Instructor explores the Brown vs. Board of Education Ruling 50 Years Later...
Even though a brand new elementary school sat just blocks from her home, its doors were closed to third grader Linda Brown — Sumner Elementary was for whites only, and Linda was black. So she was forced to trudge more than a mile along dangerous railroad tracks to reach her school.
Oliver Brown, Linda´s father, decided to take action. In 1950 he had been turned away when he tried to enroll his daughter in Sumner. Now he became one of many parents who, with the help of the NAACP, took the battle against school segregation into court. This May 17th marks the 50th anniversary of their victory — the Supreme Court´s 1954 decision in Brown v. Board of Education, which declared school segregation unconstitutional.
Community leaders and educators see the occasion as an opportunity to reflect on the gains we´ve made towards desegregation as well as the challenges that still remain. More than 80 percent of overwhelmingly black and latino schools are in high-poverty areas, in contrast with five percent of predominantly white schools. In a recent interview in Teaching Tolerance, Reg Weaver, president of the National Educational Association, says that “even though Jim Crow is dead, the reality is that millions of African-American, Hispanic, and other minority children still go to segregated schools and receive an education inferior to that received by most white children ... For many children, the reality is still separate and unequal.”
The good news is that, according to a recent Gallup poll, a majority of Americans now believe that a diverse classroom is the best learning environment. According to Teaching Tolerance, “students in integrated schools perform better on tests, possess elevated aspirations for educational and occupational attainment, and lead more integrated lives.”
To commemorate the decision, Teaching Tolerance is offering free lesson plans at You´ll also find more links below. “Let´s use this anniversary to go beyond laws to the hearts of our children,” say Karen Krug and Donna Burgraff of the Brown v. Board of Education Task Force at Kutztown University of Pennsylvania. “Then, and only then, can we realize the true legacy of Brown.”
Teaching Tolerance
Teaching Tolerance´s excellent site offers classroom teachers fantastic discussion questions, activities based on in-depth interviews with experts on Brown, and ways to talk about the case in a modern context.
Brown v. Board of Education Archives brown_v_board_documents/brown_v_board.html
At this government site, students can explore actual documents from the Brown case. Teachers can download fantastic worksheets that teach kids about analyzing these primary sources.
The National Education Association
The National Education Association provides links to great giveaways and contests related to the anniversary of Brown, including a free classroom poster.
Brown v. Board of Ed Lesson Plans
This site provides links to dozens of the best online lessons and materials on the Brown case.
US News
Here students can explore the various other desegregation cases that paved the road to the Brown decision.

This article was originally published in the April 2004 issue of Instructor.