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The Unintended Consequence of Brown v. Board: A ‘Brain Drain’ of Black Educators

In 74 Interview, author Leslie T. Fenwick said the effects were so damaging that ‘the nation’s public schools still have not recovered’

This story was produced by The 74, a non-profit, independent news organization focused on education in America.

American students have attended school for nearly 70 years under the U.S. Supreme Court’s historic 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision, which outlawed racial segregation in public schools. But a new book uncovers a little-known by-product of the case: Educators and policymakers in at least 17 states that operated separate “dual systems” of schools defied the spirit of Brown by closing schools that served Black students and demoting or firing an estimated 100,000 highly credentialed Black principals and teachers.

In Jim Crow’s Pink Slip, scholar Leslie T. Fenwick, tapping seldom-seen transcripts from a series of 1971 U.S. Senate hearings on the topic, writes that the loss of Black educators post-Brown was “the most significant brain drain from the U.S. public education system that the nation has ever seen. It was so pervasive and destabilizing that, even more than half-century later, the nation’s public schools still have not recovered.”

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