70th Anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka
Thursday, February 1, 2024 – Wednesday, February 28, 2024
East Rotunda Gallery
Equity in Education: 70 Years Later
On May 17, 1954, the Supreme Court delivered a unanimous ruling in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka that “separate but equal” was unconstitutional in public schools. Overturning the 1896 decision in Plessy v. Ferguson that allowed for school segregation, this landmark decision made it clear that racial discrimination in public schools was a violation of the 14th Amendment. The Supreme Court opinion written by Chief Justice Earl Warren stated that “separate educational facilities are inherently unequal.” A follow-up judgment delivered in 1955 directed the states to develop desegregation plans “with all deliberate speed.”
President Dwight D. Eisenhower faced a major challenge to school desegregation in 1957. Known as the “Little Rock Crisis,” Eisenhower sent federal troops to Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas, to uphold school desegregation efforts. Five years later, John F. Kennedy appealed to the public to uphold the law as James Meredith became the first African American to register at the University of Mississippi. Every President since has faced challenges improving equity in education, whether it be Richard Nixon signing the Education Amendments Act of 1972, William J. Clinton’s era of educational reform, George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, or Donald J. Trump’s 2020 executive order expanding school choice.
Research by the Government Accountability Office released in 2019 notes that while student populations have become increasingly more diverse, schools themselves continue to be divided along economic and racial lines. Despite expanded efforts in the fight for social justice and equality, racial equity in education continues to be elusive 70 years later.
Supreme Court Judgment for Brown et al. v. Board of Education of Topeka et al., May 31, 1955.
This judgment was issued a year after the landmark ruling clarified that racial segregation in public schools was unconstitutional. Known as Brown II, the judgment directed the states to desegregate schools “with all deliberate speed.”
Records of the Supreme Court of the United States
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The Featured Document Display is made possible in part by the National Archives Foundation through the generous support of Verizon.
Past Featured Records
Tuesday, June 20, 2023 – Wednesday, October 18, 2023
East Rotunda Gallery
At the end of the Mexican-American War, the United States annexed more than half of Mexico’s territory under the 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. Under its terms, the U.S. promised to... Read more
Anna May Wong
National Archives, Records of the Immigration and Naturalization Service
“I want to be an actress, not a freak.”
Film legend Anna May Wong’s talent could not be contained by the racist casting of early Hollywood movies. Born Wong Liu Tsong in Los Angeles in 1905,... Read more
Willa B. Brown, February 13, 1943
National Archives, Records of the Office of War Information
Aviator Willa Beatrice Brown (1906–92) achieved numerous “firsts” in her lifetime, many of them earned through her tireless advocacy to integrate aviation programs. Brown began taking flying lessons in 1934,... Read moreThursday, November 3, 2022 – Thursday, January 12, 2023East Rotunda Gallery
On November 5, 1872, Susan B. Anthony and 14 other women attempted to vote in Rochester, New York, challenging section... Read more
Thursday, September 8, 2022 – Wednesday, November 2, 2022
East Rotunda Gallery
Early in the Cold War, the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) investigated allegations of Communist activity in the film industry. The committee’s mandate was... Read more
Thursday, April 1, 2021 – Thursday, June 17, 2021
“— were dead. Figures are omitted [because] NO ONE KNOWS.” —Red Cross Report
On Memorial Day 1921, a Black shoe shiner named Dick Rowland rode in an elevator with white operator Sarah Page. The next day,... Read more
World War II, the bloodiest conflict in history, came to an end in a 27-minute ceremony on board the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay, six years and one day after the war erupted in Europe. On that September morning in 1945, Japanese officials signed a... Read more
To celebrate National Inventors’ Day, learn about Marjorie S. Joyner and her groundbreaking permanent wave machine, an innovation that revolutionized the time-intensive task of curling or straightening women’s hair. Over her 50-year career, Joyner trained thousands of students and helped write the first cosmetology laws in... Read more
Seventy-five years ago on January 27, 1945, Soviet forces liberated the Auschwitz concentration camp complex in German-occupied Poland. Russian soldiers discovered thousands of sick, dying, and dead prisoners when they entered the complex of concentration camps, forced labor camps, and a killing center abandoned by the... Read more