With All Deliberate Speed: Brown II

In the year following Brown v. Board of Education in 1954, public schools all over the United States were required to desegregate themselves. However, many schools, especially in the South, refused to desegregate. In the first Brown case, the Supreme Court ruled that schools must integrate all races instead of having separate institutions for different colored people. The Court had declared, “Racial discrimination in public education is unconstitutional.” The aftermath of this case was, unsurprisingly, not nationally well received. The United States was then faced with the question of how to go about enforcing the desegregation of public schools.

To deal with this pressing matter, the Court unanimously ruled for Brown v. Board of Education II in 1955. Ideally, every problem school in the country would have desegregated and embraced this new system without violence or disturbance. However, thus is not the American way. The Court decision was fought against hard, especially in the Deep South. The reality of the situation was that many schools did not desegregate. The Court was torn as to how to deal with this new crisis. As Klarman mentions in his book From Jim Crow to Civil Rights, many of the justices, such as Black, Douglas and Burton, felt as though the “putting off enforcement awhile” would be in the nations best interest (Klarman 314). Klarman also insists that some of the justices thought they could reduce the resistance of whites in the South by appearing “sympathetic and accommodating” (Klarman 315). Klarman noted that it was easier for the justices to empathize with the southern whites because they were “coerced out of [segregation]” rather than the blacks “who are coerced into it” (Klarman 315).

The justices fought with the problem of when and how to desegregate public schools. The time line that they finally reached in agreement was that Southern schools would have the power to decide when they desegregate as long as it was “with all deliberate speed.” This phrase, written by Chief Justice Warren was construed as extremely ambiguous. It provided the south with ample opportunity for more time for the schools to not segregate.

In March of 1956, ninety-six congressmen signed a “manifesto,” penned by Richard Russel that “promised to use ‘all lawful means’ to maintain segregation and ‘commend those states which have declared to resist.’” The South was clearly hesitant to allow integration among their schools.

Though the first Brown v Board of Education Supreme Court case in 1954 is the much better known case, the decision the following year seems to be equal in merit. There is debate among scholars as to why the decision the Court took so long to commit to their ruling in 1955. Klarman appears to believe that the decision of Brown II in 1955 was a sort of compromise with the Southern States, almost even a victory for them. The Court took their time in enforcing the segregation of schools, thus providing the South with time to ignore its decision. The aftermath and large media response to the first Brown case immediately placed the case in Supreme Court history. However, the decision of Brown I was not really complete until the following year with Brown II. Klarman believes that Brown II decision was “misguided” (320). As proven before, Klarman seems to be one of the few historians to take a more realistic, almost even negative, approach in his writings of Brown. As proven before, Klarman seems to be one of the few historians to take a more realistic, almost even negative, approach in his writings of Brown.

Other scholars write about the impact Brown II had on the country. The also argue about the courts lengthy decision from 1954 to 1955 and the intermediary time between Brown I and Brown II. John Hope Franklin writes in his article titled, “To and from Brown v. Board of Education,” that Brown II did not segregate schools as intended by the Supreme Court. He emphasizes that the Northern states were resistant, though not as bad as the South, to the desegregation of public schools. He suggests that it was the parents in the school districts that could not accept an integrated school (13). In the article, “Brown v. Board of Education at 40: A Legal History of Equal Educational Opportunities in American Public Education” authors Charles J. Russo, J. John Harris III and Rosetta F. Sandidge argue that the Supreme Court was intentionally ambiguous in their decision of Brown II. It provided the Court with the flexibility to appeal to the nation as a whole.

There are many more secondary and primary source regarding the topic of Brown v Board of Education and the decision of 1955 by the Supreme Court. This literature provides insight into one of the most important court cases in United States history. Though Brown I is more widely known as the case that trumped Plessy v. Ferguson, it did not take into effect in the majority of America until 1955 with Brown II.


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