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We conclude that in the field of public education the doctrine of separate but equal has no place separate educational facilities are inherently unequal and therefore we hold that the plaintiffs and others similarly situated for whom the actions have been brought are deprived of the equal protection of the laws guaranteed by the 14th Amendment. This disposition makes it unnecessary for any discussion whether such segregation also violates the due process clause of the 14th Amendment. These words are taken from the Supreme Court decision of May 17th 1954. The school decision of the United States Supreme Court. Today we hear a discussion of some of the background to this decision and some of its effects and its importance to the education of the last citizen the Negro in America.
The last citizen the Negro in America a series of programs devoted to the extension of our knowledge of the largest minority group in the United States its problems and the problems it poses to all Americans. The last citizen is produced by Radio Station WBA a produce University on drug grant from the Educational Television and Radio Center in cooperation with the National Association of educational broadcasters. The discussions are the producer of the series E-W Richter and Dr. Louis Schneider a professor of sociology at Purdue University. Today's program the second schoolhouse. Part two. Here now is Mr. Rector. And last week's program we dealt with some of the problems that the negro faces and attempting to get an education to set the scene for our continued discussion of Negro Education today. I'd like to quote a very useful summary statement from Joseph call's recent text on the American class structure. Basing himself on a United States Information Agency pamphlet on the Negro in
America life Coll writes the educational achievement of the Negro people in the last 50 years has been phenomenal. At the turn of the century almost half of them were illiterate. By nine hundred fifty The illiteracy rate was approaching 10 percent. In 1950 more Negroes graduated from college than had graduated from high school in one thousand twenty. Indeed the rate of increase and Negro college enrollment during this period was six times that of the whites. Nevertheless although the negroes are fast catching up to white educational levels they started with a great handicap which still marks them as of nine hundred fifty over a third of the total white population but only 13 percent of the negroes had graduated from high school. Thirteen percent of the whites had gone to college for a while but only 5 percent of the negroes had entered Ivy halls. And the quantity of Negro Education is still deficient. The negro colleges are
held back by the poor quality of preparation and Southern negro high schools. Only recently have the gates of white colleges been opened in significant degree to colored students and they will be at a disadvantage there as long as high schools are unequal. The Supreme Court decision outlawing segregation could vastly speed the improvement of the quality of Negro Education for only in the states that have integrated schools do the expenditures for the education of Negro pupils matched those for whites. But if the southern states succeed and outmaneuvering the decision by abolishing the public schools then the negroes will be set back a generation or more and progress for they will be unable to afford good private schools. Even if there is a partial subsidy this long statement is taken from Joe's of calls. The American class structure. Now let us make concrete some of the things Col says
by listening to Judge Jay Way to swearing. Retired federal judge from South Carolina. I had the first school segregation. And why all the cases that went Supreme Court one from Kansas Brown against the board was number one. Briggs again still yet it was the Clarendon school case was number two. But Briggs against ATF was started first and went up and was sent back and when they began by the time it Brownwood. But the cases involve somewhat the practically the same issues. Clarendon County South Carolina is a dreadfully poor county. The counties in that state as in most states vary and they vary very very differently and that's one of the worst counties in South Carolina.
We have more Negroes than whites in the population it's a rural county with only two little towns and it's it's a poor farming country. Poor people frightened Niekro. Large numbers of them illiterate or near illiterate and very backward. Now they want their Negro people up there had to trade for schools. I sometimes drove through the county on the way to holding court in another place other than Charleston South since my headquarters when I went to Florence freak. And you could see these tumbledown dreadful dirty backwoods places and the negroes found they had terrible schooling there first started asking for better schools buildings books or
any books in the in the schools. One say one book to 10 pupils and all of that kind of thing and no heating no toilets just does. Terrible tend to things kind the thing to the VM agencies only and in India and back with China and we can place Judge Waring's observations on the state of Negro Education and one county of South Carolina side by side with the results of a study made of Negro Education in the south. Frederick D Patterson president of the Phelps Stokes fund briefly discussed some of the findings of the study and an address to the National Urban League convention in Omaha Nebraska in the fall of 1958. Ah some of the common failings that we have encountered one a bad one has very little relation between what
dissipating high school has stated as lap philosophy but dissipating in this sense meaning in this four state study involving Alabama Georgia Mississippi and North Carolina. That was very little relation between what dissipating high school stated as their philosophy and objectives on one hand and that actual practices. There is a close correlation between nutrition and grades. The honest students were the well-fed students. I guess there may be some exceptions but by and large that was true. Those who fail in class work are usually those who have little or nothing wholesome in the way of food. We have established this through a study of teachers record books lunchroom patronage and home visits. We have found that there is a difference between actual and official attendance reports to
maintain teacher allotments. There is a considerable padding of attendance report which actually after eight years in the average room school the pupil has completed only four Pulido where actual days attended are concerned. And I might say that that there is collaboration from the superintendent's office right through to the classroom teaching in this matter of faking attendance records in order to get financial allotments while kids out of school playing on picking cotton on our going home. The reading level teaches a lot. Children are not motivated to read read widely. This is reflected in limited accomplishment in all fields of learning reading ability of course. It's serious you can't do arithmetic if you can't read and you can't do
many other things in terms of academic performance. Libraries are not too bad in many cases there is adequate shelving but a few books the place of the library in instruction is not fully appreciated. Sometimes if you ask a teacher how many books they have they will say well a hundred volumes and they all emblems. This then is some of the background against which the Supreme Court made its decision on school segregation on May 17th 1954. You recall of course that there was a great outcry from many southerners against this decision with charges that the court was attempting to destroy a Southern social pattern of long standing. Les Pauli Murray a lawyer in New York City is an author and a student of legislation affecting negroes in the United States has this to say about the origin of the separate but equal doctrine. Well the separate and separate and equal doctrine which we're
saddled with today and which we overturned in large part with the education cases by the Supreme Court 1954 is only about a half century old in the history of legislation in our country before the 1896 that was the Plessy vs. Ferguson decision which enunciated the separate but equal doctrine. There was no uniform segregation legislation in the south. There had been no need for it under slavery because the slaves occupied a certain category and the master class occupied another category. There was a great deal of intermingling of the races and public accommodations and in public places. But following the civil war following the
abortion of the Reconstruction era and the coming back into power of the white south there began to be this gradual whittling away of the right which the Negroes or even of some of the opportunities which the negroes had achieved during the brief period of reconstruction and then the states began to pass laws requiring separation. One of these statutes not in the field of education but in the field of Transportation came up from Louisiana. To the Supreme Court for interpretation that was the Plessy v. Ferguson case and in 1896 by a decision of 8 to 1 the Supreme Court said that so long as you have equal facilities the fact that they are separate facilities is not
unconstitutional and is not inequality within the meaning of the 14th Amendment. This was specifically applicable to transportation. This was applicable to transportation this was the case upon which it came to the Supreme Court. However the case upon which this one of the cases upon which the Supreme Court relied in announcing this doctrine was a case coming from Massachusetts an eight hundred forty nine which had already been repudiated and rejected by the people of Massachusetts because their Supreme Court had said in about eight hundred forty nine that it was all right to exclude a negro child from the common school. And the legislature the next session passed a law which made this decision null and void. But here was this all statute hanging there on the books and the Supreme Court reached back a half century and took this all Massachusetts decision. Did I say statute. I
meant to say the sole decision. The Supreme Court reached back and took this Massachusetts decision to bolster its position of separate but equal. Now I think it's very significant to note that that decision was an 8 to 1 decision the lone justice who dissented was Associate Justice John him Harlan whose grandson now sits on the Supreme Court. And this justice wrote a magnificent dissenting opinion prophesied that the the violence done to the rights of human beings that day by the Supreme Court in announcing this separate but equal doctrine would cause anguish and pain for generations to come. Every lawyer from that time on who has attempted to find a legal basis for overturning the separate but equal doctrine has gone to that dissenting
opinion. Just a sign. Associate Justice John M. Harlan. Lou you seem to have some additional comments to make. Let me observe that in the Supreme Court decision of May 17th 1954 the court said separate educational facilities are inherently unequal. The court was careful to point out that even one physical facilities and other so-called time Jubal factors may be assumed to be equal. There is still no equality where segregation prevails to separate children and great in grade and high schools. Just to separate them the court said to separate them from others of similar age and qualifications solely because of their race generates a feeling of inferiority as to their status in the community. That may affect their hearts and minds in a way are unlikely to be undone. And on the words separation as in and of itself discrimination at least in the sphere of education. Yes and the argument of the Supreme Court is hardly a new one. It is an
argument that has frequently been made before by persons who have recognized that the segregated group precisely in virtue of its segregation consists of individuals who are not considered fit associates of those from whom they are separated. Moreover we are aware that very often it has not been the case that separate facilities have been equal and it is well known to students of these models that the separate schools of the negro have in fact generally been quite in theory a ones not only in the South but in the loft also where patterns of housing or population distribution tend to make for all negro schools. And that's a commonplace that the effort to support separate school systems. I don't level anywhere near equality imposes great economic burdens great economic burdens I should say on communities as building costs are multiplied and overheads are duplicated. Well to alter slightly the line of approach for the moment and discussing the Supreme Court decision you mentioned that one of the points that was made was that separate
schools generate a feeling of inferiority on the negro's part as to their status in the community. Reverend William borders of the Wheat Street Baptist Church in Atlanta Georgia had this to say when we asked him whether or not the Supreme Court decision had done much and bolstering the negro self-images morale if you wish. Oh yes is this decision has done a tremendous amount of good. It is educated the public mind and all of us are thinking more clearly with reference to segregation. And there are many of us who've been stripped of our prejudices and the improvements which come along educationally and in common carriers and otherwise have done a great deal to make the negro think more of himself. And this was one of the results intended and most were you'd see in the implement Haitian democracy at its highest and best no question in my mind but there we have
dealt then with the educational situation of the negro as it existed at the time of the Supreme Court's decision of May 17th 1954. We have discussed the subject but equal doctrine which was overthrown by that decision. And Reverend borders of Atlanta Georgia has commented on the results of that decision in terms of the morale of the negro. But what about our white population particularly in the south. What are their attitudes toward this historic decision. What has been done to implement it. Mr. Fred Ralph assistant director of the Southern Regional Council a consultative organization upon problems of race relations. Discuss this question with us. When we visited him in his office in Atlanta Georgia. We asked Mr. Ralph what he felt was the most important factor in the South's reaction to the Supreme Court decision and to give us a break as of the time of our interview which was in the summer of 1988 southern compliance or noncompliance with the
decision. Well I think of course the most important fact is the whole frame of reference or the whole framework. Under which race relations exist in the South was changed by the Supreme Court decision. Of May 17th 1054. And those of us who work in this field in the South do not believe that this was any radical decision or that it was any great change from what was already developing. If you trace the court decisions starting back about 1938. From then until 1954 you find that bit by bit the flimsy legal basis. Of Plessy versus Ferguson the separate but equal doctrine was being worn away. And by 1954 the only decision open to the court was the one it made. We were of course pleased that it was unanimous decision I think decided a great deal of strength to that decision particularly since there were three Southerners sitting on the Supreme Court at that time. I think
it is significant that four years later. There are only seven states left who are practicing segregation as their official state policy. If you stop and think in one thousand fifty four there were 17 states in the District of Columbia that practiced segregation. Today there are only seven left who practice it as official policy that does not mean of course. By any means that in all of the states that have started the process it's anyplace near complete. It's not. But if you ignore the Broadhurst border states. Maryland Delaware West Virginia. Missouri and such states as that and concentrate on the southern states you'll find that they have made an amazing adjustment even in this brief period of time. If you put them on a continuum from the state that has done the most about compliance to the state which is most in defiance they would run something like this. In Oklahoma about 84 percent of all the school districts in which Negro children live. Are in the process of
desegregation. In Kentucky better than 80 percent of the school districts in which Negro children live are in the process of desegregation. This is followed by Texas with between 25 and 30 percent of those school districts in the process of desegregation. Now the reason for saying 25 to 30 percent is that we have discovered a number of school districts in Texas. That have desegregated their schools but fail to tell the state government about it because they didn't want trouble or interference from the state government. Texas is followed by Arkansas in which seven school districts have started. The process of desegregation. And then of course we come on over to North Carolina where three cities Charlotte Greensboro and Winston-Salem have started the process of desegregation and done so on a voluntary basis. This was not under court order. I think that's an important distinction. This is followed by Tennessee where there are two communities or three communities depending on how you look at it. Nashville has started the process with its first grade last year. We'll carry it
on into the second grade this year. Clinton Tennessee of course has also moved into desegregation. Oak Ridge is the one community that some people question Oakridge has the segregated schools but it is primarily a federal community. It's up of course where the great atomic energy project is at Oak Ridge. But nevertheless this was done to sew at least three communities there have started the process. Then there are two states Virginia and Florida. Of the remaining seven who do not belong in what we would call the hard core category. Virginia is an upper south state with a deep south posture. And this is a position difficult either for a state or an individual to maintain. That leaves Florida outside of the hard core category. And in Florida. There would not be really difficult to desegregate. The Dade County area this is Miami or the Pinellas County area that's around St. Petersburg. Those two areas tend to be liberal tend not to be worried about this too much.
The old saying that you the further south you get in Florida the more north you are I think is true. I was raised in Florida know it intimately of course. And went to grade school and high school in the Miami area. And know the thinking of many of the people there. I don't think resistance would be high. That leaves five states in the hard core. Louisiana Alabama Georgia South Carolina Mississippi. And Mississippi will be the most difficult state at least in my estimation to work out this particular problem. The One. Saving grace and joy joy is Atlanta. A great metropolitan center a distribution center for the entire southeast. A financial center for the entire southeast. And a city that might well be said to be on the make. It's a city that has a good administration a city whose Negro population votes in increasing numbers. And who are politically articulate. This has been a very helpful thing in this area.
Mississippi on the other hand is primarily a rural state. And in most features is number 48 on the list of the states of the Union in terms of the amount of money spent for schools and so on and so forth in terms of attainment of its schools. So the problem there is burdensome more so for instance and say in Georgia are if the other hard core States and that's Fred Routh assistant director of the Southern Regional Council paints a picture of progress up to the summer of 1958. That is far from entirely discouraging. Now Lou I'm going to pose a thoroughly naive question why is this issue of education so terribly important for the Negro. We all know in a general way that education is a vital thing today. It's a broad highway to better employment and all of the things that go with butter jobs. Time was when the dream of becoming a small business man made a cleaned of sense. Small business men might and often did fail but a man could still hope what some
justification that if he saved a certain not too great amount of capital and went into business for himself he might make a go of it. Mind you there were always limitations to the sky deferring. But today it's more and more the case that our Muslim mind is very desirous of making money and education needn't be a handicap even if this is the case. His best bud for a life in which he will have a certain amount of security and a so-called decent income this to obtain an education. The attainment of what we might call middle class position usually involves school and college and the technical and professional training that can be obtained only by schooling so that the negroes fight for an education is not only a fight for bread and butter but also a fight for decent health for attaining a state of being reasonably informed. Something which comes most readily from schooling and for an income that will really help in making housing expenses medical expenses and so on. Yes certainly this is what the fights about and striving for in education on a par with that of the white
man and the Negroes at the same time striving for things that education brings with it a certain level of knowledge and information indispensable for shall I say living well in the modern world and income level of the kind we call decent. A chance to reduce disease to the lower incidence it usually has among whites. You might almost say it's a fight for life or for a level of life comparable to that of whites in 1950 to 30 percent of white families had a cash income of over $5000 but less than 8 percent of Negro families did. Very nearly three quarters of the Negro families are in less than $3000 but less than 40 percent of the white families earned on the $3000 in occupations you get examined again exactly what you might expect negroes by comparison with whites very poorly represented in the professions poorly represented among salesmen and clerical workers among craftsman among them. But when you come to the business of being a service worker or a laborer There are of course the Negro is very
well represented. He still has considerable ground to cover before equality with whites in these matters is achieved. And education is a tremendously potent factor in all these three. It's pretty clear therefore that the fight for an education as good as that obtained by whites is indispensable strategy for the Negro. We might just end on the note that this is an evident enough thing but an extremely important one. In our program today we heard reports on the state of Negro Education in the south before and after the Supreme Court decision from Judge Jay Way to swearing retired federal district judge from South Carolina. And Mr. Frederick D Patterson president of the Phelps Stokes fund. Miss Polly Murray a lawyer author and expert on legislation affecting negroes briefed us on the legal background to the Supreme Court decision. Reverend William borders of the Wheat Street Baptist Church in Atlanta Georgia spoke of the psychological effects of the Supreme Court's decision on Negroes in general and Mr. Fred Roth assistant director of the Southern Regional Council discussed Southern attitudes towards and degree of compliance with the Supreme Court's
decision. When I do join us again next week at this time when we take up the question of the negro and the city migration and urbanization as we continue to discuss the last citizen of the Negro in America. And the greatest. Citizen. This program was produced and recorded. My God you were the Universe. Underground from the Educational Television and Radio show you did not. Want to go.
Last citizen
The second school house, part two
Producing Organization
Purdue University
WBAA (Radio station : West Lafayette, Ind.)
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University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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This program, the second of two parts, explores the state of education for African Americans.
A series of programs devoted to exploring the problems facing African-Americans and how these issues impact all Americans.
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African Americans--Vocational education
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Guest: Clark, Kenneth Bancroft, 1914-2005
Guest: Frazier, E. Franklin, 1894-1962
Guest: Holland, Jerome H., 1916-
Host: Schneider, Louis
Producer: Richter, E.W.
Producing Organization: Purdue University
Producing Organization: WBAA (Radio station : West Lafayette, Ind.)
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University of Maryland
Identifier: 59-50-8 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:28:59
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Chicago: “Last citizen; The second school house, part two,” 1959-01-01, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed April 14, 2021,
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APA: Last citizen; The second school house, part two. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from