Welcome to Our Special Edition

By Catherine Capellaro


On May 17, 1954, the Supreme Court issued a decision that would change history. Brown v. Board of Education, a case made up of five separate cases, struck down the legal separation of students by race in U.S. public schools. In the decision, Chief Justice Earl Warren wrote, “In the field of public education the doctrine of ‘separate but equal’ has no place. Separate educational facilities are inherently unequal.”

Lest we forget, Brown was an actual person. In the early 1950s, Linda Carol Brown and her sister Terry Lynn, who lived four blocks from a white school, had to walk along railroad tracks in Topeka, Kan., to reach a bus stop that took them to a black school two miles away. Their parents sued, with the help of the NAACP’s legal defense fund and the thousands of activists who help lay the groundwork for Brown and the Civil Rights Movement.

In this special edition of Rethinking Schools, we celebrate the courage and dedication of the activists who risked their lives to end segregation.

On pages 4–16, you’ll find a fascinating array of opinions on Brown. Its impact is still controversial—and we strive to represent some of the views that are bound to receive less airtime in the flurry of media attention surrounding Brown’s 50th anniversary.

On pages 17 and 21, our regular columns “Keeping Public Schools Public” and “No Child Left Untested” examine the manipulation of Brown to justify support for private school vouchers and the No Child Left Behind Act.

Most important, we wanted to provide useful and inspiring tools for teaching about Brown and the Civil Rights Movement in K-12 classrooms. From Rita Tenorio’s lessons on race and skin color for first graders to Linda Christensen’s lessons on the Little Rock Nine, we think you’ll find new ways to teach your students about one of the most significant movements for justice in the history of our country.

We encourage you to try out our teaching ideas and visit our website (www.rethinkingschools.org/brown) for additional materials. And, if you like what you see, share a copy with your colleagues and order multiple copies for your students or your library.

We still have a long way to go to fulfill the promise of Brown. But starting with our youngest students, we can teach about these warriors for justice who inspire us to follow in their footsteps.