Resource: Enforcing Desegregation: A Case Study of Federal District Court Power and Social Change in Macon County Alabama

By: Brian K. Landsberg

July 17, 2014


This case study of Lee v. Macon County Board of Education demonstrates that a federal district court in Alabama, enforcing Brown v. Board of Education, brought about significant social change despite constraints on the courts. The court’s application of Brown played a decisive role in ending the racial caste system in this Alabama black belt county. The court, by adding the United States Department of Justice as a party, overcame constraints that had precluded the executive branch from pursuing school desegregation. Change came through the courts before Congress legislated against school segregation. Seekers of social change must evaluate the constraints on the courts relative to the constraints on the other branches and levels of government.