School desegregation was made possible after the landmark “Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka” in 1954, ending years of divisive and racist polices against Black schoolchildren. While the law was to be observed nationally, resistance to the change was rampant in the South resulting in a major case that developed in the city of Moberly, Missouri.
As the ink dried on the “Brown v. Board of Education” case, seven Black teachers were fired by the Moberly School District due to what they were told was “poor performance,” although it appears those claims were largely unfounded. Naomi Brooks, the lead plaintiff in the “Naomi Brooks V. School District of Moberly, Missouri” and six other Black teachers, challenged the district, claiming they were denied their jobs for the 1954-55 school year due to their race.
Moberly’s history as a racist town wasn’t widely known to many outside the Little Dixie region, but as in many other spaces across the deep South, the seeds of Jim Crow were sowed deeply.
The appellants filed appeals that made their way to the U.S. Supreme Court but the case was not heard and upheld. The matter stalled in June 1959 in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit. This post-segregation response to Black teachers working in formerly all-white schools or teaching white students was an expected and quietly administered tactic in several school districts as some ignored the rule of law.
Though Black teachers were common at the time, the ruling is believed to have pushed Black professionals to choose other careers. This widespread firing of Black teachers in the South was an unintended consequence of Brown vs. Bd. of Ed, ultimately impacting the educational achievement of Black students who it has been proven do better when their teachers share the same background.
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