What Was the Effect of Brown v. Board of Education?

The landmark case of Brown v. Board of Education ended racial segregation in public schools. But what were the lasting effects of the decision?

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On May 17, 1954, in the case of Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled unanimously that racial segregation in public schools was unconstitutional. This victory paved the way for other important civil rights legislation and helped to bring an end to Jim Crow laws, which had legally supported racial segregation since 1876.

The Plessy v. Ferguson Case and “Separate but Equal”

In 1896, the Supreme Court case Plessy v. Ferguson established the “separate but equal” doctrine, which stated that separate public facilities for blacks and whites were constitutional as long as the facilities were equal. This doctrine was used to justify segregated schools, public restrooms, drinking fountains, and other public places.

The “separate but equal” doctrine remained the law of the land until it was overturned by the Supreme Court in 1954 in the case Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas. In this case, the Court ruled that “separate but equal” public schools were unconstitutional because they violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The Brown decision resulted in a major upheaval in America’s education system as schools began to desegregate.

The Brown v. Board of Education Case

The effect of the Brown v. Board of Education case was to end segregation in public schools. Prior to this ruling, African American students were required to attend separate, “inferior” schools from white students. The Supreme Court’s ruling in Brown declared that such segregation was unconstitutional, and paved the way for the integration of public schools across the United States. The Brown decision was a major victory for the Civil Rights Movement, and helped to catalyze further progress towards equality for all Americans.

The Aftermath of Brown v. Board of Education

The true impact of Brown v. Board of Education would not be felt for years, but the ruling was a crucial turning point in the civil rights movement. Although the decision did not immediately end segregation, it did force states and school districts to begin to seriously consider ways to desegregate their schools. In the years that followed, there would be a number of other important Supreme Court cases that further expanded on the ruling in Brown v. Board of Education and helped to bring about more change.

One of the most important cases was Loving v. Virginia, which overturned a state law that banned interracial marriage. This case, along with others, helped to make Brown v. Board of Education a reality for more Americans and ensured that everyone would be afforded the same civil rights, regardless of race.


The effects of Brown v. Board of Education were far-reaching and profound, but the decision also sparked a fierce backlash among those who opposed desegregation. In the years after the ruling, schools across the country were slowly integrated, but many white parents pulled their children out of public schools and sent them to private, often all-white academies. Some schools resisted integration by adopting “freedom of choice” plans that allowed students to attend the school of their choice, regardless of race. These plans were often poorly executed and resulted in little actual integration.

The fight for educational equity is ongoing, and recent studies suggest that schools are as segregated today as they were before Brown v. Board of Education. While the ruling was a turning point in American history, its impact has been limited by resistance at both individual and institutional levels.

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