On May 17, 1954, the Supreme Court overturned legal segregation in America’s public schools in the landmark ruling, Brown v. Board of Education. The decision dissolved the “separate but equal” doctrine, effectively ending legal segregation in American education.

The ruling 70 years ago was a defining moment for the country’s racial progress — it also marked the beginning of what turned out to be a slow and arduous process of integrating Black students into majority white schools.

In 1974, Boston drew national headlines for the violent response to the busing of Black students. And it wasn’t until 1988, more than 30 years after the Brown decision, before close to half of Black students were in desegregated schools. Since then the numbers have significantly decreased.

On this 70th anniversary, Under the Radar considers the legacy of Brown v. Board of Education in Boston and nationwide.


Tomiko Brown-Nagin, dean of the Harvard Radcliffe Institute, professor of Constitutional Law at Harvard Law School and professor of history at Harvard University

Michaele N. Turnage Young, senior counsel and co-manager of the Equal Protection Initiative at the Legal Defense Fund

Alisa R. Drayton, executive director of the Yawkey Club of Roxbury