Racial segregation in southern public schools dates to the 1860's before, and after the American Civil War. More than 95 percent of blacks lived in the southern states throughout the 19th century. So segregation affected the majority of the black population. In the influential case of Plessy v. Ferguson (1876) the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the practice of segregation as long as the separate facilities were "equal". By 1900, the south was completely segregated. In 1909 the National Association for the Advancement of Color People or the NAACP was formed. The organization's sole purpose was to fight for racial equality and to end segregation. From 1939 to 1950 the organization won various cases leading to the integrations universities in Mississippi, Maryland, Oklahoma, and Texas. The NAACP also had some success in forcing states to equalize public school funding, and to pay black teachers the same rate as white teachers.
The Legal Background.
Brown v. Board of Education developed from a series of court cases involving school segregation. For an example, Briggs v. Elliott (1950), this case took place in Clarendon County, South Carolina. In the 1949-1950 school year the average annual funds per white students in Clarendon County totaled $179, but for black students it was only $43. The 6,531 black students attended school in 61 buildings. Many of the black schools lacked indoor plumbing and heating. These buildings were valued at $194,575. However the county's 2,375 white students in the county attended school in 12 buildings worth $673,850. These building were the top of the line facilities. Teachers in these black schools were paid one third less than white teachers. And on top of that the county only provided free buses for whites, and not for black students. These conditions made blacks in Clarendon County to sue to create equal schools. In 1950 the United State district court in South Carolina ordered equal funding of black students, but refused to integrate the schools.