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May 17



1954—The United States Supreme Court renders its landmark decision in Brown v. Board of Education (Topeka, Kan.) declaring segregation in public schools unconstitutional. The unanimous ruling was written by Chief Justice Earl B. Warren, who headed one of the most progressive Supreme Courts in U.S. history. The ruling read in part “Segregation of White and Negro children in the public schools of a state solely on the basis of race…denies Negro children the equal protection of the laws guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment.” The legal team which argued the case was led by later Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall. The ruling also had the effect of undermining all “Jim Crow” or segregationist laws.



1956—Boxing sensation Sugar Ray Leonard is born. The versatile fighter was named “Fighter of the Decade” for the 1980s.

1988—Black Ophthalmologist and inventor Dr. Patricia E. Bath of Los Angeles, Calif., patents an apparatus that efficiently removes cataracts by using laser technology.

May 18

1896—The United States Supreme Court issues its infamous ruling in Plessy v. Ferguson. The decision declared the doctrine of “separate but equal” was constitutional. By doing so it, in effect, approved all Jim Crow or segregationist laws designed to degrade Blacks or keep them separate from Whites. The ruling would stand until the Brown v. Board of Education decision of 1954.

1955—Legendary educator Mary McLeod Bethune dies at 79 in Daytona Beach, Fla. Born the 15th of 17 children in Mayesville, S.C., Bethune would rise to become one of the nation’s foremost Black educators and early civil rights activist. She was a driving force behind the founding of Florida’s Bethune-Cookman College.

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