Malcolm Gladwell’s Revisionist History podcast review: Brown v. Board


Malcolm Gladwell’s Revisionist History podcast is back and in episode 3, Gladwell breaks down the impact of 1954’s Brown v. Board of Education case.

Malcolm Gladwell’s Revisionist History podcast takes a dive into overlooked and misunderstood events in history. Gladwell breaks interesting topics down into easy-to-understand pieces. By the end of each episode, I’m reminded how little I know about certain parts of history and therefore how biased I can be with what I do know. The third episode of season two, “Miss Buchanan’s Period of Adjustment,” brings us back to 1954’s famous Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court case. This monumental ruling declared state laws separating black and white schools to be unconstitutional. I remember learning about the case for the first time in elementary school. I remember the iconic picture of a young Linda Brown in a pretty dress standing outside of her new school. And yet, I learned so much more about this case in less than an hour today than I ever did in my years of schooling.

Making a case against the case

Brown v. Board of Education integrated black students into existing white schools. Subsequently, thousands of black educators’ jobs were terminated because those in power considered them inferior to white teachers. More than half of the black teachers employed by public schools were fired within ten years of the ruling. Why? Black schools were shut down and white parents didn’t want their kids to be taught by black teachers.

“Miss Buchanan’s Period of Adjustment” really got me thinking about what my teachers looked like. (Spoiler alert: they were pretty much all white!) Gladwell dedicates a good chunk of the episode to how race affects the country-wide development and success of students. Education inequality based on race is and has always been an enormous problem in our country. Gladwell refers to this as “the Southern way of thinking about race.” Political scientists, historians, and professors provide shocking statistics in this episode on how much more successful black students are with a black teacher. What’s even more shocking? The color of a teacher’s skin has no effect on the achievements of white students. This, of course, ties back to the current lack of black teachers in schools due to the aftermath of the famous case.

What now?

The episode taught me more of the why behind the importance of a diverse faculty, but now what? My favorite thing about Gladwell’s podcast is how he backs up what we often already assume with convincing research we can grasp. The only bone I ever have to pick with the podcast is his lack of ideas or suggestions on how to fix the issues discussed so we don’t continue to repeat history. I learned today how much hasn’t changed in more than 50 years. Have you listened to this episode of Revisionist History? Give us your thoughts in the comments below!