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Suppose that the United States Supreme Court had reaffirmed Plessy v. Ferguson in Brown v. Board of Education and strictly enforced its separate but equal doctrine. What would have been the subsequent history of educational opportunity for African-Americans? Charles Hamilton Houston’s original strategy was to persuade courts to enforce Plessy strictly, assuming that southern states would not be able to afford a truly separate but equal school system. If southern states wanted quality education for their white children they would be forced to integrate to save money. So it is interesting to speculate whether African American children would have been better off with strict enforcement of Plessy. Perhaps black parents might have gotten integrated schools anyway, or if not integrated schools, then equal schools.
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