On this day, May 17, 1954, The United States Supreme Court rendered the landmark decision in the Brown vs. Board of Education Case. In a unanimous 9-0 decision the Court ruled that segregation in public education was a violation of the 14th Amendment of the Constitution.
One of the plaintiffs in the Brown vs. Board of Education Case was 16-year-old Barbara Johns. Barbara Johns was the niece of Rev. Vernon Johns, Martin Luther King, Jr.’s predecessor at Dexter Ave. Baptist Church in Montgomery.
Taylor Branch tells the story Barbara Johns’ activism in Parting the Waters. As the story goes, Barbara sent a letter from the principal to every classroom at her high school informing them of a school wide assembly. When all the students and teachers were settled in the auditorium, Barbara kicked out all the teachers and gave a speech on the deplorable conditions of the school and the moment of history in which they were living in.
Barbara Johns and her small group also sent appeals to NAACP lawyers asking for representation. They agreed to come meet with blacks in Farmville, Va. but they did not want to meet with “kids”. During their mass meeting Barbara and the other students agreed to let NAACP lawyers sue on their behalf for an integrated school. On May 23, 1951 the suit was filed on their in what would eventually be consolidated with three other cases to make up Brown vs. Board of Education.
Barbara Johns said she was inspired to organize her school and the blacks in Farmville, Va. because of the work her uncle was doing fighting Segregation in Alabama.