Fifteen years after the U.S. Supreme Court ordered public school desegregation with “all deliberate speed” in Brown v. Board of Education Topeka, Kansas, most Southern states still had yet to fulfill its mandate.
It would take the action of Fifth Circuit Judge Hugo Black and the NAACP to force real change. Members of the NAACP protested a circuit court ruling in the summer of 1969 that granted the Justice Department and Department of Health, Education, and Welfare (HEW) an extension until December 1 to draw up desegregation plans for 33 Mississippi school districts. Given that it had already been nearly five years since the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, the NAACP took the case to the Supreme Court
In Alexander v. Holmes County Board of Education—which was decided on this day in 1969—the Court ruled to underscore their previous mandates in Brown and Brown II and ordered immediate desegregation of public schools. Noting that the “all deliberate speed” language in Brown enabled Southern states to procrastinate, the Court’s decision took no chances, saying, “The obligation of every school district is to terminate dual school systems at once and to operate now and hereafter only unitary schools.”
Although much of the American public school system still remains racially segregated, the Supreme Court’s ruling is still an important standard for which to aspire and, thus, worthy of today’s #TBT.
Read the Court’s Alexander v. Holmes County Board of Education decision here.