I read with interest -- and tears in my eyes -- the May 17 Metro story "Private Schools' Shift Was Slow."
I remember an eighth- or ninth-grade party in American University Park to which Frank Snowden Jr., the first black student at St. Albans School, and I were invited. My invitation came from the host, but Frank's apparently was a cruel prank.
I remember how pleased he seemed to be included and how uncomfortable the host's parents looked when he arrived. In a matter of minutes he was gone; his father was called to take him home. What I remember most was the horrible silence while he was there.
That evening was a turning point for me. But all the marches and protests that I attended throughout the '60s never made up for not speaking up for Frank that night in 1960. I would like to thank him for his courage and apologize for our lack of it.
JENNIE LYONS FOGARTY
On the 50th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education, it's fitting to look at its legacies for education and equal justice. But its other great legacy also deserves attention: the backlash the court endured and how similar attacks on the courts have become a staple of modern politics. The segregationist Southern Manifesto branded Brown "a clear abuse of judicial power," and Brown's critics tried to deny the Supreme Court's authority. They worked to impeach the justices, end life tenure and amend the Constitution so that the court couldn't hear education cases. Many states sought to "interpose" their own authority. In the end, the Supreme Court survived and grew stronger.
But Brown's opponents perfected a staple of today's politics: denouncing decisions you don't like as the work of judicial activists and seeking to punish the courts for controversial decisions. Once again, impeachment threats are being heard in Congress. A House working group on the courts has said it will "take no prisoners." Recent legislation on crime and terrorism has eroded the power of judges to protect our rights and stepped up monitoring of judges who don't comply. And the proposed constitutional amendment on marriage, which would be the first since Prohibition to reduce civil liberties, would deny to state judges the power to interpret their own constitutions.
Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist calls the judiciary the "crown jewel" of our democracy. Fifty years after Brown, it's again time for Americans to stand up for their courts.
Acting Executive Director
Justice at Stake Campaign
In his May 16 op-ed column, George F. Will quoted President Andrew Jackson saying, "John Marshall has made his decision, now let him enforce it" in reference to Worcester v. Georgia, in which the Supreme Court ruled that Georgia law asserting jurisdiction and control over Cherokee lands violated existing treaties and U.S. law. Jackson wanted Indians removed to western lands. He ignored the court's decision while pursuing Indian removal. Mr. Will's point was that, just as in the Brown decision, the "court's majesty couldn't compel compliance."
In 1954, though, Brown stunned most white southerners, few of whom believed that integration would actually occur. The North gave up on Reconstruction in 1876 in a disgraceful political bargain settling the Hayes-Tilden election. The South was left to pursue its own "way of life" unhindered. Most white southerners were sure, and black southerners afraid, that the federal government would tire of this new round of reconstruction.
Many southern segregationists saw President Eisenhower as one of their own, sympathetic to their cause. His early press conferences after Brown did little to dispel that notion.
In the end, it was not the court's majesty but federal bayonets that made the point. Only when Mr. Eisenhower federalized the Arkansas National Guard and sent the 101st Airborne Division to Little Rock, enforcing court decisions in the face of Gov. Orval Faubus's defiance, did it became clear that the court would prevail.