In 1954, the United States Supreme Court decided the landmark case of Brown v. Board of Education. The Court, by a 9-0 vote, held that the segregation of school children based on race violated the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The Court relied heavily on the work of social scientists, who found that segregation generated a feeling of inferiority among African-American students. This paper will analyze that issue, both in the context of the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s and in the context of modern American society.
Segregation started not long after slavery ended. After the Civil War, Congress sought to ensure the rights of freed slaves by passing three amendments to the U.S. Constitution: the Thirteenth, which ended slavery; the Fourteenth, which barred discrimination based on race; and the Fifteenth, which enfranchised African-American males. Congress also enacted several other measures that benefited African-Americans (Barker and McCorry, p. 94).
Those advances came to a halt after the 1876 presidential election. By agreeing to end military rule in the South, Republican candidate Rutherford Hayes won the support of Congress, which decided the election because of a tie in electoral college votes. Whites soon returned to power in the former Confederacy, rolling back almost all of the gains made by African-Americans. Southern whites then went about building a rigid social structure that separated the races, especially in the schools (Barker and McCorry, p. 18).
Southern whites erected that structure in response to the South's changing demographics. In rural areas, wealthy white landowners exercised feudal-like control over African-Americans even after the Civil War. But many freed slaves soon left the farms and created large African-American communities in urban areas, providing a greater opportunity for social mixing. To prevent that, white elites created a much stricter syste...