What do the formative years of our Republic, the Civil War and Reconstruction Era, and the times of the Vietnam War have in common? All three are specific time periods which have taken a major part in molding American society into what it is today. One decade which could be included in this group, is the 1950s, when America was at the middle of the twentieth century, and changing rapidly. Dwight D. Eisenhower took the presidency as the American public began ranting “I Like Ike,” and America’s youth culture found itself becoming more of a central aspect of society. Manufacturers and advertisers began focusing more attention on the needs of teens, as their importance grew. The Cold War continued at a more accelerating and alarming pace, and the United States began a new policy in foreign affairs, with much covert action and intervening around the world. As a result, President Eisenhower passed the Federal Highway Act (1956), building a national highway system across the United States. All of these single events were just some extras in the decade which saw one of the most important events which forever changed the face of American society—the court decision in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka (1954).
Much throughout American history, blacks were enslaved and treated like animals. This treatment of blacks continued throughout the nineteenth century and with help of Plessy v. Ferguson (1896), which created the “separate but equal” doctrine,” it became worse. The first half of the twentieth century saw this doctrine go into full effect, but this came to a sudden halt with the Supreme Court’s decision in 1954, which declared “separate but equal” to be contradictory terms. The Supreme Court declared that segregation was in fact, not equal, and had long term psychological damages upon African Americans. It forced schools to be integrated.
The effect of this Supreme Court decision was that African Americans were to be integrated with the white children in public schools. This change was unwelcome by most of the Southern white folk, and they usually found ways around it. Some ways in which whites kept blacks from voting were by utilizing white primaries, racial gerrymandering, enacting poll taxes, and using literacy tests. Nonetheless, this decision was a leap forward in the fight for civil rights. African Americans began to make a major impact on American society, as they were given more and more rights. Hitherto, blacks were unable to serve as such important members of society, but with this decision, blacks would inevitable become major aspects of American society.
This decision was in no way the end to the fight for civil rights, nor was it the end of racism, for that matter. On the contrary, it was far from it. Civil rights were to be vigorously fought for in the following decade. This Supreme Court decision was just the beginning, or the
stepping stone, for civil rights. Brown v. Board of Education paved the way for further civil rights legislation, and changed American society forever by causing African Americans to become valuable members of it.