Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka was a landmark decision of the U.S. Supreme Court in which the Court ruled that American state laws establishing racial segregation in public schools are unconstitutional, even if the segregated schools are otherwise equal in quality. Brown v. Board of Education was one of the cornerstones of the civil rights movement and helped establish the precedent that “separate-but-equal” education and other services were not, in fact, equal at all.
Brown vs. Board of Education is a landmark Supreme Court case that established that separate schools for different races were unconstitutional, thus prompting the desegregation of school systems throughout the country.
Linda Brown was denied access to schooling at any of Topeka’s all-white elementary schools. In 1951, Oliver Brown, Linda’s father, filed a lawsuit against Topeka’s Board of Education. The case was tried in the District Court of Kansas, and the court upheld the idea that separate but equal was constitutional. In 1952, the case, along with four similar cases, were bulked together and sent to the Supreme Court. This case would be titled Brown vs. Board of Education of Topeka. The case was heard in 1953, and in 1954 it was unanimously decided that segregation had no rights in schools.
Brown vs. Board of Ed is Decided
In a major civil rights victory, the U.S. Supreme Court hands down a unanimous decision in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, ruling that racial segregation in public educational facilities is unconstitutional. The historic decision, which brought an end to federal tolerance of racial segregation, specifically dealt with Linda Brown, a young African American girl who had been denied admission to her local elementary school in Topeka, Kansas, because of the color of her skin.
In 1896, the Supreme Court ruled in Plessy v. Ferguson that “separate but equal” accommodations in railroad cars conformed to the 14th Amendment’s guarantee of equal protection. That ruling was used to justify segregating all public facilities, including elementary schools.
However, in the case of Linda Brown, the white school she attempted to attend was far superior to her black alternative and miles closer to her home. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) took up Linda’s cause, and in 1954 Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka reached the Supreme Court. African American lawyer (and future Supreme Court justice) Thurgood Marshall led Brown’s legal team, and on May 17, 1954, the high court handed down its decision.
In an opinion written by Chief Justice Earl Warren, the nation’s highest court ruled that not only was the “separate but equal” doctrine unconstitutional in Linda’s case, it was unconstitutional in all cases because educational segregation stamped an inherent badge of inferiority on African American students. A year later, after hearing arguments on the implementation of their ruling, the Supreme Court published guidelines requiring public school systems to integrate “with all deliberate speed.”
The Brown v. Board of Education decision served to greatly motivate the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s and ultimately led to the abolishment of racial segregation in all public facilities and accommodations.
History – Brown v. Board of Education Re-enactment, United States Courts.
Brown v. Board of Education, The Civil Rights Movement: Volume I (Salem Press).
Cass Sunstein, “Did Brown Matter?” The New Yorker, May 3, 2004.
Brown v. Board of Education, PBS.org.
Richard Rothstein, Brown v. Board at 60, Economic Policy Institute, April 17, 2014.