The Civil War in Memory: 1877 to 2013

The Civil War in Memory: 1877 to 2013

What was so important about 1954?

To Americans who continued to think about the Civil War, it was the one hundredth anniversary of the Kansas-Nebraska Act and of the Anthony Burns episode in Boston. But to the average American—white or black—it was a very normal year, and time, until the Supreme Court handed down its decision in Brown v. Board of Education. In that decision, the Court ruled that the doctrine of “separate but equal,” established in the Plessy v. Ferguson case of 1895, was inherently unconstitutional. As a result, many public schools throughout the United States faced the possibility, even the probability, of enforced desegregation. All of a sudden, many Americans—white and black—remembered that it was precisely a century since the landmark events of 1854 and that the struggles for racial equality were not completed.


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