The Briggs v. Elliott Legacy: Black Culture, Consciousness, and Community Before Brown, 1930-1954

In the years between Emancipation and Brown v. Board of Educa-tion, African Americans battled against the inequities in education, health care, and economic opportunities advanced by segregation. In this article, the author discusses the African American community’s response to the hostility of white Americans, the fight against Jim Crow oppression, and the fight to preserve African American culture. Creatively channeling their resources, African Americans in the early twentieth century worked within their segregated communities to establish a system of local core values that eventually provided the impetus to challenge the doctrine of segregation in the courts. The author maps the progression of black consciousness from the dismal “nadir” of the 1890s following Reconstruction to the launching of the first of five cases that led to Brown: Briggs v. Elliott. Focusing on the individuals who strengthened their communities even within the confines of segregation, the author suggests that from the local struggles of the African American community in the early twentieth century emerged the “culmination of the African American struggle for freedom” that we now know as Brown.

The full text of this Symposium is available to download as a PDF.