconstitutional. Their complaint centered around schools in Topeka, Kansas.

Complaint in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas (Conclusion)Georgia Public Broadcasting

In a historic 1954 ruling, the court agreed with Brown and overturned the Plessy ruling.

The conclusion stated that segregation in and of itself breeds inequality and that only by abolishing segregation entirely within public schools could educational equality be promoted.

Flag of the State of Georgia (1956/2001)Georgia Public Broadcasting

In 1955, at the approach of the Confederate centennial, a campaign was initiated to replace the red and white bars of the state flag with the “Southern cross” Confederate battle emblem.

Although supporters claimed the flag makeover was a memorial gesture, opposition to the Supreme Court’s ruling in Brown v. Board of Education that previous year was a major catalyst.

Legislation to change the flag was soon introduced in Georgia’s General Assembly and passed in 1956.

Southern Resistance to the Civil Right MovementGeorgia Public Broadcasting

Little Rock Integration (1957-09-04) by Francis MillerLIFE Photo Collection

Eyes On the Prize
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Possibly the most recognized student of the Little Rock Nine, Elizabeth Eckford is immortalized here attempting to attend her first day of school at Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas.

The tension of that day is captured in Eckford's expression and in the faces of the angry mob following her to school — especially that of fifteen-year-old Hazel Bryan directly behind her.

Rally at the Arkansas State Capitol (1959-08-20)Georgia Public Broadcasting

At the state capitol in Little Rock, crowds gathered to protest the integration of Arkansas schools led by Governor Orval Faubus.

Supporting signs read, "Race Mixing is Communism" and "Stop the Race Mixing — March of the Anti-Christ."

Soldiers from the 101st Airborne Division escort the Little Rock NineGeorgia Public Broadcasting

Education Under Arms

Recruited by the Arkansas chapter of the NAACP, nine African-American students enrolled at Central High School in Little Rock in 1957. On the first day of school, an angry mob of white residents gathered. The Arkansas National Guard, which was called into action by Governor Orval Faubus, barred the students from entering Central High for two weeks. Here, members of the 101st Airborne Division, deployed by President Dwight D. Eisenhower to restore order, escort the Little Rock Nine safely into a school building. The following year, Governor Faubus closed all of Little Rock's high schools in order to prevent integration.  

Vivian Malone Registering for Classes at the University of Alabama (1963-06-11)Georgia Public Broadcasting

Similar situations occurred at higher education institutions across the South, where African-American students attempting to attend flagship colleges and state universities were generally met with overt resistance.

At the University of Alabama, Vivian Malone famously was photographed entering the Foster Auditorium in order to register for classes. In 1963, she was one of the first two African Americans to enroll in the school.

Charlayne Hunter and Hamilton Holmes After Registering at the University of Georgia (1961-01-09) by Atlanta Journal-ConstitutionGeorgia Public Broadcasting

Students Charlayne Hunter and Hamilton Holmes appealed to Georgia's state court after being refused admission to the University of Georgia.

In January 1961, a judge ruled that they "would have already been admitted had it not been for their race and color." Days later when the pair came to register for classes, they faced a tumultuous atmosphere on campus.

Integrated Barnard School in Washington, DC (1955-05-27)Georgia Public Broadcasting

Integration was a crucial issue in schools outside the South as well. But unlike many southern schools, the Barnard School in Washington, DC, acted promptly to integrate its primary schools.

In 1955, a unanimous Supreme Court issued the directive known as Brown II, which called for the implementation of the original Brown ruling "with all deliberate speed."

Six-Year-Old Ruby BridgesGeorgia Public Broadcasting

Ruby Bridges was born in Mississippi the same year as the famous Brown decision and grew up in New Orleans, Louisiana. While attending a segregated kindergarten, young Ruby passed the entrance exam for an all-white school.

Although the Brown decision and the subsequent Brown II directive found segregated schools to be unconstitutional, many southern states were determined to resist integration. In New Orleans, entrance exams for African-American students were part of that resistance.

US Marshals with Young Ruby Bridges on School StepsGeorgia Public Broadcasting

A Federal Escort

Six-year-old Ruby Bridges was the first African-American child to desegregate the all-white William Frantz Elementary School (WFES) in New Orleans. During her first year at WFES, Ruby was escorted to and from school by four federal marshals to ensure her safety.

Credits: Story

Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

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