<DIV>1. SURE BUGS ME <BR>THE CIVIL RIGHTS GENERATION AND THE FAILURES OF THE 1950s <BR>When fourteen-year-old John Lewis opened the paper on May 16, 1954, the headline stunned him: the Supreme Court had declared segregated schools unconstitutional. He could not believe it. Separate schools were one of the cornerstones of southern segregation. He felt his world “turned upside down.” He was sure he would be attending an integrated school that coming September, a mere four months away. But Lewis’s hopes would be dashed by a school desegregation process that saw only about one in one hundred black students enter white schools by 1960. Lewis’s broken dream captured in a microcosm how the 1950s teased young African Americans with the unrealized promise of racial change.1 <BR>The Supreme Court decision that shocked Lewis was actually the culmination of a twenty-year legal odyssey begun by Charles Hamilton Houston, the chief architect of the NAACP’s legal strategy and the former dean of Howard University’s law school. At the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, Houston built a fraternity of shrewd and courageous lawyers that included Thurgood Marshall, his best student at Howard. During the 1930s and 1940s, Legal Defense Fund lawyers had attacked the soft underbelly of segregation—the failure of white southerners to make separate truly equal—through a series of lawsuits. Starting with the most glaring examples of discrimination in higher education, NAACP lawyers chipped away at Jim Crow. First they forced the establishment of separate graduate programs for African Americans and then the admission of blacks into white programs. <BR>Next they tackled inequality in grade schools, forcing southern states to spend millions of dollars to provide the same pay to all teachers regardless of race and to raise the quality of black facilities. The equalization campaign was so successful, in fact, that by 1950 the NAACP took only cases that challenged segregation directly.2 <BR>Smart lawyers and creative legal thinking were only part of the story, however; good lawyers needed good clients. Concerned that a loss would do more to reinforce the legality of segregation than ten wins would do to undermine it, they avoided many cases, especially those originating in rural areas where white resis tance was strongest. <BR>So when Barbara Johns, a determined sixteen-year-old who led her classmates at the all-black high school in Prince Edward County on a strike for better schools, asked Oliver Hill, the chief NAACP lawyer in Virginia, to take their case, he was not optimistic. The rural county was known for its strong support of segregation. Still, he agreed to meet with them and, impressed by their passion and determination, agreed to take the case on the condition that the students scrapped their demand for better schools and attacked segregation head-on. Less than one month later, on May 23, 1951, Hill fi led suit challenging segregated education in Prince Edward County, and it would soon be combined with the Brown case in Topeka and three others to make up the five different suits consolidated into Brown v. Board of Education for the Supreme Court hearing.3 <BR>Almost three years to the day later, the nine justices of the Supreme Court announced their decision in Brown. The unusually brief opinion strongly denounced school segregation. It argued that education was the most important function of state and local governments, central to a dem o cratic society and the “foundation of good citizenship.” To exclude young African Americans from white schools was more than simply a violation of equal protection; segregated education generated “a feeling of inferiority” that permanently scarred their “hearts and minds.”4 <BR>The Court’s rhetoric may have been strong, but its actions were tempered. Instead of ordering the immediate integration of the South’s segregated schools or even the immediate integration of the schools involved in Brown, the Court postponed any action for a year to allow the South time to adjust. Acceptance was crucial for Chief Justice Earl Warren; he believed the mechanics of integration would come relatively easily once southerners accepted the idea that segregation was unconstitutional.5 <BR>One year later, on May 31, 1955, the Supreme Court enshrined caution as law. Brown II, as the implementation decree is usually called, was again brief and to the point. Federal judges would consider desegregation requests on a community-by-community basis. The Court offered no specific guidance on how long the process of ending segregation should take; nor did it set an end date. Instead, the Court instructed white officials “to make a prompt and reasonable start toward” ending school segregation and advised judges to make sure it happened “with all deliberate speed.” Any delays should clearly benefit the public and be in the spirit of “good faith” compliance with the Brown decision.6 <BR>“All deliberate speed” robbed black activists at the local level of the issue of school desegregation in important ways. Courts were slow. Courts were abstract. Hearings were long and boring. The Supreme Court had made the implementation of the basic constitutional rights of African Americans a negotiated process overseen by lower federal courts; black rights would be balanced against white anxiety in designing desegregation plans. By keeping the issue in the courts, school desegregation could not become the focal point of mass protest. Except for a few dramatic incidents that punctuated the years after Brown, school desegregation played a surprisingly peripheral role during the heyday of the movement in the 1960s. <BR>Julian Bond was both less surprised by and less excited about the Brown decision than John Lewis. He saw the Supreme Court decision as ratifying the positive parts of his experience at George, the integrated private school he attended in Pennsylvania, and as confi rming his optimistic hope that racial differences were becoming less important. His parents were doubtful about the speed of change when they discussed the decision at the dinner table. But as 1954 gave way to 1955 and then 1956, Bond became unsure about the ability of the American dem o cratic system to reform itself. He saw how the Court’s decision had deferred action and emboldened white southerners. As the only black student at an all-white prep school, he understood how wide the gap between the rhetoric and the reality of American democracy could be. <BR>The slow pace of change also frustrated Lewis as he searched in vain for news of Alabama’s desegregation plans. In some ways more naïve than Bond, Lewis really believed that desegregation was around the corner. But state officials never announced a plan for integration. In fact, no school desegregation of any kind would occur in Alabama until the 1963–64 school year, when 21 of a possible 293,476 black students attended their first classes with whites. In the late summer of 1955, fifteen-year-old John Lewis came across a story in the newspaper that had a much more immediate and depressing impact on his life.7 <BR>As the summer of 1955 wound down, two fourteen-year-old cousins, Emmett Till and Wheeler Parker, begged their parents to let them go to Mississippi for a vacation. Their hometown of Chicago had been mercilessly hot, and the boys were itching to get some fresh air, to fi sh along the Tallahatchie, to just get outside. After much pleading, their parents agreed they could spend the last two weeks of the summer in Mississippi at their great-uncle Moses Wright’s farm.8 <BR>Till and Wheeler’s trip was not unusual. Many northern blacks sent thei <BR><BR><i>Continues...</i> <!-- copyright notice --> <br></pre> <blockquote><hr noshade size='1'><font size='-2'> Excerpted from <b>The Shadows of Youth</b> by <b>Lewis, Andrew B.</b> Copyright © 2009 by Lewis, Andrew B.. Excerpted by permission.<br> All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.<br>Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.