On May 17, 1954, the Supreme Court issued a decision in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas, declaring that “separate educational facilities are inherently unequal.” This decision was pivotal to the struggle for racial desegregation in the United States.
A year later, in May 1955, Thomas O’Halloran, on assignment for U.S. News & World Report, visited several integrated schools in Washington, D.C. to capture some images of African American and white students learning together. I feature an image he shot that shows a line of African American and white school girls standing in a classroom while boys sit behind them.
Some of O’Halloran’s images ran in U.S. News & World Report in a June 10, 1955 article titled “Do Mixed Schools Really Work?: After One Year–Answers as Found in Washington, D.C.” The text of the article offered impressions on the success of the integration effort, but so did the pictures. What might viewers conclude from this one?
- Visit a 2004 exhibition “With an Even Hand”: Brown v. Board at Fifty which has an online version still available. The exhibition examines precedent-setting court cases that laid the ground work for the Brown v. Board decision, explores the Supreme Court argument and the public’s response to it, and closes with an overview of this profound decision’s aftermath.
- See more moments in civil rights history as captured by the photographers of U.S. News & World Report. The Civil Rights Era in the U.S. News & World Report Photographs Collection: Selected Images from the Collections of the Library of Congress were selected from the U.S. News & World Report Magazine Photograph Collection to meet requests regularly received by the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.
- Learn more about the U.S. News and World Report Magazine Photograph Collection in a collection overview of this resource of almost 1.2 million original 35mm and 2 1/4 inch (primarily black & white) negatives.
- A recent book published by the Library of Congress and Abrams Books, Miles to Go for Freedom: Segregation and Civil Rights in the Jim Crow Era, tells the story of African-American young people and their families who lived through the “Jim Crow” years, when “separate but equal” laws supported discrimination against African Americans.
I am a teacher near DC and I just taught my 3rd graders about how our country used to be segregated and how that effected schools. Pictures like this fill me with joy as I reflect on my own diverse class, full of children from every continent (save Antarctica!). I think I’ll show this to them and use the primary source analysis tool offered by the LOC!
I conclude in this photo that the girls are in line waiting for something, perhaps their marks, and that they are all exercising patience. I think this because my students often wait in line like this, but mixed boys and girls. Patience is hard for the kiddos.
I love how dressed up they are!
This image wins for “World War II” and “is the photograph” ten years later.
The smile of girls symbolizes peaceful U.S.A.
Looks to me like an indication of “white flight”. I can only see 4 (at most) white kids and 15 black ones.
But in any case they are all cute and friendly looking! And probably less rowdy than today’s kids…