San Antonio woman proudly talks up mother’s role in ending school segregation

Ethel Louise Belton was instrumental in helping to end school segregation

SAN ANTONIO – Andreia Breaux is the oldest daughter of Ethel Louise Belton, of Delaware. She said her mother played an imminent role in ending school segregation.

“When she was in high school, she had to walk more than a mile from her house to the public school bus, that would take her to the city of Wilmington,” she said. “From there, she’d walk another five miles.”

Breaux said there was only one high school for minorities in the northern part of the state — Howard High School.

Belton had asked her daughter to attend a nearby all white school, but after that request was denied, they joined a state lawsuit, Belton v. Gebhart.

“She did it because of my mother’s health. And she didn’t think it was fair,” she said.

In 1952, a Delaware Chancellor agreed the “separate but equal” doctrine had been broken.

“But [the Chancellor] stopped short of saying that it was unconstitutional, but he ended it. So in other words, Delaware was the first state in the United States to end segregation in schools,” Breaux said.

The Belton v. Gebhart case was then included in a national civil lawsuit presented before the U.S. Supreme Court, which became known as the Brown v. Board of Education to argue for the end of segregation in schools across the nation.

“What Thurgood Marshall did was he added my mother’s case to the other four because it had already won on a state level and he felt they would give it legitimacy and credibility,” she said.

And in 1954, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously to end segregation.

Breaux said her mother continued at Howard High School and graduated. She attended Delaware State for a short while until she got too sick. She went on to teach as an adjunct professor at Wilmington College for shorthand and typing courses and was also a secretary at an elementary school.

Breaux’s grandmother was also in education as a school teacher, she said.

All her kids and some grandkids have continued the mantel of education in some form of another. Breaux recently retired as a kinesiology professor from San Antonio College.

Every 10 years, the descendants of the Brown vs. Board of Education lawsuits, which include Brown v. Topeka (Kansas), Briggs v. Elliot (South Carolina), Davis v. Prince Edward County (Virginia), Bolling v. Sharpe (District of Columbia), Belton v. Gebhart (Delaware) are invited to the White House to celebrate.

“We work on other things, not just in celebration, but just to keep the story of Brown alive so that people will understand the importance,” she said.

The fight for equal education continues, Breaux explains.

“This case is was not just an open door for people to enter into schools that were segregated, but it also started other opportunities for people who were disabled,” Breaux said.

Marshall was the first African American to serve in the U.S. Supreme Court, and Breaux said she would often call in to check on Belton’s health.

Belton died at the age of 43, from her heart defect. But, Breaux is ensuring her mother’s legacy continues.

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About the Authors:

Patty Santos joined the KSAT 12 News team in July 2017. She has a proven track record of reporting on hard-hitting news that affects the community.