TwHP Lessons

Brown v. Board: Five Communities That Changed America

Schools associated with Brown v. Board.
(From top to bottom: Sumner School, Monroe School, John Philip Sousa Junior High School, Robert R. Moton High School, Summerton High School, and Howard High School. National Historic Landmark and National Register photos.)

"Probably no case ever to come before the nation’s highest tribunal affected more directly the minds, hearts, and daily lives of so many Americans…. The decision marked the turning point in the nation’s willingness to face the consequences of centuries of racial discrimination.”¹

On May 17, 1954, the U.S. Supreme Court proclaimed that “in the field of public education ‘separate but equal’ has no place.” This historic ruling in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka overturned the Court’s 1896 Plessy v. Ferguson decision that had sanctioned racial segregation. The landmark case marked the culmination of a decades-long legal battle waged by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and residents of several communities.

Although people often associate the case with Linda Brown, a young girl whose parents sued so that she could attend an all-white school, Brown v. Board actually consisted of five separate cases.² Originating in four states and the District of Columbia, all began as grassroots efforts to either enroll black students in all-white schools or obtain improved facilities for black students. By the fall of 1952, the Supreme Court had accepted the cases independently on appeal and decided to hear arguments collectively. None of these cases would have been possible without individuals who were courageous enough to take a stand against the inequalities of segregation. Today, several of the schools represented in Brown v. Board of Education stand as poignant reminders of the struggle to abolish segregation in public education.

¹ Richard Kluger, Simple Justice (New York: Vintage Books, 1977), x.
² Brown v. Board consolidated separate cases from four states. A fifth public school segregation case from Washington, DC was considered in the context of Brown, but resulted in a separate opinion. References to Brown in this lesson plan collectively refer to all five cases.


About This Lesson

Getting Started: Inquiry Question

Setting the Stage: Historical Context

Locating the Site: Maps
 1. Segregation in the U.S.

Determining the Facts: Readings
 1. School Desegregation and the NAACP's  Role
2. Challenging School Segregation
 3. The Supreme Court's Opinion in Brown v.   Board of Education

Visual Evidence: Images
 1. Robert Russa Moton High School, Farmville,   Virginia
 2. Classroom in temporary building,   Robert Russa Moton High School
 3. Auditorium at Farmville High School,   Farmville, Virginia
 4. Auditorium at Robert Russa Moton High   School, Farmville, Virginia
 5. Protesting school segregation, St. Louis,   Missouri
 6. Mrs. Nettie Hunt and daughter on the steps   of the Supreme Court, Washington, D.C.,   November, 1954.

Putting It All Together: Activities
 1. Massive Resistance
 2. The NAACP
 3. The United States Supreme Court
 4. School Segregation in the Local Community

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Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site

The lesson is based on Robert Russa Moton High School, Sumner and Monroe Elementary Schools, Howard High School, John Philip Sousa Middle School, and Summerton High School several of the thousands of properties listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Robert Russa Moton High School, Sumner and Monroe Elementary Schools, Howard High School, and John Philip Sousa Middle School have been designated National Historic Landmarks.



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