- Earl Warren (1891-1974) — 14th Chief Justice of the United States
Chief Justice Warren is best known for writing the unanimous landmark Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education (1954), which overturned Plessy v. Ferguson and outlawed de jure racial segregation. But do you know why Warren and his peers decided that “separate educational facilities are inherently unequal”? Warren quite astonishingly agreed with the lower court’s finding that southern schools had “been equalized, or are being equalized.” Warren had been led to believe that “segregation of white and colored children in public schools has a detrimental effect upon the colored children.” It tended to “retard” the “educational and mental development of negro children and deprive them of some of the benefits they would receive in a racial[ly] integrated school system.”
Warren decided that separate Black educational facilities were inherently unequal and inferior because Black students were not being exposed to white students. Thus integration became — and it remains — a racist one-way street: inferior Blacks navigating to superior white spaces.
Ibram X. Kendi teaches African American history at the University of Florida. His second book, Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America, was just published by Nation Books on April 12th. Follow him on Twitter.