Books on Brown v. Board of Education
By Walter Clark, director of admissions, Middlesex
Silent Covenants: Brown v. Board of
Education and the Unfulfilled Hopes for Racial Reform,
by Derrick Bell. (Oxford University Press, 2004.)
Bell argues that because of the perversity of racism,
Brown v. Board of Education undermined rather than advanced
the educational interests of black children. Although
he acknowledges that striking down the 1896 Plessy v.
Ferguson “separate but equal” mandate was
a monumental action, Bell claims that little was done
to enforce the equality side of the equation between
racial communities. Bell argues that the importance
of the landmark Brown decision lies more in the ruling’s
symbolic value than in its substance. The road to equal
educational opportunity has proven to be longer and
more difficult than many had hoped.
All Deliberate Speed: Reflections of the
First Half-Century of Brown v.
Board of Education, by Charles J. Ogletree.
(W. W. Norton & Company, 2004.)
Harvard law professor Charles Ogletree analyzes the
impact of the Supreme Court’s unanimous ruling
that “separate but equal” was unconstitutional.
He also examines the meaning of Brown for all Americans
by describing the lives and roles of those involved,
including Martin Luther King, Jr., Earl Warren, and
Thurgood Marshall. The synthesis of historical and personal
accounts makes this book central to understanding the
impact and the legacy of Brown on American society.
Brown v. Board of Education: Caste, Culture,
and the Constitution, edited by Robert
J. Cottrol and Leland Ware. (University Press of Kansas,
This book examines the court cases involved in the
Brown v. Board of Education decision. It focuses on
the fundamental role that the NAACP played in bringing
about the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn
the 1896 Plessy v. Ferguson “separate but equal”
doctrine. The authors craft their story to show that
Brown changed the national equation of race and caste
and our view of the Court’s role in American life.
The Unfinished Agenda of Brown v.
Board of Education, by the editors of Black
Issues in Higher Education with James Anderson,
Dara N. Bryne, and Tavis Smiley. (John Wiley & Sons,
The editors of Black Issues in Higher Education
collaborated with a diverse group of activists, jurists,
educators, scholars, and theorists to create this collection
of essays. Contributors such as Derrick Bell, Cheryl
Brown Henderson, Evelyn Hu DeHart, and Gary Orfield
share a range of perspectives on the meaning and influence
of Brown decision and the ensuing transformation of
the United States over the past fifty years. It is the
collection of many voices that makes this book profound
and powerful. The essays provide both historical and
personal perspectives on Brown v. Board of Education.
From Jim Crow to Civil Rights: The Supreme
Court and the Struggle for Racial Equality,
by Michael J. Klarman. (Oxford University Press, 2004.)
This book delves deeply into constitutional law on
race from the nineteenth century through the mid-twentieth
century and considers the social and political milieu
of the Brown decision. Professor Klarman examines the
dynamic social and legal tensions affecting southern
politics, the civil rights movement, and the subsequent
national reactions that led to the civil rights legislation
of the 1960s. Well researched and skillfully crafted,
it is a book that reveals the powerful effects of the
Supreme Court upon the American landscape.