The Brown vs. Board of Education decision was based on five cases involving five school aged children. Three years after the decision, NBC News visits them to hear their personal stories. The first story is of Ethel Louise Belton.
What Happened to the Plaintiffs in Brown v. Board of Education?
CHET HUNTLEY, anchor:
Two days ago on the third anniversary of the Supreme Court decision on segregated schools, the high school in Clinton Tennessee graduated its first Negro student. A great deal has been said about those who have violated the decision. Not nearly enough about those who have observed it, too much about the troubles, not enough about the achievements. The Supreme Court struck down the laws which required segregated public schools in 17 states in the District of Columbia, and the laws which permit it in four other states. But the specific decision was made in five cases involving five school aged children. What we propose to show is these five children and the stories of what happened to each of them. The first story is of Ethel Louise Belton from the Wilmington, Delaware area.
ELIOT FRANKEL: What effect did having your name on a Supreme Court case have on you?
Plaintiff ETHEL LOUISE BELTON: Well it made me feel real good in one respect and bad in another because I was the main one who was going through this procedure to get into school. And out of all the kids I had to be the one not to go, and that made me feel real bad because I wanted to go. The reason I didn’t go is because I had moved way out on the other side of Wilmington, in Belvedere. And from Belvedere to Wilmington it was only about four miles I would say to my school. And if I had had the transportation to pay my own way I guess I would have to Claymont High.
FRANKEL: But you finished at an all-Negro school.
BELTON: Yes at Howard High School.
FRANKEL: You never went to an integrated school.
BELTON: No I didn’t.
HEBERT KAPLOW: Were you or any other students given advice, any counsel on how to conduct yourselves?
Plaintiff DOROTHY DAVIS: Yes, the teachers talked with the students, told us we have to study harder because they had to go to school with white children and for them to be able to compete with them they we were going to have to study hard because the white student had better facilities and things to study.
KAPLOW: The Supreme Court decision, has it changed your life any Linda?
Plaintiff LINDA BROWN: No it hasn’t affected it very much, everything seems normal
JOHN CHANCELLOR: Did the white children ever say bad things to you?
BROWN: No everyone seemed to give me compliments on it.
CHANCELLOR: The white and the colored friends as well
BROWN: Yes the white and the colored.
ROBERT MCCORMICK: Would you do it again if the whole thing came up again?
Plaintiff THOMAS SPOTTSWOOD BOLLING: I think I would.
MCCORMICK: Do you realize or maybe I should say did you feel that you did make a contribution to this country by subjecting yourself to this?
BOLLING: I don’t know how to answer that statement because a whole lot of other people had done something even greater than I have.
HUNTLEY: Because we are so much a nation of laws and we make so much history through our judges and our courts, there are many unintelligible names otherwise undistinguished which are recorded besides important and far-reaching happenings.
The Schechter brothers who sold chickens, Dread Scott, a frightened runaway slave. And who after all was Plessy and who was Ferguson? But their names are recorded forever besides the separate but equal doctrine. The doctrine thrown out by the Supreme Court in the cases of Ethel Louise Belton, Thomas Spottswood Bolling, Harry Briggs Junior, Linda Brown and Dorothy Davis. Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them. Good afternoon…
TOPEKA, Kansas — Linda Brown's father tried to enroll her in an all-white school in Topeka when she was a third-grader. He and several black families were turned away, sparking the Brown v. Board of Education court case that challenged segregation in public schools.
A 1954 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court followed, striking down racial segregation in schools and cementing Linda Brown's place in history as a central figure in the historic case.