Court Cases in Prelude to Brown, 1849-1949

For more than a century, African Americans sought to ensure access to equal educational opportunity. Religion, education and community have proven to be the cornerstone of self-determination on the part of African Americans. One of the most prominent examples of this cornerstone concept can be found in the early and unrelenting legal challenges to segregate public schools. These school cases typify the ongoing struggle for civil rights, social equality and racial justice in the United States.

Parents from ordinary walks of life were willing to step forward and bear the consequences of legal action in the hopes of achieving educational equality for their children. Individuals or small groups of parents appear to have acted on their own in the earliest cases. In later cases state and national strategies of the NAACP clearly were at work. Slowly the actions of attorneys representing parents and school children chipped away at legal segregation in schools. Court decisions began to provide some measure of protection for the idea of equality even in the bleakest of times for African Americans.