Brown versus Board

60th Anniversary of the US Supreme Court decision, Brown v. Board of Education – One Pager Summary Series by the Hockessin Heritage Foundation

Hockessin played a significant role in striking down the US Supreme Court’s 1896 Plessy versus Ferguson precedent and government-funded segregation in education.  America was segregated in the early 1950s.  Sarah Bulah of Hockessin, Delaware sued in combination with Ethel Belton and six other students who lived in Claymont, in the Delaware Court of Chancery and won for the right to an integrated education equal to that of other Americans.

Sarah, in the combined case, won her initial court battle, as well as, her corresponding appeals challenge in the Delaware Supreme Court.  The combined Delaware case was the only case to win a victory on the state level en route to the United States Supreme Court.  The combined Delaware case was then combined with four additional separate state cases, which had not won at lower levels, to form the US Supreme Court case, Brown versus Board of Education.

Prior to the Brown versus Board of Education decision, the Plessy versus Ferguson precedent allowed racial segregation and Jim Crow laws to maintain America as an Apartheid-type democracy.  On May 17, 1954, the Supreme Court decided the errors in the Plessy versus Ferguson decision were to be corrected.  America had chosen to have an integrated society versus an Apartheid type system which had existed for much of America’s history.

The Brown decision is important for Hockessin because it symbolized a tipping point in efforts to end government-funded segregation and led to an expansion of civil rights for those held back by the 1896 US Supreme Court Plessy versus Ferguson precedent.  Over 70% of Americans today would have been second class citizens if victories like Sarah’s had not taken place to encourage the Civil Rights movement, the ERA and Title IX changes that came later.  1954, in Hockessin, was a time where one of its citizens won a battle which changed America.

Sixty years later, we thank Hockessin’s own, Sarah Bulah, and Claymont’s, Ethel Belton and the six other parents whose combined cases created a winning Delaware precedent, setting the stage for the successful Brown versus Board of Education Supreme Court decision.  Happy 60th anniversary to the Brown versus Board of Education Supreme Court decision and special recognition to Sarah Bulah for lighting its flame.

The Hockessin Heritage Foundation



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