Civil Rights: Jim Crow & Brown vs Board of Education (1954)

Please go here to access Mr. Wood’s podcasts on the Civil Rights Movement.

  • Jim Crow Laws in the Southern United States
  • Go here to watch the Rise and Fall of Jim Crow – Introduction to the documentary by California News Reel.
  • Go here to find a list of Jim Crow laws legally enforced throughout the southern United States

1954 – Brown vs Board of Education

The  Supreme Court Decision Brown vs Board of Education (1954) served as the launching pad for the American Civil Rights Movement.  It is the first time, on a nationwide scale, that the United States Federal government landed fully on the side of civil rights for black Americans.

Brown declared that segregation as it was practiced in the public school sector in the United States violated Amendment #14 of the Constitution of the United States.  And it marked the beginning of the end for Jim Crow.  It also provided a floor for legal opposition to challenge segregation in all public facilities in the United States.  And it marked an opening to end Jim Crow laws in the private sector as well. With the Brown decision as a weapon, the non violent protests of the American Civil Rights movement could move forward effectively, and in time end legalized segregation throughout the country.  Brown was the legal lynchpin to the movement.

However, for the Brown ruling to occur, Amendment #14 had to be a part of the U.S. Constitution.  14 provides the legal basis to rule on Brown.  And that is why we begin our study of Government with Amendment #14.  Fourteen in essence laid dormant in the Constitution for 86 years in regards to the rights of black Americans.  It was not until the Court ruled by a nine to zero unanimous decision in Brown to desegregate public schools with “all deliberate speed” by interpreting Jim Crow’s violation of 14 that the movement moved forward. So, make very sure that you fully understand Amendment #14 before diving to Brown v Board of Education.



  • Go here for some wikipedia background on Brown vs Board of Education.
  • Go here to watch Brown #1 that includes the “Doll Test” scene in the film Separate but Equal. (10:21)
  • Go here to watch Brown #2 that includes Supreme Court Oral Arguments in  Separate but Equal. (15:58)

A few interesting links below  for more information about Brown.

  • Go here for Kenneth Clark and the Doll Test.
  • Go here for Library of Congress’ Brown at Fifty.
  • Go here for Chief Justice Warren’s written opinion.


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