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IT IS TEMPTING IN RETROSPECT TO CONSIDER BROWN V. BOARD OF Education of Topeka as the all-but-inevitable outgrowth of a post-1945 popular consensus that racial segregation violated the tenets of what Gunnar Myrdal called "the American Creed." According to this view, the beleaguered white South's most cherished institutions crumbled in the face of a national commitment to racial equality, an idea, as Senator Everett M. Dirksen later put it, "whose time has come." Yet there is something too simple about this account, especially the stark contrasts between North and South and between dedication to racial equality and commitment to segregation. In what follows, I want to focus on three interrelated aspects of the history of the Brown decision: the national rather than merely regional commitment to, or at least acceptance of, segregation circa 1954; the universalist paradigm for thinking about race that had emerged after World War II, of which Brown is a prime example; and the challenge to universalism by the end of the 1960s, the seeds of which can also be detected in Brown. (1) The complex relationships among Brown, equality, and intellectual understandings of race reveal tangled and still unresolved dilemmas in American thought about racial and cultural groups. It is easy to forget that at the time of Brown, segregated schools were mandated in seventeen states and Washington, D.C., and permitted in four more states, including of course Kansas, where the Brown case originated. Sixteen states explicitly forbade school segregation, while the laws of eleven others made no mention of the matter. (2) Thus, when the Supreme Court emphasized the national purview of its decision by selecting the Brown case to head the list of the four cases under review, it was not simply soft-pedalling its indictment of the South. Much of the nation lived with segregation of one sort or another.