On May 17, 1954, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its historic decision in "Brown v. Board of Education" that declared that laws establishing segregated schools were "inherently unequal" and therefore unconstitutional. The decision called for the desegregation of all schools throughout the nation.
With school segregation apparently making a comeback in some states, the history and legacy of the decision is now more relevant than ever. Find out more about Brown v. Board of Education and its ramifications at your local Manatee County public library.
In 1954, the U.S. Supreme Court ordered the lower federal courts to order desegregation "with all deliberate speed." "With All Deliberate Speed: A Look at the Landmark Brown vs. the Board of Education" is a documentary film that explores the history and ramifications of the legal decision that tore the country apart and continues to divide the nation to this day. The film features stunning archival footage, powerful readings and new interviews with the men and women who fought (and continue to fight) the battle for racial equality.
Books that put an iconic photograph into context can make pivotal historic events more accessible. "Elizabeth and Hazel: Two Women of Little Rock" by David Margolick is one such example. The photograph that became the symbol of school desegregation and helped to advance the civil rights movement, showed Elizabeth Eckford, a young black girl stoically walking in front of Little Rock Central High School, while a white woman, Hazel Bryan Massery, screamed racial epithets at her. Their lives have both been forever changed and influenced by the turbulent events of that time. The book follows their painful journey together from apology to forgiveness to amazingly, friendship. Despite setbacks to their friendship, they still maintain a complex relationship.
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There are numerous titles, both fiction and nonfiction, for younger readers as well. "The Lions of Little Rock," by Kristin Levine, is a novel set in 1958 Little Rock, Ar., about the friendship between Marlee, a 13-year-old white girl and Lizzie, a light-skinned black girl who is thrown out of school for trying to "pass" for white.
Linda Brown's "You Are Not Alone: the Brown v. Board of Education Decision" is a collection of stories, poems, and reflections from authors who lived through the era about how the Supreme Court decision affected the lives of people over the decades.
Speaking Volumes, written by Manatee County Public Library System staff members, is published each Sunday. You can also access the library via mymanatee.org/library. Fran Barba is a reference librarian in the Manatee County Public Library System.