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 The U.S. Civil Rights Movement  
 
Pupils in classroom

U.S. Deputy Marshals escort 6-year-old Ruby Bridges from William Frantz Elementary School in New Orleans in November 1960. The first grader was the only black child enrolled in the school.

Years earlier, a landmark legal decision that led to integration of U.S. public schools was triggered by a Kansas welder’s desire for his daughter to attend a whites-only school closer to home than the school for blacks. Brown v. Board of Education took three years to reach the Supreme Court, where it was argued by Thurgood Marshall, chief counsel for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and future justice of the Supreme Court.

The case would affect more than whether students could attend schools close to home. When the court unanimously ruled on May 17, 1954, in favor of Brown, it ended years of school segregation authorized by an 1896 Supreme Court decision that found “separate but equal” facilities for the races were constitutional.

As Southern states and counties resisted integrating schools, enforcement would absorb federal resources. (© AP Images)