Chief Justice Earl Warren

Category: Justice
Last Updated: 28 Dec 2020
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In the Brown vs Board of Education, the United States Supreme Court ruled against segregation in public schools. According to a unanimous decision which was delivered by Chief Justice Earl Warren himself, the “separate but equal” principle which had been adopted in connection with Plessy v. Fergusson could not be applied to public education (Brown v. Board of Education). Immediately after the decision was handed down, people for and against the ruling reacted accordingly. Newspapers not only published articles which either hailed or supported the court decision but resorted to cartoons as well.

The message of the first cartoon is very clear: the United States Supreme Court, the highest court of the land, declares to all and sundry that according to its interpretation of the constitution of the country, specifically the Fourteenth Amendment, there should be no segregation in education. This was reminiscent of the reaction published in the Times of New York on May 18, 1954 entitled “All God’s Chillun” which said that Jefferson and company, in declaring the independence proclaimed “that all men were, and ought to be, equal before the law.

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If men are equal, children are equal, too. There is an even greater necessity in the case of children, whose opportunities to advance themselves and to be useful to the community may be lost if they do not have the right to be educated” (Brown v. Board of Education). In the second cartoon, the slow reaction towards racial integration in the southern states is depicted.

It was meant to show that after the decision on Brown v.Board of Education, desegregation in education was not being implemented in the south fast enough, the reason why a man garbed in a graduation gown and cap is offering the use of a race horse so that the plow could be pulled much faster, thereby desegregating public schools more rapidly. It should be remembered that the people in the south did not openly welcome the desegregation ruling of the Supreme Court. As pointed out by a May 18, 1954 article in the University of Virginia’s Cavalier Daily, “To many people this decision is contrary to a way of life and violates the way in which they have thought since 1619” (Brown v.Board of Education).

The third cartoon shows the use of an anvil, hammer and chisel to cut the chain that had manacled public education to racial segregation. It was a sort of a euphoric celebration resulting from the Supreme Court decision. In a way, it showed the power of the Supreme Court in dealing with basic human rights issues such as the education segregation. “Equality Redefined,” a May 18, 1954 report published in the Boston Herald, hailed the ruling and stated that it was a healthy sign that the country’s Constitution was alive and serving its intended purpose, saying that desegregation was an expediency of the time (Brown v. Board of Education).

Finally, the fourth and last cartoon proclaimed that the Supreme Court decision desegregating the public schools proved to be a very potent weapon for democracy that dealt a crushing blow to racial segregation. The cartoon was a fitting illustration of a reaction printed in the May 18, 1954 issue of the Chicago Defender which said that “Neither the atom bomb nor the hydrogen bomb will ever be as meaningful to our democracy as the unanimous decision of the Supreme Court of the United States that racial segregation violates the spirit and letter of our Constitution” (Brown v. Board of Education).

Cartoons are a powerful form of political commentary even today. While it is undeniably true that printed words, in the hands of a wordsmith, acquire an overpowering effect toppling even feared dictators, cartoons have proven even more effective than any printed matter. Cliches and poetry have been used to compare the two. While it has been said that the “pen is mightier than the sword,” was it not also written that “a picture paints a thousand words? ”

The four cartoons described above were no doubt effective relative to the period after the Supreme Court decision re Brown v. Board of Education because of the powerful message that they conveyed. For instance, the cartoon showing an exploding bomb accurately brings home the message that the desegregation of public schools was an overwhelming event, more powerful in its effect than the atomic bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima several years earlier.

Work Cited

  1. “Brown v. Board of Education. ” Landmark Supreme Court Cases. 2002. 11 September 2007.

Cite this Page

Chief Justice Earl Warren. (2016, Aug 10). Retrieved from

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