Young People's Involvement in Civil Rights Movement
Led by Thurgood Marshall, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund challenged and overturned many forms of discrimination, but their main thrust was equal educational opportunities, thus continually pushing young people into the forefront of the civil rights battle. For example, in Sweat v. Painter (1950), the Supreme Court decided that the University of Texas had to integrate its law school (p. 16).
The U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments on five cases that challenged elementary- and secondary-school segregation, and in May 1954 issued its landmark ruling in Brown v. Board of Education that stated that racially segregated education was unconstitutional.
White Southerners received the Brown decision first with shock and, in some instances, with expressions of goodwill. By 1955, however, white opposition in the South had grown into massive resistance, a strategy to persuade all whites to resist compliance with the desegregation orders on the grounds that if enough people refused to cooperate with the federal court order, it could not be enforced. Tactics that directly effected young people included firing school employees who showed willingness to seek integration, closing public schools rather than desegregating, and boycotting all public education that was integrated.
After the Brown decision had been handed down, blacks looked forward to a quick ending to their travails. Such hopes were, of course, unfounded:
When the Brown decision was handed down, black people hoped that the foundation on which Jim crow had built his house would collapse. But in the years that followed, it became clear that the house would have to be dismantled brick by brick -- on the buses, at the lunch counters, in the voting booths (p. 122).
Young people also played an important part in the sit-ins that swept across the South, probably the most famous of which occurred on February 1, 1960, when four black colleg