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How a Republican Desegregated the South's Schools

In 2003, The New York Times published an editorial bylined by George P. Shultz, secretary of state from 1982 to 1989, about President Nixon’s cabinet management in transitioning to desegregating schools across the nation, particularly the south. Shultz opens the article acknowledging that “In 1970, seven states -- Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina and South Carolina -- continued to enforce the dual school system. This was in clear defiance of the Supreme Court's 1954 decision in Brown v. Topeka Board of Education, which declared dual school systems to be unconstitutional” (Shultz). The Brown v Topeka Board of Education decision similarly rejected the decision made in Plessy v Ferguson that held “separate but equal” was constitutional due to the fact that there were one hundred years of proof that portrayed equality was not upheld through separation. Hence, Brown v Topeka specified that school system separation did not fall within the bounds of constitutional “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”. In fact, Chief Justice Warren proclaims that “In approaching this problem, we cannot turn the clock back to 1868, when the Amendment was adopted, or even in 1896, when Plessy v Ferguson was written” (Brown, 3), thus, this perspective of the past allows for the Supreme Court to build their case. Shultz’s article addresses how the executive branch needed to resolve the transition of desegregating schools since the Supreme Court made their decision but did not offer a solution. Therefore, while Chief Justice Warren recognizes “because of the wide applicability of this decision, and because of the great variety of local conditions, the formulation of decrees in these cases presents problems of considerable complexity” (Brown, 5); essentially, the Supreme Court felt that these complexities required lenient guidelines of specifics in desegregation. However, the primary “question presented [was] does segregation of children in public schools solely on the bases of race, … deprive the children of the minority group of equal educational opportunities” (Brown, 4)? The Supreme Court decided that it does with support from the psychological “modern authorities” (Brown, 5) of the time. Shultz’s correct representation of Brown v Topeka in his article is the ground foundation of his narrative in the desegregation of southern school systems.

Works Cited Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka (No. 1). 347 US 483. Supreme Court of the US. 1954. Shultz, George P. “How a Republican Desegregated the South’s Schools”. The New York Times. 07 Jan 2003,


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