Interview with Judge John Minor Wisdom
QUESTION 1
INTERVIEWER:

MY FIRST QUESTION IS, IF YOU COULD GIVE ME A BRIEF DESCRIPTION, IN YOUR OPINION, OF THE SOUTH AT THIS TIME, IN THE LATE 1950'S, MID-1950'S. NO, LET'S START EARLIER THAN THAT, BEFORE THE BROWN DECISION, IN TERMS OF RACE RELATIONS, HOW WOULD YOU CHARACTERIZE THE SOUTH?

Judge John Minor Wisdom:

I would — the question of course, as to the background of Brown, is a very complicated one, because it is so connected with social problems, and educational problems. It was not just a — not just a question, the background cannot be telescoped into the question, what were the racial relationships? Because you have caste system involved there, and economic problems, and social problems. But I would say that, prior to Brown, it was becoming evident that something had to be done about the discrimination that existed in most southern cities. For example, prior to Brown, there were — there had been decisions of the Supreme Court desegregating graduate schools. We had cases such as Sweat against Painter, and the Oklahoma School of Regents, where — the problem was — was, dealt with graduate students. But that is not essentially different from the first grade. So that there was a general feeling, I think, that while racial relations were not good, in the sense that the blacks were badly discriminated against, but there was also a feeling that there was — something would have to be done soon.