After the Brown V. Board of Education ruling, civil rights activists had legal standing to desegregate schools. But doing so proved dangerous. The first black students to step into newly integrated schools faced extreme hostility from whites who felt Jim Crow society was under attack.
The segregationists defied federal court orders. When National Guard troops sent by President Eisenhower forced the issue, white supremacists changed tactics, patiently and cruely wielding political and economic influence against activists. And when even those measures proved not enough to stop integration, some communities abandoned public education altogether, for whites and blacks. Closing all schools, they felt, was better than integrating them.
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