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Part 1 of 2

On May 17, 1954, the NAACP won a major legal victory in the Brown v. Board of Education school desegregation case. In a unanimous decision, the U.S. Supreme Court declared that “in the field of public education, the doctrine of ‘separate but equal’ has no place. Separate educational facilities are inherently unequal.”

For researchers interested in Brown v. Board of Education's 60th anniversary, and the issue of school desegregation, ProQuest History Vault includes many collections that offer different perspectives on the Brown v. Board of Education decision. Black Freedom Struggle in the 20th Century: Federal Government Records includes letters to President Dwight Eisenhower reacting to the Brown decision. Additional reaction to the Brown decision can be found in the Mary McLeod Bethune Papers in Black Freedom Struggle in the 20th Century: Organizational Records and Personal Papers. The Felix Frankfurter Papers in the Law and Society since the Civil War module contain Frankfurter’s memos and notes on the Brown case, as well as his important legislative history of the Fourteenth Amendment.

The most substantial documentation on Brown is in the NAACP Papers collection. Researchers can use the NAACP Papers to investigate many topics related to the Brown decision. These topics include the NAACP’s almost 20 year legal campaign that preceded the Brown decision, the Brown case itself, and the tangled aftermath of Brown, as the NAACP and others interested in school desegregation worked not only to implement Brown but to fight against de facto school segregation outside of the South.

A growing area of scholarship on the civil rights movement focuses on the fight for civil rights outside the South. With that in mind, this entry as well as a Part 2 entry covers some of the records in ProQuest History Vault that we believe will be of interest to researchers who are interested in studying the NAACP’s legal strategy after the Brown decision.

The Brown decision had significant implications for the entire country, including those northern and Midwestern communities where years of housing discrimination had created segregated neighborhoods and, by extension, segregated schools. Within a year or two after the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Brown, as many southern states sought to avoid compliance with Brown, the NAACP also realized that many northern communities were determined to avoid desegregating their schools. The NAACP assigned attorney June Shagaloff to investigate discrimination in education outside the South. Shagaloff wrote many memoranda and reports on northern school segregation.

[Photo, top: The first two pages from a March 1, 1962, report by Shagaloff on school desegregation in northern states]

Shagaloff’s reports can be found in History Vault’s NAACP Papers: Board of Directors, Annual Conferences, Major Speeches, and National Staff Files and the NAACP Papers: Legal Department Files.

The NAACP Papers collection contains case files from 12 states in the North, Midwest, and West regarding school desegregation. Part 2 of this post provides more detail about these cases [the link to this post will be live on May 17, 2014].

Additional ProQuest databases provide different views of school desegregation cases. ProQuest Historical Newspapers contains news coverage of many important cases, while Black Studies Center from ProQuest includes timeline entries, journal articles, dissertations, and essays on school desegregation, including an essay by June Shagaloff from The Journal of Negro Education.

See our Black history milestones timeline, and sign up for free trials of an array of complementary digitized resources with content that isn’t available anywhere else.

16 May 2014

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