'Brown v. Board:' Letters to Eisenhower

Americans Wrote to President Their Opinion on Desegregation

President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1954.

hide captionPresident Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1954.

Corbis
A school for blacks in  Camden, Massachusetts.

hide captionA school for blacks in Camden, Massachusetts.

NAACP/LOC

Fifty years ago today, the United States Supreme Court condemned separate schools for black and white children. The decision in the case known as Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka was a turning point in the nation's history.

"In the field of public education," the justices wrote, "the doctrine of 'separate but equal' has no place. Separate educational facilities are inherently unequal."

Those words marked the beginning of a long struggle — a struggle that continues today — to live up to the promise of equal access to education for all Americans.

Then, as now, many people weren't on familiar terms with the names of their Supreme Court justices, but they did know the name of their president. In the days and weeks after May 17, 1954, Americans by the hundreds wrote to tell Dwight D. Eisenhower what they thought about the ruling. All Things Considered broadcasts excerpts of those letters, read by actors. (Note: Harsh language is used in some.)

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