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This film follows the true story of the NAACP court court challenge of racial school segregation in the Brown vs. Board of Education. This was the struggle would destroy the legal validity for racial segregation in general and prove to be the start and the first major victory of the civil rights movement. Written by
Kenneth Chisholm <email@example.com>
This was Burt Lancaster's final performance. On 30 November 1990, shortly after filming ended, he suffered a massive stroke and remained incapacitated for the final four years of his life. See more »
On the night that Buster throws a surprise birthday party for Thurgood, after he opens the door to their apartment, he walks from the foyer into the living room before turning on a light in the darkened apartment or removing his coat and hat, when a light switch is clearly visible just inside the front door. See more »
They play in the streets together, they separate to go to school
`John, if this case goes before the Supreme Court. . . I'm gonna need you'
It's the early 1950's, in America. The governor of South Carolina (James Francis Byrnes), in his 70's at the time, pays a visit to his friend, the famous John W. Davis. Davis had argued 138 cases in front of the Supreme Court. Byrnes was turning to him for help.
Byrnes was determined to show that discrimination and segregation of public schools were not the same thing. He wanted black school children to have equal schools. He was ashamed of the terrible condition the black schools were in, in his state of South Carolina. He even levied a three percent sales tax to fund the improvement of black schools. He was prepared to spend 75 million dollars to improve the public schools for black children in his state.
But he knew, that the small case that a few courageous people (Harry Briggs, Reverand J.A. Delaine) had started in Clarendon county, SC, was too big of an issue for his efforts alone. The case was on it's way to the Supreme Court of the United States of America.
The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (the NAACP), had become involved. Their head lawyer, Thurgood Marshall had combined this case and 4 other similar cases (from Delaware, Kansas, DC and Virginia) into one called 'Brown v. Board of Education', and made it his mission to strike down segregation in public schools in America.
The great thing about this movie is how it makes each side look respectable. The movie does not make this a 'bad evil white men against poor suffering black people' type of story. But rather, the film, portrays the white men as being highly respected, educated and willing to do the right thing. But at the same time, very concerned and perhaps even afraid of the consequences of their decisions.
I also loved the humor in this film. For example when Byrnes is conversing with Davis and says 'I admit to past sins, our colored schools are a disgrace'. Or when one of the lawyers at the NAACP legal defense fund says about the South Carolina case "If we win this one, we'll only have 11,172 school districts left"
The heart of this film is the uncommon courage of the people. Courage among so many involved. Of course, first from the blacks from those small towns, who risked their jobs and safety, and faced the hate of the Ku Klux Klan, by taking these complaints to their local lawyers. Then, to the NAACP, for climbing this long and expensive uphill battle. But also, to the judges on the Supreme Court, and in particular the Chief Judge Earl Warren.
Warren was quoted as saying 'Everything that I did in life that was worthwhile, I caught hell for'. What a difficult decision, but what a remarkable effort on his part to unite the nine members of the Supreme Court to conclude the case with a unanimous decision to end segregation in public schools in America.
It took a lot of brave people on both sides, to end separation of black and white school children in public schools. Perhaps Thurgood Marshall summed it up best, when he mocked the thinking of people in the south by saying 'you can have them attending the same State Universities and Graduate schools, but if they attend the same elementary and high schools together, the world would fall apart.'
A wonderful treasured movie. Must see for all.
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