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2004 U. Ill. L. Rev. 1099 (2004)
Success and Failure: How Systemic Racism Trumped the Brown v. Board of Education Decision

handle is hein.journals/unilllr2004 and id is 1111 raw text is: SUCCESS AND FAILURE: HOW
SYSTEMIC RACISM TRUMPED THE
BROWN V. BOARD OF EDUCATION
DECISIONt
Joe R. Feagin*
Bernice McNair Barnett**
Despite the enactment of the Fourteenth Amendment in 1868, le-
gal segregation nevertheless remained pervasive throughout the
United States in the following nine decades due to various state stat-
utes and federal and state court decisions. Nowhere was the existence
of legal segregation more prevalent than in school systems throughout
the United States. Segregated schools were common because of the
U.S. Supreme Court's separate but equal doctrine set forth in
Plessy v. Ferguson. Finally, in 1954, the U.S. Supreme Court, in its
landmark Brown v. Board of Education decision, concluded that in
the field of public education the doctrine of 'separate but equal' has
no place because separate educational facilities are inherently un-
equal. With that language, the Supreme Court effectively rejected
the legality of school segregation.
The implications of the Court's Brown decision extended be-
yond the educational system. Professors Feagin and Barnett note that
the Court's Brown decision marked the first time it recognized Afri-
can Americans as first-class citizens. Additionally, they state that the
decision had an important psychological impact on African Ameri-
cans and provided moral encouragement to people active in the civil
rights movement. Further, Brown supplied the legal precedent neces-
sary to dismantle state-created segregation in other areas. Finally,
Professors Feagin and Barnett remark that Brown remains a beacon
of liberty for people throughout the United States and the world
seeking to end discrimination in myriad other areas.
t We are indebted to Roslyn Mickelson for comments on an earlier draft, and to Danielle Dirks,
Molly Recar, and Dana Schulte for comments and research assistance.
* Department of Sociology, Texas A&M University.
** Departments of Sociology and Educational Policy Studies, University of Illinois at Urbana-
Champaign.

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