'Stewart et al vs the School Board"

    In reading the unanimous decision of the Supreme Court in the case of Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Chief Justice Earl Warren on May 17, 1954 stated:

    "In these days, it is doubtful that any child may reasonably be expected to succeed in life if he is denied the opportunity of an education. Such an opportunity, where the state has undertaken to provide it, is a right which must be made available to all on equal terms. We come then to the question presented: Does segregation of children in public schools solely on the basis of race, even though the physical facilities and other "tangible" factors may be equal, deprive the children of the minority group of equal educational opportunities? We believe that it does... We conclude that in the field of public education the doctrine of "separate but equal" has no place. Separate educational facilities are inherently unequal. Therefor, we hold that the plaintiffs and others similarly situated for whom the actions have been bought are, by reason of the segregation complained of, deprived of the equal protection of the laws guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment.(1)

    The decision, although taking a big step toward desegregation of public schools did not become a reality until years later. In the ten years following the Supreme Court Decision more than three-fifths of the south's school districts had succeeded in preventing any semblance of even token integration. In the south 98.3 % of African American students were still attending segregated schools. As evidenced in the case below, African Americans had to challenge school districts throughout the nation.

    The following excerpts are from an article article which appeared in "THE TIMES HERALD" of Norristown, Pennsylvania on September 25, 1954
 

"Four Allege Segregation In Lower Gwenedd Schools"

The plaintiffs, all of whom lived in Penllyn. Pa. Were Thaddeus W. Smith jr., and his wife Irene L., and their son Ledley B.; Phillip and Janet Queenan and their daughter Sandra; George E. and Naomi Robinson and their son Lawrence; and Joseph and Hattie Stewart and their daughter Lillian.

They Claimed that the lower Gwenedd Township School District was continuing to segregate colored pupils. Therefor the four children's parents and their attorneys started mandamus(2) proceedings against the School Board and the principal of the "Spring House School".

The action which was to compel the School District to carry out an integration policy was brought through attorney Horace Davenport, of Norristown, Pa., and the Philadelphia law firm of Schmidt, Green, Harris and Higgenbotham.

The defendants were the School Board members, and the Spring House School principal. The complaint pointed out that the Spring House School was accepting pupils from the residential areas in which the plaintiffs resided.

The complaint also averred that on Sept. 8, Ledley B. Smith, 7, and Sandra Queenan, 8, were accepted at the Spring House School. "However, on the next day, they were discharged from the Spring House School and brought to their homes" by a school board member.

The mandamus proceedings also averred that Lawrence Robinson, 10, and Lillian Stewart, 11, were denied enrollment in the fifth and sixth grades at the Spring House School by the principal and the School Board Director.

The defendants stated that they were advised that they would have to enroll their children at the Penllyn School. The Penllyn School which was a segregated school enrolled only African-American children.

They also stated that Since they had been denied the right to enroll their children in the Spring House School, the school at Penllyn, which was a segregated school, was the only one where they could enroll their children.

The complaint further charged that the Penllyn School is "substantially inferior in physical facilities and educational opportunities as compared to those facilities and educational opportunities offered at the Spring House School."

It further declared, "The segregation of Negro students at the Penllyn School and the denial to plaintiffs of the opportunity to enroll at the Spring House School is a denial to them of their equal protection of law and due process of law under the 14th amendment of the United States Constitution, and in derogation of applicable statutes and the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania which prohibit said discrimination and deprivation of rights."

"The denial to Plaintiffs and others similarly situated, of the right to immediately enroll at the Spring House School causes a permanent continuing irreparable injury for which they have no adequate remedy at law." 
 

"Wherefore, plaintiffs pray;

(A) That the defendants be forthwith ordered to admit their children and all other children similarly situated to the Spring House School.

(B) Defendants be ordered to afford the plaintiffs the same and equal opportunities which are afforded all white children within the school district of defendant school board.

(C) That the writ of mandamus for the aforementioned action be granted ; and 

(D) Such Other relief as your honorable court may deem proper and necessary."

Previously, the School Board had voted 4 to 1 to integrate African-American pupils from the school at Penllyn into the Spring House School, which had all white pupils with the exception of five or six colored pupils.

Needless to say, the case was won by the defendants.

Lillian Stewart and Sandra Queenan are grand daughters of Nelson Stewart.Lawrence Robinson is the grand son of Dallas Taylor Stewart, wife of Dennis Stewart.
 

THE DECISION'S EFFECT ON ONE PARTICIPANT
LILLIAN STEWART JOHNSON

    Residing in Penllyn, Pennsylvania, Lillian H. Stewart is the youngest child of Joseph and Hattie Keene Stewart. She followed her older siblings into the classrooms of the Penllyn Elementary School, which was an all black school where Mrs. Helen E. Moore was a teacher/ principal.

    After the Supreme Court of the United States in 1954 mandated that there was no such thing as "separate but equal" Lillian became one of four children in Penllyn selected to test the meaning of the Supreme Court's decision on the local level. As one of Mrs. Moore's new charges, she reflects on the vivid memories of her first day in the sixth grade. "I fought back tears the entire day with my stomach balled in knots because of the horror stories which had been painted to me."

    At an after school Tutorial Program at Bethlehem Baptist Church which was organized by Mrs. Moore and herself, they really got to know each other as Friends and Neighbors. Despite this early setback, in 1955 she enrolled in St. Joseph's School and converted to Catholicism before graduating from the eighth grade (she had previously been baptized at Bethlehem Baptist Church of Penllyn). Returning to public school, she graduated from the Ambler Senior High School.

After graduation she:
    Received a B.S. degree in Elementary education from West Chester State College.
    Received a M-Ed.- degree, Psychology of Reading, from Temple University.
    Received Educational Specialist Certification from Nova University.

Employment: 33 years in education:
    Dowingtown, Pa. School District - First and Second Grade Teacher
    Wissahickon, Pa. School District - Second Grade, Head Start and Title 1 Federal Programs Director.
    West Covinia, Pa. Unified School District - First Grade, Arcadia Reading Clinic Clinician.
    Norristown, Pa. School District - Reading Specialist, Head Start Program Director.
    Philadelphia, Pa. Youth Services Department - Reading Consultant/Clinician.
    Lee County, Fla. School District - First, Fifth, & Sixth through Eighth Grade Teacher.

Affiliations include:
    St Raphael Catholic Church
    Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority
    American Association of University Women
    Association for Supervision and curriculum Development
    Florida Teaching Profession, International Reading Association
    NAACP, life member
    Phi Delta Kappa, Teachers Association of Lee County, Fla
    - Special Honor - Lee County Golden Apple Finalist

Personal: Married to Charles E. Johnson
    2 children -
        Michele Marbara, 7th Grade English Teacher.
        Crystal Johnson, school attendee
    2 grand children
 


 


1. p. 453, America's BLACK PAST: A READER IN AFRO-AMERICAN HISTORY, by Eric Foner - Harper & Rowe, 1970

2. An order of a superior court, under seal, directing what subordinate courts shall do in an appealed case.