WATCH: 65 Years After Brown v. Board, What You Don’t Know About the 5 School Segregation Cases That Came Together at the Supreme Court
In the American judicial system, the two small words “et al.,” meaning “and others,” erase the names, faces and histories of everyday individuals seeking justice, fighting for their rights. Used as a reference in class action litigation in place of listing the names of each individual plaintiff, those four letters relegate men, women and children to what can be characterized as a “legal wasteland,” rendering them and their stories unknown.
In the instance of Brown v. Board of Education, those four letters diminished the stories of men, women and children who participated in five class-action lawsuits across the nation. Those five suits were consolidated by the United States Supreme Court in an opinion announced on May 17, 1954: Oliver Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka (Kansas), Briggs v. Elliott (South Carolina), Davis v. County School Board of Prince Edward County (Virginia), Belton (Bulah) v. Gebhart (Delaware), and Bolling v. Sharpe (Washington, D.C.).
The legal citation in the landmark ruling, one of the most famous and enduring in history, lives on as Oliver L. Brown, et al. v. the Board of Education of Topeka (KS), et al.
Until now, the stories of these revolutionaries have remained largely untold, buried under the weight of four little letters. But for the first time in history, a team of Brown v. Board plaintiffs and their relatives assembled by Cheryl Brown Henderson, founding president of the Brown Foundation for Educational Equity, Excellence and Research, and daughter of Oliver Brown, is working on changing that — by detailing their previous untold stories of oppression, battle for justice and triumph.
Learn more about the five cases in this video; see more exclusive essays and videos at The74Million.org/Brown65.
—Edited by James Fields
Disclosure: The Walton Family Foundation provides financial support to The 74 and funded The Brown Foundation for Educational Equity, Excellence and Research in producing the new book Recovering Untold Stories: An Enduring Legacy of the Brown v. Board of Education Decision.