- Use a K-W-L (Know, Want-to-Know, Learned) visual organizer to begin a class discussion about the nature of segregated schools prior to the Brown decision. Using an overhead, draw three columns and ask students to tell you what they “Know” about segregated schools, and write their answers on the overhead. Ask students to do the same on a sheet of paper of their own. After you list the things that they “Know” about segregated schools prior to Brown, ask them what they “Want to Know”, and write their questions down in the respective column. At the end of your instruction on the Brown decision, have students return to their charts and complete the “Learned” column, which can be used as an assessment.
- Ask students to locate the following terms in the document and accompanying article and to use classroom resources (dictionary, thesaurus, textbook) to define each term:
- amicus curiae,
- petitioners, and
Document Analysis & Discussion
- Duplicate and distribute the featured document. Based upon their examination of the featured document, use student answers to the following questions as an entry point into discussing the reargument phase of the Brown v. Board of Education trial.
- What type of document is this?
- Why was it written?
- What dates are listed in the document?
- What does “O.T. 1953” mean?
- How many cases does the document describe?
- In which states did each case originate?
- How much time was allotted to argue the cases?
- Do you recognize any of the people named in the document?
- Divide students into 5 groups and instruct each group to investigate one of the individual lower court cases that constituted the Brown Supreme Court decision of 1954. Direct each group to draft a one-page summary of the plaintiffs’ position in their respective cases and to select a spokesperson to describe their assigned case to the class. Students may use this essay, or any of the resources listed at the end of this activity, for their research.
- The intention of the Supreme Court’s Brown opinion was to legally eliminate segregated school systems in America. Direct the class to find out whether or not the Court instructed the states on exactly how and when to desegregate, and what the result was (Brown II, May 31, 1955; Little Rock). Direct the students to find out, statistically, how integrated America’s public schools are today. Ask them to find out if there are, presently or in the recent past, any desegregation cases before the Court. Based on the results of the above inquiries, conduct a class discussion on whether or not the Brown agenda of desegregating America’s public schools is finished, or unfinished.
Extended Research Activities
- Divide the class into 5 research teams, and refer them to the bibliography at the end of these activities. Assign each team one of the following assignments, for which they will report back to the class:
- Team 1: Describe for the class the process by which a case goes from the district court level to the federal level. What sequence of events must occur before a case reaches the Supreme Court? What must the plaintiffs do to get their case before the Supreme Court? How does the Supreme Court decide which cases it will here? How often does this usually occur?
- Team 2: Each of the cases were assigned a number, i.e., “Nos. 1, 2, 4, 8, 10”. Find out the process by which cases appearing before the Supreme Court are assigned a number, and why, since these cases were heard together, they weren’t numbered consecutively. Additionally, find out why the cases were heard in the order listed in the document (2, 4, 1, 8, 10) and report this information back to the class.
- Team 3: According to the document, “By agreement of the parties and the approval of the Chief Justice, the South Carolina and Virginia cases have been consolidated and will be heard first.” – Find out why it was agreed upon to consolidate the S.C. and VA. Cases. What aspects of these cases made their consolidation a good idea? Discover and describe for the class the process by which the parties came to agreement and sought approval from the Chief Justice (i.e., Was there a form that they had to fill out? Did they have to go before the Chief Justice in person? Was this process completed solely via correspondence?).
- Team 4: According to the document, Assistant Attorney General J. Lee Rankin presented the United States government’s amicus curiae brief on behalf of the appellants in the Brown case. Locate a copy of this brief and summarize for the class the government’s reasons for submitting this brief (quote from the brief).
- Team 5: Prepare, for distribution to the class, a brief biography sheet (3 or 4 sentences) of the following players mentioned in the document: J. Lindsay Almond, Jr., Robert L. Carter, John W. Davis, Jack Greenberg, Milton D. Korman, Thurgood Marshall, J. Lee Rankin, and Spottswood Robinson. Be sure to include each person’s year of birth and death, their official title during the time that they were involved with the Brown cases, their role in the case, and any other information about them that you found significant.
Suggestions for Further Reading and Research Activities
Armor, David J. Forced Justice: School Desegregation and the Law. New York: OxfordUP, 1995.
Cottrol, Robert J., Raymond T. Diamond, Leland B. Ware. Brown v. Board ofEducation: Caste, Culture, and the Constitution. Lawrence, KS: UP of Kansas, 2003.
Wilkinson, J. Harvie. From Brown to Bakke: The Supreme Court and School Integration,1954-1978. New York: Oxford UP, 1979.
Supreme Court of the United States, online: http://www.supremecourtus.gov/
FindLaw for Students, online: http://stu.findlaw.com/
U.S. Census Bureau, online: http://www.census.gov/