One of the most degrading points of slavery, which ran between 1619 and 1863, in addition to dividing families, whippings, beatings and killings, was the fact that African-Americans were forbidden to learn how to read and write, as well as to worship our Lord in a building.
Nevertheless, it has also been prevalent to comprehend the absolute necessity of an education. Today, in the 21st century, education is a way up and a way out.
One of the most important decisions of the civil rights movement was the case of Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kan., in which the U.S. Supreme Court ended federally sanctioned racial discrimination in the public schools by ruling unanimously on May 17, 1954, that separate educational facilities are inherently unequal. A groundbreaking case, Brown not only overturned the precedent of Plessy v. Ferguson (1896), which had declared separate but equal facilities constitutional, but also provided the legal foundation of the civil rights movement of the 1960s.
In Topeka, a black third-grader named Linda Brown had to walk one mile to school every day, through a railroad switch yard, which was dangerous, to get to her black elementary school, while there was a white school only a couple of blocks away. When Linda's father, Oliver Brown, tried to enroll her in the white elementary school, the principal refused. Brown went to McKinley Burnett, who was the head of Topeka's branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and asked for help. Burnett eagerly agreed to assist Brown and other black parents who joined him in the complaint. In 1951, the NAACP requested an injunction that would have forbidden the segregation of Topeka's public schools.
The southern states and many of the states bordering the South did not react very well to the Supreme Court decision to integrate public schools.
The story of Brown v. Board of Education, which was named after Oliver Brown, ended segregation in public schools and is one of hope and courage. The people who agreed to be plaintiffs in the case never realized they would change history. They were ordinary people, they were teachers, secretaries, welders, ministers and students who simply wanted to be treated equally.
Come, let us reason together, and with all of our getting; let us get an understanding, as our struggle is far from being over.
We must continue in the fight for equality.
God of our weary years,
God of our silent tears,
Keep us forever in the path,
(Wiggins, a resident of Steubenville, is the president of the Ohio Valley Black Caucus Inc.)