The 1954 Supreme Court case known as Brown versus Board of Education of Topeka (Kansas) actually included five cases from five different states, but all the cases related to the issue of ending racial segregation in public schools. The Commemorative Bronze Medal commemorating this seminal case is in the collection of the Museum Of UnCut Funk.
Descendants of three leaders in the struggle for equal educational opportunities were awarded, on behalf of their ancestors, Congressional Gold Medals which marked the 50th anniversary of the Brown v. Board of Education decision. The medal commemorates Reverend Joseph A. DeLaine, Harry and Eliza Briggs and Levi Pearson for their “contribution as pioneers in the effort to desegregate public schools, timed to coincide with the 50th anniversary of Brown v. Board.”
School desegregation evolved from efforts spearheaded by Reverend DeLaine to gain bus transportation for Black children of Clarendon County, South Carolina. The request was denied and Levi Pearson subsequently filed a lawsuit. Pearson’s case was dismissed on a technicality, which led to the filing of Briggs v. Elliot, the first of five school desegregation cases. The five cases were later combined to become the landmark case Brown et al v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas et al, in which the United States Supreme Court ruled that the doctrine of ‘separate but equal’ was unconstitutional.
Authorized by Congress under Public Law 108-180 and struck by the United States Mint, the medals’ obverse was designed by United States Mint sculptor-engraver Charles L. Vickers. The inscriptions “BRIGGS V. ELLIOTT” and “Our Trust Is In God” are centered above the portraits of Reverend DeLaine, Harry and Eliza Briggs and Levi Pearson. Two cabbage palmettos, the state tree of South Carolina, flank the portraits under which “BROWN V. BOARD OF EDUCATION” is inscribed.
The reverse of the medals, designed by United States Mint sculptor/engraver Donna Weaver, features a rendition of the goddess Justice. To the right of Justice, “Honoring the Pioneers and Petitioners from Clarendon County, South Carolina” is inscribed. “They proved that segregation in education can never produce equality and that it is evil that must be eradicated,” a partial quote from Judge J. Waties Waring’s dissenting opinion and “ACT OF CONGRESS 2003” are also inscribed on the medal.
You can learn more about commemorative currency in our Coins, Medals and Medallions collection and our For The Love Of Money: Blacks On US Currency Exhibition.
Source: US Mint