Civil Rights history makes the movement into a fairytale: Once upon a time there was racism; Martin Luther King Jr. marched into town; and we all lived happily ever after. The End. Nearly every Civil Rights movie follows this basic script. It would be nice if this history were true, but just about all of it is false.
This week marks the anniversary of a decision that has stirred debate about the constitutional role of the judiciary for more than half a century. In a remarkable opinion signed by each of its nine members, the Supreme Court in Cooper v. Aaron (1958) stated that public officials in Little Rock, Arkansas, were required to implement a desegregation plan.
Thurgood Marshall, who was born on this date in 1908, liked telling stories. One of his favorite concerned his days as the head of the legal arm of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in the 1930s and 1940s representing black clients facing prosecution in the South.
The chief justice of Alabama's supreme court is making a stand in the courthouse door. This is not literally happening, the way it did in 1963 when Alabama Gov. George Wallace made a similar stand in the schoolhouse door. But in both cases, high Alabama officials are trying to preserve the state's ability to discriminate against a segment of its population.
For the first time in 13 years, the DOE now makes clear that states, school districts, and schools must make education resources equally available to all students without regard to race, color, or national origin. This is some of the unfinished business of the civil rights movement and a giant step forward for poor children, often children of color.