Top of page

Brown v. Board of Education: Getting the Picture One Year Later

Share this post:

Photograph shows a line of African American and white school girls standing in a classroom while boys sit behind them.
School Integration, Barnard School, Washington, D.C. Photo by Thomas J. O’Halloran, May 27, 1955.

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?

Learn More:

Comments (3)

  1. 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!

  2. This image wins for “World War II” and “is the photograph” ten years later.
    The smile of girls symbolizes peaceful U.S.A.

  3. 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…

Add a Comment

This blog is governed by the general rules of respectful civil discourse. You are fully responsible for everything that you post. The content of all comments is released into the public domain unless clearly stated otherwise. The Library of Congress does not control the content posted. Nevertheless, the Library of Congress may monitor any user-generated content as it chooses and reserves the right to remove content for any reason whatever, without consent. Gratuitous links to sites are viewed as spam and may result in removed comments. We further reserve the right, in our sole discretion, to remove a user's privilege to post content on the Library site. Read our Comment and Posting Policy.

Required fields are indicated with an * asterisk.