We cannot verify your location
Browse Book and Journal Content on Project MUSE

Law Touched Our Hearts

A Generation Remembers Brown v. Board of Education

Edited by Mildred Wigfall Robinson and Richard J. Bonnie

Publication Year: 2009

In February 1954, President Eisenhower invited Chief Justice Warren to dinner at the White House. Among the guests were well-known opponents of school desegregation. During that evening, Eisenhower commented to Warren that “law and force cannot change a man's heart.” Three months later, however, the Supreme Court handed down its unanimous decision in Brown, and the contributors to this book, like people across the country, were profoundly changed by it, even though many saw almost nothing change in their communities. What Brown did was to elevate race from the country's dirty secret to its most urgent topic of conversation. This book stands alone in presenting, in one source, stories of black and white Americans, men and women, from all parts of the nation, who were public school students during the years immediately after Brown. All shared an epiphany. Some became aware of race and the burden of racial separation. Others dared to hope that the yoke of racial oppression would at last be lifted. The editors surveyed 4750 law professors born between 1936 and 1954, received 1000 responses, and derived these forty essays from those willing to write personal accounts of their childhood experiences in the classroom and in their communities. Their moving stories of how Brown affected them say much about race relations then and now. They also provide a picture of how social change can shape the careers of an entire generation in one profession. Contributors provide accounts from across the nation. Represented are ο de jure states, those segregated by law at the time of Brown, including Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, as well as the District of Columbia ο de facto states, those where segregation was illegal but a common practice, including California, Illinois, Kansas, Massachusetts, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Washington, and Wisconsin.

Published by: Vanderbilt University Press

Title Page, Copyright

pdf iconDownload PDF (418.4 KB)
pp. iii-iv


pdf iconDownload PDF (430.8 KB)
pp. v-ix

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (426.8 KB)
pp. xi

We invited almost five thousand of our colleagues in law teaching to participate in what we expected would be “an intriguing project that intertwines personal, professional, and written history.” We would not have been able to make that initial contact without the financial and logistical support provided by Dean Robert Scott and the secretarial and mailroom staffs here at the University of Virginia law school....

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (449.3 KB)
pp. 1-7

In February of 1954, President Dwight D. Eisenhower invited Chief Justice Earl Warren to dinner at the White House. Among the other guests were well-known opponents of school desegregation, including John W. Davis, the lawyer who had recently presented the states’ argument for upholding segregated schools before the Supreme Court in Brown v. The Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas. In his memoirs, Warren notes...

Part I. The Context—Skin Color and Walls

pdf iconDownload PDF (393.6 KB)
pp. 9

read more

1. Learning about Skin Color

pdf iconDownload PDF (447.2 KB)
pp. 11-15

I was born in New York City in 1944 and grew up on 145th Street and Riverside Drive. The block between Riverside and Broadway was predominantly white; the block between Broadway and Amsterdam Avenue was predominantly Hispanic; Harlem started at Amsterdam Avenue....

read more

2. Segregated Proms in 2003

pdf iconDownload PDF (446.6 KB)
pp. 16-20

Racially segregated high school proms are in the news. The coverage superficially depicts these incidents as vestiges of racism in rural Southern school districts. I moved away from the South over thirty years ago and I know there is far more to the story. There was no media scrutiny of the proms in 1971 when I graduated from Bertie Senior High School in Windsor, North Carolina. No....

read more

3 The Wall

pdf iconDownload PDF (430.7 KB)
pp. 21-22

It was 1957. I was eight years old. My father had just joined the faculty of a Canadian university. He was a professor of anatomy and physiology and a research scientist. He had a wonderful lab at the university, graduate students from around the world, and funding for summer research as well. We spent our first summer in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, where he...

read more

4. And the Walls Came Tumblin’ Down

pdf iconDownload PDF (439.0 KB)
pp. 23-25

When Brown was decided, I was a fourth-grade student at Girard College, the free boarding school in center city Philadelphia for “poor, white, male orphans” that became a legal battleground in the integration movement over the fourteen years following Brown. Although persistent litigation ultimately integrated Girard with respect to both race and sex, I spent eleven years behind the ten-foot walls that...

read more

5. The Commutative Property of Arithmetic

pdf iconDownload PDF (449.6 KB)
pp. 26-30

I recall the question precisely: “You mean you disagree with the opinion in Brown versus The Board of Education of Topeka?” And the questioner: my father, who was a scientist, not a lawyer, and would have spoken out the full name of the case, “Brown versus The Board of Education of Topeka.” Not the lawyers’ familiar Brown, or Brown vee Board. The full name. And I recall the person questioned...

Part II. De Jure States and the District of Columbia

pdf iconDownload PDF (393.6 KB)
pp. 31

read more

6. Training in Alabama

pdf iconDownload PDF (441.3 KB)
pp. 33-35

In May 1954 I was seven years old, and I had just completed the third grade at the all-black, de jure segregated Baldwin County Training School in Daphne, Alabama. The all-white high schools in rural counties all over the South were named for their counties, for example, Baldwin County High School. The all-black schools were distinguished by...

read more

7. Loss of Innocence

pdf iconDownload PDF (454.0 KB)
pp. 36-42

As you read the dates on the epigraphs, you may think my history is off. It is not. Brown v. Board of Education was decided in 1954. Although I was born after Brown in Jackson, Mississippi, in 1956, I did not attend student-integrated schools until the 1970–1971 academic year, when a mini-busload of about twenty white children began to...

read more

8. Toto, I Have a Feeling We Are Still in Kansas

pdf iconDownload PDF (459.8 KB)
pp. 43-49

Brown v. Board of Education shapes the lives of everyone in this country, even though most people are not aware of the details of the decision. In fact, the lay understanding of Brown probably is limited to knowing that it ended de jure segregation in public schools. While the importance of this cannot be overstated, white society’s enduring attachment to Brown is not so much its holding as what the case has...

read more

9. Becoming a Legal Troublemaker

pdf iconDownload PDF (454.2 KB)
pp. 51-57

I grew up in a society stained by lawlessness. My hometown, Lakeland, Florida, dubbed “Citrus Capital of the World” by local promoters, is situated near the center of Interstate 4, the highway that runs across the midsection of the Sunshine State. As I was born in December 1952, I have no recollection of the Brown I and II decisions when the Warren...

read more

10. Color-Blind in Georgia

pdf iconDownload PDF (447.6 KB)
pp. 59-63

The decision in Brown v. Board of Education, on May 17, 1954, was announced near the end of my freshman year at the University of Georgia. I can well remember the widespread publicity accompanying the decision and its generally favorable reception on the all-white Athens, Georgia, campus. Some vocal students, of course, expressed immediate opposition; but in general most of my friends, including...

read more

11. Taking a Stand

pdf iconDownload PDF (430.7 KB)
pp. 65-66

I finished high school in Atlanta, Georgia, without ever experiencing a day of integrated education, but the case of Brown v. Board of Education had a profound impact on my life. I am a clinical law professor at Vanderbilt Law School. My students and I are often co-counsel in cases seeking rights for children with disabilities...

read more

12. Seeing the Hollow

pdf iconDownload PDF (450.1 KB)
pp. 67-71

In May 1954, I was in tenth grade at Montgomery Blair High School in Silver Spring, Maryland, a suburb of Washington, D.C. There were no blacks among the two thousand students in that school. Insofar as I noticed this fact—and I did, though only fleetingly...

read more

13. A Glen Echo Passage

pdf iconDownload PDF (451.9 KB)
pp. 72-77

I understood, but only vaguely, that I would be attending a new elementary school next year to make room for the colored children from Seven Locks Road at my present school. The year was 1955, and I was just finishing the third grade in Cabin John, Maryland. My teacher mother, I remember, had been pleased—even downright gleeful— upon learning that the Supreme Court...

read more

14. I Can’t Play with You No More

pdf iconDownload PDF (444.8 KB)
pp. 79-82

I was born in Clarksdale, in the Mississippi Delta, in early 1953 and lived in nearby Lyon until I was almost fifteen. My father was a lawyer with clients, mostly paying but otherwise from all walks of life. Although I am told he believed in segregation of the races, I am not aware that he worked for such ends, but since he died in 1963 I have to content myself with hoping that he did not. My cousin tells me...

read more

15. A White Boy from Mississippi

pdf iconDownload PDF (455.8 KB)
pp. 83-89

Like most of the families who lived in the Beacon Street housing project, my family ate its meals around a bright-colored, chrome-edged Formica kitchen table. On Mondays we often ate biscuits with tomato gravy, butter beans, rice, and Sunday’s leftover fried chicken. That probably was the menu on the day that many whites called “Black Monday,” when...

read more

16. A Journey of Conscience

pdf iconDownload PDF (444.5 KB)
pp. 90-93

The year was 1956. The scene was a social studies class in Pascagoula Junior High School in Pascagoula, Mississippi. I was in the seventh grade. Our social studies teacher, Mr. Dunnam, also was a state senator in the Mississippi Legislature. He proudly announced in class one day that the legislature had just voted to repeal the state’s compulsory school attendance law, and he further announced that the...

read more

17. Promise and Paradox

pdf iconDownload PDF (464.4 KB)
pp. 95-102

Monday, May 17, 1954, would have been anticlimactic if I had known then what happened. It came three days after I celebrated my tenth birthday. As I learned much, much later, that day the U.S. Supreme Court announced its great decision in Brown v. Board of Education. It was a day as unremarkable as any other ordinary day...

read more

18. A Different Kind of Education

pdf iconDownload PDF (445.6 KB)
pp. 103-106

The world of my childhood—Charlotte, North Carolina, during the 1960s—was almost exclusively white. All my early childhood friends, whom I met in the neighborhood, school, church, the YMCA, and Boy Scouts, were pretty much like me—white and from a middle-class background. During my grade-school years, I encountered few black people except those who cleaned homes or performed yard...

read more

19. Sacrifice, Opportunity, and the New South

pdf iconDownload PDF (457.1 KB)
pp. 107-113

In 1954, I was enrolled in the fourth grade in the Berkeley County Training School in Moncks Corner, South Carolina. The Berkeley County Training School was the public school that educated all the Negro children, grades one through twelve, who resided in that county. I remember quite clearly...

read more

20. Crossing Invisible Lines

pdf iconDownload PDF (459.6 KB)
pp. 115-122

I was born the year that Brown v. Board of Education mandated that schools desegregate “with all deliberate speed,” yet until I went to college, I never had a class with a person of color, Asian American, or Hispanic. In that first year of college, 1971, I left the South and my hometown of Chattanooga, Tennessee, for the first time...

read more

21. Segregation in Memphis

pdf iconDownload PDF (474.4 KB)
pp. 123-134

Among the first wave of baby boomers who arrived after the World War II veterans returned home, I was born during 1946, in Memphis, Tennessee. My father, Alonzo Weaver II, had served in the all-black Ninety-third Signal Company of the U.S. Army. Serving his country with distinction in battles at New Guinea and the Solomon Islands...

read more

22. What I Learned When Massive Resistance Closed My School

pdf iconDownload PDF (462.8 KB)
pp. 135-142

I grew up in Norfolk, Virginia, in the 1950s. With a population of three hundred thousand and a thriving naval base, Norfolk had become the largest city in Virginia. Mine was a typical 1950s upbringing—very quiet and stable, with a Leave-It-to-Beaver flavor. I lived an insular life with a highly predictable routine—walk to school, walk to Hebrew lessons, wait for Mom to pick me up to take me to baseball games and piano lessons, then perhaps to Toastmaster’s Club, Children’s Theater, and so on. (In fact...

read more

23. Standing Up for Brown in Danville

pdf iconDownload PDF (452.5 KB)
pp. 143-148

I was eleven years old when Brown I came down in May 1954. My biggest concerns were girls (I didn’t like them but secretly coveted their attention) and making the majors in Little League baseball (I couldn’t hit, and so knew I would be relegated to the minors). I don’t remember much about my family’s reaction to Brown, except that they thought it was high time for the Court to rule as it had...

read more

24. Urgent Conversations

pdf iconDownload PDF (442.4 KB)
pp. 149-152

I have been thinking about the significance of Brown v. Board of Education for most of my life. I was in the ninth grade at Herndon High School in Fairfax County, Virginia, when Brown was decided. Difficult as it may be to imagine today, that part of Fairfax County—now a populous, high-tech corridor—was then very rural and very Southern. As was the case in most of the rural South, there was little or no residential...

read more

25. Virginia Confronts a “Statesmanlike Decision”

pdf iconDownload PDF (442.8 KB)
pp. 153-156

Williamsburg, Virginia, was not entirely typical of its region in 1955, the year in which I graduated from high school. It was a college town and hence had a larger element of liberal intelligentsia than many otherwise comparable communities had. Since the late 1920s, Williamsburg had been the scene of the Rockefeller-financed restoration of the eighteenth-century colonial capital. This gave the city a strong economic...

read more

26. Brown as Catalyst

pdf iconDownload PDF (445.7 KB)
pp. 157-160

It is well known that some counties in Virginia actively resisted Brown’s mandate to end segregation with “all deliberate speed.” To stereotype Virginia by the resistance of some would be an unfortunate generalization. A sterling example is the city of Hampton, which desegregated public schools in the early to mid-1960s and did so with little fanfare or discernable rancor. Hampton first implemented...

read more

27. Equality and Sorority during the Decade after Brown

pdf iconDownload PDF (449.3 KB)
pp. 161-165

I learned that my elementary school was racially segregated when a television newscaster announced that the U.S. Supreme Court ruled for the petitioners in Brown v. Board of Education. It never occurred to me before May 17, 1954, that there were no white teachers or students at my school. For almost ten years my parents shielded me from the ugly reality of de jure segregation—as Guido Orefice the father in the Italian film Life Is Beautiful, shielded his son from the horrors of Nazism....

read more

28. “What Are You Doing Here?” An Autobiographical Fragment

pdf iconDownload PDF (441.0 KB)
pp. 166-168

I was born in 1947 in Washington, D.C. My parents were strong racial liberals. They refused to attend the National Theater because of its segregated seating policy and would not permit us to go to Glen Echo Amusement Park because it did not admit blacks. I do not remember my parents actually having African American friends...

Part III. De Facto States

pdf iconDownload PDF (393.5 KB)
pp. 169

read more

29. Brown’s Ambiguous Legacy

pdf iconDownload PDF (452.7 KB)
pp. 171-175

I was born in 1953—a year before the seminal decision in Brown v. Board of Education. I started my schooling in 1958 as a kindergartner at West Vernon Elementary School in South Central Los Angeles. I was that rarity as a student (or, more accurately, I should say my family was pretty unusual) in that I didn’t move during my first seven...

read more

30. Public Education in Los Angeles: Past and Present

pdf iconDownload PDF (442.7 KB)
pp. 176-179

I was born in New York City, but we moved to Los Angeles when I was a young boy in the mid-1950s. We lived in a dense working-class area in the central part of the city, and I went to the Los Angeles Unified School District public schools. My neighborhood was very diverse, with many different religious groups and racial groups. Overall, the vast majority of kids—white, black, Hispanic, or Asian—went to fairly homogeneous public schools...

read more

31. The Discrete and Insular Majority

pdf iconDownload PDF (439.9 KB)
pp. 181-183

I was born in late 1945 and grew up in the Chicago suburb of Downers Grove, Illinois, a town that grew from around ten to twenty thousand people during the seventeen years of my childhood there. There was only one black family in town. The father was the caretaker at a small private school. I didn’t know them but, as far as I was aware, they attended the local schools without (public) incident....

read more

32. Princess in the Tower

pdf iconDownload PDF (454.2 KB)
pp. 184-190

Gearing up for the start of the new school year in 1956 was fun for me as an eight-year-old in southern Ohio, and it was uncomplicated by consciousness of national events. I had no knowledge of the Supreme Court’s rulings during the previous two years in Brown v. Board of Education and certainly no idea that such things were relevant...

read more

33. Shades of Brown

pdf iconDownload PDF (445.1 KB)
pp. 191-194

My sister-in-law Patricia says that Kansas can be thought of in terms of shades of brown—the earth on the ground, the dust in the air, and the burnt grass by the end of the long, hot summer. Thus my first memory of it is the picture of the scorched earth as our family arrived by train from New York City in the small county seat and university town of Lawrence in July of 1948. But my professional memory is of another...

read more

34. Brown Comes to Boston: A Courtside View

pdf iconDownload PDF (456.5 KB)
pp. 195-200

It was the fall of 1973, my third year of law school, and I had just been chosen to be the law clerk for a federal district judge for the 1974–1975 year. When I asked the judge whether there were particular courses that might be helpful for me to put in my spring schedule to prepare for the clerkship, he suggested Antitrust...

read more

35. Checkerboard Segregation in the 1950s

pdf iconDownload PDF (454.1 KB)
pp. 201-207

Rocky, a summertime playmate who lived in the apartment building next door to our turn-of-the-century single-family residence, walked west to Clark Elementary School in the fall of 1953 while I walked east to Washington Elementary School. Rocky was “white” and I was “colored,” in the school district’s lexicon. But other black children in our neighborhood walked north to Saint Mark’s Catholic School...

read more

36. With One Hand Waving Free

pdf iconDownload PDF (448.9 KB)
pp. 209-213

I was eight years old and in fourth grade when Brown v. Board of Education was decided. There were a few black kids in my elementary school in Perth Amboy, New Jersey, and I remember being stupefied that this was even an issue in other places. On the other hand, I was politically aware enough, even at that age (my dad was the managing editor of the local paper, and politics was always a topic of dinner...

read more

37. Indirect and Substantial Effect

pdf iconDownload PDF (464.2 KB)
pp. 215-223

There was no segregation by New York state law. Nevertheless, there were voluntary initiatives by the New York City Board of Education to correct segregation on account of city residential patterns. There was no desegregation order against any city school district, but...

read more

38. Brown Goes North

pdf iconDownload PDF (452.6 KB)
pp. 225-230

Growing up in Clifton, a white middle-class neighborhood in Cincinnati, I knew African Americans were different because they had their own name—first “colored people” and later “Negroes.” We were taught never to use the N-word anywhere. My sister, born in 1957, was not taught to call African Americans “colored people,” and she recalls her confusion...

read more

39. The Virtues of Public Education

pdf iconDownload PDF (445.6 KB)
pp. 231-234

Brown had little immediate impact on my own education but has had a profound effect on that of my children. I grew up in a small town in the Pacific Northwest that started its civic life as a lumber company town. It is the home of what during my childhood was the world’s largest pulp mill, operated by Weyerhauser. The founders of the town were Southerners who saw no place for people of color in their mill or in their town. The tiny African American community was unofficially...

read more

40. Entering Another’s Circle

pdf iconDownload PDF (443.0 KB)
pp. 235-238

Although I grew up in Beloit, Wisconsin, far from the notoriously segregated South, I still experienced racial separation as I began first grade, five years after the United States Supreme Court’s 1954 Brown decision. Despite having students from different racial backgrounds, many classrooms in Beloit did not reflect this diversity. Even as a child, I saw adults drawing circles delineating who could enter and who could not, separating whites from “others,” males from females, and those who had a “correct” understanding of God from those who didn’t. About one-third of my schoolmates were...


pdf iconDownload PDF (393.5 KB)
pp. 239

read more

The Survey

pdf iconDownload PDF (450.7 KB)
pp. 241-249

Practically all law professors are listed along with their birth years in the Directory of Law Teachers published annually by Thomson West and Foundation Press, Inc. We sought to identify and contact everyone in the legal academy holding an academic title (assistant professor or above) with a birth year between 1936 and 1954. With assistance from the Association of American Law Schools and financial support...

E-ISBN-13: 9780826592545
Print-ISBN-13: 9780826516190
Print-ISBN-10: 082651619X

Page Count: 296
Publication Year: 2009

Research Areas


UPCC logo

Subject Headings

  • Segregation in education -- Law and legislation -- United States -- History.
  • Brown, Oliver, -- 1918-1961 -- Trials, litigation, etc.
  • Law teachers -- United States -- Public opinion.
  • Public opinion -- United States.
  • Topeka (Kan.). Board of Education -- Trials, litigation, etc.
  • Segregation in education -- United States -- History.
  • You have access to this content
  • Free sample
  • Open Access
  • Restricted Access