The landmark case of Brown vs Board of Education is one of the most important cases in our nation’s history. Join us as we explore the story of the case and its impact on America.
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In the fall of 1950, a young African American girl named Linda Brown had to walk twenty-two blocks to get to her all-black school, even though there was a white elementary school only seven blocks from her home in Topeka, Kansas. Her father, Oliver L. Brown, decided to do something about it. He became the named plaintiff in a class-action lawsuit against the Topeka Board of Education, claiming that the segregation of public schools violated the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution, which guaranteed all citizens “equal protection of the laws.”
The case was one of five similar lawsuits filed in federal district courts around the country; they were later consolidated into one case before the U.S. Supreme Court, which heard arguments in late 1952. On May 17, 1954, the Court issued its unanimous decision in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas. In his opinion for the Court, Chief Justice Earl Warren wrote that “separate but equal” facilities could never truly be equal and that segregated public schools violated African American children’s constitutional right to receive an equal education. This decision overturned Plessy v. Ferguson (1896), in which the Court had ruled that “separate but equal” accommodations were constitutional.
The Case Before the Supreme Court
The case of Brown v. Board of Education was actually a combination of five cases that were heard by the Supreme Court in December of 1953. The original case, Briggs v. Elliott, was filed in South Carolina on behalf of African American students in Clarendon County who were forced to attend all-black schools that were far inferior to the white schools in the area. A similar case, Davis v. County School Board of Prince Edward County, Virginia, soon followed. In both cases, the lower courts ruled against the African American plaintiffs, finding that segregated schools were “separate but equal” and therefore constitutional.
The next two cases, Boiling v. Sharpe and Gebhart v. Belton, were decided together and came out of Maryland and Delaware, respectively. In both states, African American students were suing to be admitted to white schools that were closer to their homes than the black schools they were currently attending. The fourth case, Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas, was brought on behalf of African American students in Topeka who were forced to travel long distances to attend all-black schools when there were white schools much closer to their homes. Lastly, the fifth case included in Brown v. Board of Education was Powell v. Alabama, which dealt with the inadequate representation of nine African American teenagers who had been falsely accused of rape in Alabama and sentenced to death without ever having a lawyer represent them during their trial.
All five cases made their way up through the court system until they reached the Supreme Court, which consolidated them into one major case that would have far-reaching implications for racial segregation in America’s public schools.
The Decision of the Supreme Court
Brown v. Board of Education is the 1954 Supreme Court case that outlawed racial segregation in public schools. The decision was a watershed moment in the civil rights movement, and helped lead to the eventual desegregation of all public schools in the United States.
The case began when a young girl named Linda Brown was denied admission to her local elementary school because she was black. Her father, Oliver Brown, decided to take action, and filed a lawsuit against the school district. The case made its way up to the Supreme Court, where it was argued by future Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall.
In its decision, the Court ruled that “separate but equal” education was unconstitutional, and ordered that public schools be desegregated “with all deliberate speed.” The ruling was a major victory for civil rights advocates, and helped set the stage for future civil rights legislation.
The Impact of Brown vs Board of Education
Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, 347 U.S. 483 (1954), was a landmark United States Supreme Court case in which the Court declared state laws establishing separate public schools for black and white students to be unconstitutional. The decision effectively overturned the policy of “separate but equal” public education that had been upheld by the Court since the 1896 case of Plessy v. Ferguson.
The decision was brought by Topeka, Kansas resident Oliver Brown, on behalf of his daughter Linda Brown, who attended an all-black school even though a similar white school was only seven blocks away from her house. Brown’s case was consolidated with five other cases: Briggs v. Elliott from South Carolina, Davis v. Prince Edward County School Board from Virginia, Missouri ex rel. Gaines v. Canada from Missouri, Gebhart v. Belton from Delaware, and Bolling v. Sharpe from Washington, D.C..
On May 17, 1954, Chief Justice Earl Warren delivered the unanimous opinion of the Court that “separate educational facilities are inherently unequal.” As a result of the ruling, de jure racial segregation was effectively ended in every state, although de facto segregation often remains.(From: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brown_v._Board_of_Education)