On May 17, 1954, the United States Supreme Court handed down its unanimous decision in the landmark case of Brown v. Board of Education, overturning the previous legal precedent set in 1896 Plessy v. Ferguson which had allowed for "separate but equal" public facilities, including public schools. The Supreme Court declaring that separate facilities are truly unequal can be seen as a huge step forward for African American's Civil Rights. However, critics believe that the Brown decisions made matters worse, inciting riots and massive resistance. It also eliminated the possibility of a more peaceful process and revealed the Supreme Court's inability to instill social change. Personally I don't buy that; I think that it initiated the civil rights movement and over time led to further legislation, strengthening civil rights for African Americans. It also shows how social change can't be achieved with just a Supreme Court ruling.
It would be false to say that the Brown decision did not have a negative backlash towards African Americans, but the backlash backfired because the southerner hostile reaction made blacks even angrier, who then assembled a more effective civil rights movement that gained national media attention. However, many believed that the Brown decision alone could not end segregation. Thurgood Marshall said in a statement to reporters, "I consider the lawsuits to be a holding action, a way of getting things open. The final solution will only be when the Negro takes his part in the community, voting and otherwise" (Paterson Pg.118). I believe the symbolic value alone had a great impact on civil rights for African Americans. It motivated civil rights activists such as Martin Luther King who decided to deliver a prayer on the anniversary of the Brown decision. Also, Randolph (civil rights activist) sponsored several youth marches which called for integration in schools in 1957 to 1958.