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PHOTO ESSAY

Brown v. Board of Education

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NAACP Lawyers: (from left) George E. C. Hayes, Thurgood Marshall, and James Nabrit Jr.

Courtesy of Library of Congress.

Since its founding in 1909, several years after Plessy v. Ferguson, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) has worked to combat racial inequality in all facets of American society, education among them. Over several decades, the NAACP's attorneys filed lawsuits attacking local municipalities for failing to provide comparable school facilities for blacks and whites despite Plessy's "separate but equal" injunction. Although many of their lawsuits were successful, it was only when the NAACP's lawyers changed tactics and challenged the constitutionality of segregation itself that the real victory was won. By demonstrating that school segregation was psychologically damaging to black children, they successfully asserted that segregation violated the equal protection rights guaranteed to all citizens by the Fourteenth Amendment and was therefore unconstitutional. This photograph shows three NAACP attorneys—(from left) George E. C. Hayes, Thurgood Marshall, and James Nabrit Jr.—celebrating after the Brown verdict. In 1967 Thurgood Marshall went on to become the first African American appointed to the Supreme Court, where he served for twenty four years.

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