Separate Is Not Equal - Brown v. Board of Education

Smithsonian National Museum of American History Behring Center

Segregated America
The Battleground
Legal Campaign
Five Communities Change a Nation
The Decision
  • “With All Deliberate Speed”
  • Freedom Struggle
  • Equality for All
  • Changing Definitions
  • Communities Since Brown
  • Fifty Years After
Cartoon, Marshall in Train, NAACP's Desegregaton Special

“With All Deliberate Speed”

The Brown decision declared the system of legal segregation unconstitutional. But the Court ordered only that the states end segregation with “all deliberate speed.” This vagueness about how to enforce the ruling gave segregationists the opportunity to organize resistance.

Although many whites welcomed the Brown decision, a large number considered it an assault on their way of life. Segregationists played on the fears and prejudices of their communities and launched a militant campaign of defiance and resistance.

Racehorse cartoon
Cartoon by Jon Kennedy, Little Rock Arkansas Democrat, May 17, 1954
(Courtesy of Arkansas Democrat-Gazette)

School segregation cartoon
Cartoon by Bill Mauldin, St. Louis Dispatch, December 1, 1960
(Courtesy of Library of Congress)



Southern congressmen and governors attacked the Supreme Court’s decision. Through state and local governments and private organizations, white supremacists attempted to block desegregation. People across the country, like these from Poolesville, Maryland, in 1956, took to the streets to protest integration. This kind of opposition exposed the deep divide in the nation, and revealed the difficulty of enforcing the high court’s decision.
(Courtesy of Washington Star Collection, Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library)
Confederate flag from Ole Miss

Confederate flag from Ole Miss

This Confederate flag was flown during student demonstrations at the University of Mississippi in the 1960s.
(Lent by University Museums, University of Mississippi, gift of Robert Smith, 2002)

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