Text Size -A+

Re-enactment

1) Student Greeter: You may wonder what difference landmark Supreme Court decisions make in our lives – today. You might be surprised to find out that students our age have brought cases to the Supreme Court. Did you know that one of the most famous cases in American history – Brown v. Board of Education – started with an elementary school girl? Linda Brown was one of the many brave students in the 1950s and 1960s who challenged what was happening around them. She has something to say to us that matters even today.


2) Linda Brown: Hi, I'm Linda Brown. Even though there was an elementary school close to my house, my sister and I had to go to an all-Black school much farther away. We had to get up really early and walk, then take a bus, to the Monroe School in Topeka, Kansas.

We weren't allowed to go to the Sumner School that was closer to us because it was for white children only. Even though some schools in my community were open to everybody, a Kansas law allowed the Board of Education of Topeka to establish segregated elementary schools like the all-white Sumner School in my neighborhood and the all-black Monroe School that I had to attend.

With the help of our lawyer Thurgood Marshall, my family and I sued the Board of Education. Children in other states had the same problem as we did, so when we took our case to the Supreme Court of the United States, the Court combined our cases.

The Court struck down the laws allowing segregated schools. The Justices said that separate is not equal. They ruled that laws segregating students by race were unconstitutional. Today we'll hear from the people whose courage, intelligence, and determination changed history for all of us, starting with Mr. Homer Plessy.


3) Homer Plessy: My name is Homer Plessy. I was arrested for not giving up my seat to a white man on a train in New Orleans. I decided to challenge my arrest in court. My lawyer argued that separating blacks from whites on the train violated the Fourteenth Amendment.
My case made it all of the way to this court. The Court ruled against me in the case of Plessy v. Ferguson. The Court said that the states could legally segregate the races, as long as each race was treated "equally." This came to be known as "separate but equal." You can imagine how disappointed I was because for many years courts used my case as an example of supporting segregation.


4) Charles Hamilton Houston: My name is Charles Hamilton Houston. I was a professor and civil rights lawyer. I saw how segregation between African Americans and whites led to unequal conditions. I made up my mind to establish a record of court victories that showed that separate institutions are NOT equal. This argument was taken up by several of my law students, including Thurgood Marshall and Oliver Hill.


5) Oliver Hill: My name is Oliver Hill and I was a lawyer. I went to court and won equal pay for black teachers and equal transportation rights for black students. I also won a case that showed the run-down and unequal conditions of schools attended by black students. It was one of the five cases included in the Brown v. Board of Education case, which later outlawed segregation in public schools.


6) Constance Baker Motley: My name is Constance Baker Motley. When I was a girl, I wasn't allowed to go to a public skating rink or to the beach because of my race. So I decided to become a civil rights attorney. I worked with Thurgood Marshall on Brown v. Board of Education. Some people called me a lion for civil rights. In 1966 – about the time some of your parents were born – I became the first African American woman to become a federal judge.


7) Dr. Kenneth B. Clark: My name is Dr. Kenneth B. Clark. My wife Dr. Mamie Clark and I were psychologists who worked together on what were known as the "doll experiments." They were used by Thurgood Marshall to show that racial segregation sets the stage for African Americans to lose out on equal opportunities.


8) Dr. Mamie Clark: I am Dr. Mamie Clark. Our work started with my master's degree paper. In our experiments, we had African American children look at a set of white dolls and black dolls. They had to tell us which dolls they liked and wanted to play with. Most African American children chose the white dolls. They described them as better than the black dolls. These experiments showed the terrible impact that racism has – even on children.


9) Thurgood Marshall: My name is Thurgood Marshall. The first time I saw the Constitution was when I was forced to read it as a punishment for a prank at school. Reading the Constitution was supposed to teach me not to pull pranks. Instead, it inspired me to become a lawyer and fight against discrimination. I went to the Howard University School of Law. After graduation, I worked for the NAACP and successfully argued many cases before the U.S. Supreme Court.
Brown v. Board of Education was actually five school cases under one name, which showed that separate schools were not equal. Eventually, I became the first African American Justice to serve on the Supreme Court. Today you are going to hear a summary of my argument to the Supreme Court in Brown v. Board of Education.


10) Thurgood Marshall Closing Argument Reader: I got the feeling when I heard the discussion in this court yesterday that when you put a white child in a school with a whole lot of colored children, the white child would fall apart, or something. Everybody knows that is not true.
Those same kids in Virginia and South Carolina—and I have seen them do it—they play in the streets together, they play on their farms together, they go down the road together, but they separate to go to school, they come out of school and play ball together. But they have to be separated in school.
There must be some magic to it. You can have them voting together, you can have them live in the same neighborhoods. You can have them going to the same state university and the same college, but if they go to elementary and high school together, the world will fall apart.


11) Chief Justice Earl Warren: My name is Earl Warren. I was the Chief Justice of the United States at the time that the case of Brown v. Board of Education was argued. After hearing the case, all nine of us decided that segregation was not legal. Here is a section of the Court's decision, in the words of some eighth graders.


12) Chief Justice Earl Warren: Opinion Reader: Education is the key to good citizenship. In school, children learn cultural values, prepare for careers, and to be successful in life. It is doubtful that any child can succeed in life if denied education. Education is a right that must be made available to all on equal terms. Separate schools are unequal.