On this day in 1954, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously ruled in the case of Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka that racial segregation in American educational facilities was “inherently unequal" and a violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment of the United States Constitution.
While this decision would set a landmark precedent in addressing racial injustice, the court did not specify a means of addressing the violation. When confronted by schools requesting that they not be held accountable to this decision the following year in Brown II, the court only ruled that schools were to desegregate “with all deliberate speed”. This vague ruling allowed supporters of segregation to implement various strategies of resistance that delayed justice for decades to come. In 1978, Brown III reopened the case and concluded with the finding that the Topeka school district had continued to discriminate in terms of student and staff assignment. The district did not achieve legally unified status until July 27, 1999.
This photograph, captured by the international news agency United Press International, documents a February 1, 1968 confrontation over school integration in Chicago. After seven black children integrated the historically all-white Mount Greenwood elementary school on January 31st under police escort, supporters and opponents of desegregation descended on the campus for days. Here, a woman segregationist is seen attacking a man participating in a march supporting the seven students. William Leben and Terrence Burke, two of the marchers supporting desegregation, and one of whom is the man being attacked here, were arrested for disorderly conduct soon after. This photograph is part of the Hagley Library’s Chamber of Commerce of the United States photographs and audiovisual materials, Series II. Nation’s Business photographs (Accession 1993.230.II) collection. To view more materials from this collection online, click here to visit its page in our Digital Archive.