Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, 57 years ago today

Fifty-seven years have passed since the ruling in this monumental Supreme Court case that overturned Plessy v. Ferguson and found laws for “separate but equal” black schools and white schools to be unconstitutional. While this decision was a huge move in the right direction in the Civil Rights movement, it was met with resistance by many, especially sending shockwaves through segregated areas of the South. Several UNC Press titles explore the effects of this decision in different parts of the country, from when it was first passed in 1954 to present day. Read on to check out some books that illustrate how we aren’t just remembering the Brown v. Board of Education decision, but still feeling its effects today, both positive and negative.

New from our Spring 2011 list is The New Encyclopedia of Southern Culture Volume 17: Education, which features a comprehensive entry on desegregation and its effects all across the south, providing background from the era of Plessy v. Ferguson and information about related cases that deal with similar issues and reactions from angry white opposition.  The encyclopedia also includes entries on related topics like desegregation of college sports, busing, black education, and desegregation of private universities and colleges.

The contributors to School Resegregation: Must the South Turn Back?, edited by John Charles Boger and Gary Orfield, illustrate the many ways in which the southern United States is taking steps that return to racial and socioeconomic segregation in schools.  They use data, statistics, and policy analysis to show how these trends are a step backwards that threaten the quality of education for all in this increasingly diverse region of the nation.  Issues of desegregation and resegregation even hit particularly close to home at UNC Press with the recent debates about redistricting the nearby Wake County Public School system (read more on recent arguments and issues here).

Two forthcoming titles from our Fall/Winter 2011 list also draw from the Brown v. Board decision.  Brown’s Battleground:  Students, Segregationists, and the Struggle for Justice in Prince Edward County, Virginia by Jill Ogline Titus (available Dec. ’11, pre-order now) looks at the post-Brown problems in one school system that decided to shut down its public education system entirely–for five years–to avoid desegregating its schools.  Upon reopening by order of the Supreme Court, they faced the same problems, which Titus brings to light with archival materials and interviews.  Integrating Schools in a Changing Society: New Policies and Legal Options for a Multiracial Generation, edited by Erica Frankenberg and Elizabeth DeBray (available Nov. 2011, pre-order now), offers essays from education policy experts seeking to illuminate new ways for American public education to counter persistent racial and socioeconomic inequality.