Little Rock Culture Vulture

Cultural events, places and people in the Little Rock area

Little Rock Look Back: US Supreme Court announces Cooper v. Aaron decision

Thurgood Marshall, of the NAACP, sits on the steps of the Supreme Court Building after he filed an appeal in the integration case of Little Rock’s Central High School. The students are, from left: Melba Pattillo, Jefferson Thomas, Gloria Ray, escort Daisy Bates, Marshall, Carlotta Walls, Minnijean Brown, and Elizabeth Eckford. (AP Photo, file)

On September 29, 1958, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its decision in Cooper v. Aaron. That decision held that Little Rock public officials were required to implement a desegregation plan in compliance with the Brown v. Board decision.

The Court found that “the federal judiciary is supreme in the exposition of the law of the Constitution” and all state officials must adhere to the Court’s decisions and follow the rules laid down in those decisions in similar future cases.

The genesis for the Cooper v. Aaron court case was the Little Rock School Board seeking a delay in further implementation of the plan to integrate schools.

After the events of 1957-1958, the School Board was reluctant to have another year of integration, even if it were severely limited. The school board caved to this political pressure, filing a request for a two-and-a-half-year delay in implementing desegregation. The district court granted the request, but the court of appeals reversed. Chief Justice Earl Warren called a Special Term of the Supreme Court into session to consider the case. The stage was set for Cooper v. Aaron.

In their decision, the Warren Court made it clear that resistance to Brown would not be tolerated. The Court went on to state that “the federal judiciary is supreme in the exposition of the Constitution” and “the interpretation of the Fourteenth Amendment enunciated by this Court in the Brown case is the supreme law of the land.”


Little Rock Look Back: Minnijean Brown Trickey

On September 11, 1941, Minnijean Brown was born.

Although all of the Nine experienced verbal and physical harassment during their year at Central, Brown was first suspended, and then expelled for retaliating against the daily torment. She moved to New York and lived with Drs. Kenneth B. and Mamie Clark, the African American psychologists whose social science findings played a critical role in the Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court case.

After graduating from the New Lincoln School in 1959, Mrs. Brown Trickey studied journalism at Southern Illinois University.  She received a Bachelor of Social Work in Native Human Services from Laurentian University and Master of Social Work at Carleton University, in Ontario Canada.

Mrs. Brown Trickey has pursued a career committed to peacemaking, environmental issues, developing youth leadership and social justice advocacy.  She served in the Clinton Administration as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Workforce Diversity at the Department of the Interior.   She has taught social work at Carleton University and community colleges in Canada.

Mrs. Brown Trickey is the recipient of numerous awards for her community work for social justice, including Lifetime Achievement Tribute by the Canadian Race Relations Foundation, and the International Wolf Award for contributions to racial harmony.  With the Little Rock Nine, she received the NAACP Spingarn Medal and the Congressional Gold Medal.

She is the subject of a documentary, Journey to Little Rock: the Untold Story of Minnijean Brown Trickey, which has received critical acclaim in international film festivals in Africa, the UK, the U.S., South America and Canada.  She was featured in People Magazine, Newsweek, the Ottawa Citizen, the BBC, the Canadian Broadcasting Corp, Donahue, as well as on numerous other television, radio and in print media.  She appeared with the Little Rock Nine on Oprah and the Today Show.

Mrs. Brown Trickey currently resides in Canada, and is the Shipley Visiting Writer for Heritage Studies at Arkansas State University. She is the mother of six children, Morning Star, Isaiah, Sol, Ethan, Spirit and Leila Trickey.

Little Rock Look Back: Brown v. Board of Education

On May 17, 1954, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its ruling in Brown vs. Board of Education of Topeka.  

This landmark United States Supreme Court case declared state laws establishing separate public schools for black and white students to be unconstitutional. The decision overturned 1896’s Plessy v. Ferguson decision, which allowed state-sponsored segregation in public education. In a unanimous 9-0 decision, the Warren Court stated “separate educational facilities are inherently unequal.”  The results of this decision would be tested on the streets of Little Rock in 1957.Th

The Court’s fourteen page decision did not spell out any sort of method for ending racial segregation in schools, and the Court’s second decision in Brown II, muddied the waters even further by only ordering states to desegregate with the oxymoronic “all deliberate speed.”

Brown v. Board grew out of a class action suit filed in Topeka, Kansas, by thirteen African American parents on behalf of their children.  Mr. Oliver Brown was the only male. He was chosen to be the lead plaintiff, because it was felt that the court would look more favorably on a male plaintiff.  The District Court ruled in favor of the Board of Education, citing Plessy v. Ferguson.  The court did note that segregation had a detrimental effect on African American students, but that since the Topeka schools were substantially equal, there was no relief to be granted.

When it was appealed to the Supreme Court, Brown v. Board was combined with four other cases from other jurisdictions.  All were NAACP sponsored cases.  Thurgood Marshall was the lead attorney for the plaintiffs.  In December 1952, the Justice Department filed a “friend of the court” brief and argued, in part, that racial segregation had a detrimental effect on US foreign policy. Communist countries were using racial separation in anti-US propaganda.

In the spring of 1953, the Supreme Court held the case.  Unable to decide the issue, they reheard it in the fall of 1953.  They then put special emphasis on the Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause.

During deliberations, Chief Justice Earl Warren insisted on a unanimous ruling to avoid massive Southern resistance.

Since the Topeka schools were found to be substantially equal, the Court’s ruling was important in noting that the harm came from the separation.  While there was no doubt that many (if not most) African American public schools were inferior in infrastructure and supplies to white schools – that in and of itself was not the issue.

School leaders in Little Rock started perusing the Brown decision and considering how the Little Rock School District would comply.


Arkansas and the Southern Manifesto explored at Butler Center’s Legacies & Lunch today

southern_manifestoAt Legacies & Lunch, John Kyle Day, associate professor of history at University of Arkansas at Monticello, will discuss the efforts of the United States Congress to delay desegregation in the 1950s and onward.  The program will take place today (February 3) at 12 noon at the Darragh Center on the CALS campus.

On March 13, 1956, ninety-nine members of the United States Congress promulgated the Declaration of Constitutional Principles, popularly known as the Southern Manifesto. This document formally stated opposition to the landmark United State Supreme Court decision Brown v. Board of Education, and the emergent civil rights movement. This allowed the white South to prevent Brown‘s immediate full-scale implementation and, for nearly two decades, set the slothful timetable and glacial pace of public school desegregation. The Southern Manifesto also provided the Southern Congressional Delegation with the means to stymie federal voting rights legislation, so that the dismantling of Jim Crow could be managed largely on white southern terms.

Day’s book, The Southern Manifesto: Massive Resistance and the Fight to Preserve Segregation, narrates this single worst episode of racial demagoguery in modern American political history and considers the statement’s impact upon both the struggle for black freedom and the larger racial dynamics of postwar America.

Legacies & Lunch is free, open to the public, and supported in part by the Arkansas Humanities Council. Programs are held from noon-1 p.m. on the first Wednesday of each month. Attendees are invited to bring a sack lunch; drinks and dessert are provided. For more information, contact 918-3033.

Little Rock Look Back: L. Brooks Hays

BrooksHaysFor many years on a Sunday morning, the Brooks Hays Sunday School Class met at Second Baptist Church in downtown Little Rock.  Named for its longtime leader, the class continued for decades after he had retired to the Washington D.C. area.  Since today is a Sunday, and his birthday, this entry looks back at the life, career and legacy of Brooks Hays.

Lawrence Brooks Hays was born on August 9, 1898, in the Pope County town of London.  He grew up in Russellville and attended the University of Arkansas.  After military service in World War I and law school at George Washington University, he returned to Arkansas and practiced law with his father.  In 1925, he was named an Assistant Attorney General and moved to Little Rock.  A lifelong Southern Baptist, he joined Second Baptist Church.

His first entries into political races were not met with success.  He failed to attain the Democratic nomination for governor in 1928 and 1930. In 1933, he narrowly lost a race for Congress to David D. Terry.  Following that loss, he was appointed General Counsel to the U.S. Department of Agriculture by President Roosevelt.

In 1942, he was elected to Congress to succeed Terry.  Throughout the 1940s and 1950s, he was focused on foreign affairs. He was a leading proponent of religion as a way to fight Communism. His emphasis on faith was also evident when he became elected the President of the Southern Baptist Convention in 1957. He was only the second lay person, and last one to date, to have been selected to this post.

In Congress, Hays had been a proponent of seeking a middle road on issues of segregation. He was not an integrationist, but he did believe that some rights should be afforded to African Americans.  These efforts were met with disdain by both sides.  Hays denounced the Brown v. Board decision in 1954, but three years later was caught up in it.

With Governor Orval Faubus openly defying federal law, there was pressure on President Dwight Eisenhower to uphold the law.  Hays brokered a meeting with Faubus and Eisenhower, which did nothing to break the stalemate.  However, because he had worked to uphold the law, he was a target when he was on the ballot in 1958.  After defeating a segregationist candidate in the Democratic primary, Hays was surprised by a write-in candidate a week before the general election.  Dr. Dale Alford, a member of the Little Rock School Board, pulled an upset and defeated Hays.

Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson appointed Hays to a series of positions following that election.  In 1966, he ran unsuccessfully for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination.  He moved to North Carolina in 1968 to take a position with Wake Forest University. While in that state, he ran unsuccessfully for Congress in 1972.  Shortly thereafter he moved to Chevy Chase, Maryland, which would be his base until his death in 1981.  He is buried in Oakland Cemetery in Russellville.

Among the books he authored were Politics is My Parish, A Hotbed of Tranquility: My Life in Five Worlds, and A Southern Moderate Speaks.

His son, Steele Hays (named for the Congressman’s father) served on the Arkansas Supreme Court from 1981 to 1994. He had previously served on the Court of Appeals and as a Pulaski County Circuit Judge.