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The Walter White Project

Randy Stakeman, Jackson Stakeman, Authors

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The NAACP and School Inequality

The NAACP recognized that school segregation and inequality was one of the most pernicious problems African Americans faced. In a 1910 issue of The Crisis Du Bois warned:

Human contact, human acquaintanceship, human sympathy is the great solvent of human problems.  Separate schoolchildren by wealth and the result is class misunderstandings and hatred.  Separate them by race and the result is war..  Separate them by color and they grow up without learning that it is impossible to judge the mind of a man by the color of his face. [Source note]

The 1920's produced sporadic efforts by the NAACP to halt the establishment of segregated schools in the North as African Americans migrated from the South. In the 1920's however there were no Association attempts to confront segregated and unequal schools in the South.

That began to change in 1932 when the Association received a grant to work on school inequality.  The first step was a report that laid out a legal strategy to attack southern school segregation. Although the bulk of the grant was never received because of the Depression, the Margold report became the blueprint for the NAACP's legal campaign that led to the Brown vs. Board of Education et al. Supreme Court decision two decades later.

The legal battle was to be led by Charles Houston the dean of Howard Law School.  Houston identified three areas where the segregation laws were vulnerable: unequal apportionment of school funds for which African Americans paid taxes, differences in teachers' salaries in black and white schools, and failure to provide black citizens with access to publicly funded graduate and professional schools. The specific circumstances in each situation would show which legal challenge to use. [Source note]
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