Brown v. Board of Education, 347 U.S. 483 (1954), was a landmark United States Supreme Court case in which the Court declared state laws establishing separate public schools for black and white students to be unconstitutional. The decision overturned the Plessy v. Ferguson decision of 1896, which allowed state-sponsored segregation, insofar as it applied to public education. Handed down on May 17, 1954, the Warren Court’s unanimous (9–0) decision stated that “separate educational facilities are inherently unequal. (The NAACP’s chief counsel, Thurgood Marshall—was best known for his high success rate in arguing before the Supreme Court and for the victory in Brown v. Board of Education. He later was appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court in 1967.) ” As a result, de jure racial segregation was ruled a violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution. This ruling paved the way for integration and was a major victory of the civil rights movement.
Not everyone accepted the Brown v. Board of Education decision. In Virginia, Senator Harry F. Byrd, Sr. organized the Massive Resistance movement that included the closing of schools rather than desegregating them.
Texas Attorney General John Ben Shepperd organized a campaign to generate legal obstacles to implementation of desegregation. In 1957,
Arkansas Governor Orval Faubus called out his state’s National Guard to block black students’ entry to Little Rock Central High School. President Dwight Eisenhower responded by deploying elements of the 101st Airborne Division from Fort Campbell, Kentucky, to Arkansas and by federalizing Arkansas’s National Guard.
Also in 1957, Florida’s response was mixed. Its legislature passed an Interposition Resolution denouncing the decision and declaring it null and void. But Florida Governor LeRoy Collins, though joining in the protest against the court decision, refused to sign it arguing that the attempt to overturn the ruling must be done by legal methods.
In 1963, Alabama Gov. George Wallace personally blocked the door to Foster Auditorium at the University of Alabama to prevent the enrollment of two black students. This became the infamous Stand in the Schoolhouse Door where Wallace personally backed his
“segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever” policy that he had stated in his 1963 inaugural address.
He moved aside only when confronted by General Henry Graham of the Alabama National Guard, who was ordered by President John F. Kennedy to intervene.