'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
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
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
"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
(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/
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
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
Employment: 33 years in education:
Dowingtown, Pa. School District - First and Second
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
Lee County, Fla. School District - First, Fifth,
& Sixth through Eighth Grade Teacher.
St Raphael Catholic Church
Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority
American Association of University Women
Association for Supervision and curriculum Development
Florida Teaching Profession, International Reading
NAACP, life member
Phi Delta Kappa, Teachers Association of Lee County,
- 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