Revisiting the Legacy of Brown v. Board: Addressing Ongoing Challenges in School Segregation

Revisiting the Legacy of Brown v. Board: Addressing Ongoing Challenges in School Segregation

By Bettina L. Love — May 19, 2024 | Approx. 7 min read

Bettina L. Love is an esteemed author and professor at Teachers College, Columbia University, focusing on race in America. She contributes to Education Week Opinion and search on the opinion that can make the education system weak. More information available at

Editor’s note: In this piece, Bettina L. Love reflects on the 70th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education, highlighting the persistent issues surrounding school segregation and the need for continued action and to solve the problem.

Seventy years have passed since the landmark Brown v. Board of Education decision, yet the words of Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. still resonate profoundly. King lamented the sluggish pace of school desegregation, projecting that Southern schools wouldn’t achieve integration until the year 2054. While King emphasized the South, resistance to integration extended nationwide, evident in cities like Boston, New York City, and Philadelphia.

The Unfulfilled Promise of Brown:
Despite Brown v. Board’s intent to dismantle the “separate but equal” doctrine, children of color have faced persistent segregation and inequality. Our nation’s schools remain deeply divided along racial lines, a testament to the failure of Brown’s promise.

Case Study: Atlanta’s Racial Disparities:
Even in cities like Atlanta, racial disparities persist. Though the population is nearly evenly split between Black and white residents, white residents hold 46 times more wealth than Black residents. In 2024, predominantly Black schools in Atlanta continue to face resource disparities and systemic barriers to success, perpetuating the racial wealth gap.

The Erosion of Brown’s Legacy:
Decades of legislative and judicial actions have undermined Brown v. Board’s impact. Segregation academies, unequal funding practices, and decisions like Milliken v. Bradley have perpetuated segregation and hindered integration efforts. The $23 billion funding gap between white and Black and brown school districts further illustrates systemic inequities.

Modern-Day Segregation Realities:
Recent data from the Civil Rights Project at UCLA reveals a troubling trend of increasing school segregation over the past three decades. Intensely segregated schools, with minimal white student populations, have nearly tripled, highlighting the persistent challenges in achieving meaningful integration.

Addressing Modern Challenges:
Efforts to combat modern-day segregation must extend beyond legal battles to address systemic barriers. Communities must tackle housing segregation, inequitable funding, and the enduring legacy of discrimination in education to promote integration.

Revisiting the Separate but Equal Doctrine:
Given ongoing resistance to integration, it’s crucial to reexamine the separate but equal doctrine. If integration proves elusive, Black and brown communities must demand reparations as redress for systemic injustices.

As we mark the 70th anniversary of Brown v. Board, let’s confront the enduring challenges of school segregation. It’s time to move beyond rhetoric and confront the structural inequities perpetuating segregation in our schools. By demanding accountability and advocating for reparations, we can honor the legacy of Brown and strive for a more equitable education system for all students.

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