MAY 17, 1954

Ella J. Rice talks to one of her pupils, all of them white, in a third grade classroom of Draper Elementary School in Washington, D.C., on September 13, 1954. This was the first day of non-segregated schools for teachers and students. Rice was the only Black teacher in the school. Credit: AP photo

In Brown v. Board of Education and Bolling v. Sharpe, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously ruled that the “separate but equal” doctrine in Plessy v. Ferguson was unconstitutional under the 14th Amendment, which guaranteed equal treatment under the law. 

The historic decision brought an end to federal tolerance of racial segregation, ruling in the case of student Linda Brown, who was denied admission to her local elementary school in Topeka, Kansas, because of the color of her skin. 

In Mississippi, segregationist leaders called the day “Black Monday” and took up the charge of the just-created white Citizens’ Council to preserve racial segregation at all costs.

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The stories of investigative reporter Jerry Mitchell have helped put four Klansmen and a serial killer behind bars. His stories have also helped free two people from death row, exposed injustices and corruption, prompting investigations and reforms as well as the firings of boards and officials. He is a Pulitzer Prize finalist, a longtime member of Investigative Reporters & Editors, and a winner of more than 30 other national awards, including a $500,000 MacArthur “genius” grant. After working for three decades for the statewide Clarion-Ledger, Mitchell left in 2019 and founded the Mississippi Center for Investigative Reporting.