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Brown v. Board of Education

Brown v. Board of Education

Overview

Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, 347 U.S. 483 (1954), was a landmark decision
Landmark decision
Landmark court decisions establish new precedents that establish a significant new legal principle or concept, or otherwise substantially change the interpretation of existing law...

 of the United States Supreme Court
Supreme Court of the United States
The Supreme Court of the United States is the highest court in the United States. It has ultimate appellate jurisdiction over all state and federal courts, and original jurisdiction over a small range of cases...

 that declared state laws establishing separate public schools for black and white students unconstitutional. The decision overturned the Plessy v. Ferguson
Plessy v. Ferguson
Plessy v. Ferguson, 163 U.S. 537 , is a landmark United States Supreme Court decision in the jurisprudence of the United States, upholding the constitutionality of state laws requiring racial segregation in private businesses , under the doctrine of "separate but equal".The decision was handed...

 decision of 1896 which allowed state-sponsored segregation. Handed down on May 17, 1954, the Warren Court
Warren Court
The Warren Court refers to the Supreme Court of the United States between 1953 and 1969, when Earl Warren served as Chief Justice. Warren led a liberal majority that used judicial power in dramatic fashion, to the consternation of conservative opponents...

's unanimous (9–0) decision stated that "separate educational facilities are inherently unequal." As a result, de jure
De jure
De jure is an expression that means "concerning law", as contrasted with de facto, which means "concerning fact".De jure = 'Legally', De facto = 'In fact'....

 racial segregation
Racial segregation
Racial segregation is the separation of humans into racial groups in daily life. It may apply to activities such as eating in a restaurant, drinking from a water fountain, using a public toilet, attending school, going to the movies, or in the rental or purchase of a home...

 was ruled a violation of the Equal Protection Clause
Equal Protection Clause
The Equal Protection Clause, part of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, provides that "no state shall ... deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws"...

 of the Fourteenth Amendment
Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution
The Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution was adopted on July 9, 1868, as one of the Reconstruction Amendments.Its Citizenship Clause provides a broad definition of citizenship that overruled the Dred Scott v...

 of the United States Constitution
United States Constitution
The Constitution of the United States is the supreme law of the United States of America. It is the framework for the organization of the United States government and for the relationship of the federal government with the states, citizens, and all people within the United States.The first three...

.
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Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, 347 U.S. 483 (1954), was a landmark decision
Landmark decision
Landmark court decisions establish new precedents that establish a significant new legal principle or concept, or otherwise substantially change the interpretation of existing law...

 of the United States Supreme Court
Supreme Court of the United States
The Supreme Court of the United States is the highest court in the United States. It has ultimate appellate jurisdiction over all state and federal courts, and original jurisdiction over a small range of cases...

 that declared state laws establishing separate public schools for black and white students unconstitutional. The decision overturned the Plessy v. Ferguson
Plessy v. Ferguson
Plessy v. Ferguson, 163 U.S. 537 , is a landmark United States Supreme Court decision in the jurisprudence of the United States, upholding the constitutionality of state laws requiring racial segregation in private businesses , under the doctrine of "separate but equal".The decision was handed...

 decision of 1896 which allowed state-sponsored segregation. Handed down on May 17, 1954, the Warren Court
Warren Court
The Warren Court refers to the Supreme Court of the United States between 1953 and 1969, when Earl Warren served as Chief Justice. Warren led a liberal majority that used judicial power in dramatic fashion, to the consternation of conservative opponents...

's unanimous (9–0) decision stated that "separate educational facilities are inherently unequal." As a result, de jure
De jure
De jure is an expression that means "concerning law", as contrasted with de facto, which means "concerning fact".De jure = 'Legally', De facto = 'In fact'....

 racial segregation
Racial segregation
Racial segregation is the separation of humans into racial groups in daily life. It may apply to activities such as eating in a restaurant, drinking from a water fountain, using a public toilet, attending school, going to the movies, or in the rental or purchase of a home...

 was ruled a violation of the Equal Protection Clause
Equal Protection Clause
The Equal Protection Clause, part of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, provides that "no state shall ... deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws"...

 of the Fourteenth Amendment
Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution
The Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution was adopted on July 9, 1868, as one of the Reconstruction Amendments.Its Citizenship Clause provides a broad definition of citizenship that overruled the Dred Scott v...

 of the United States Constitution
United States Constitution
The Constitution of the United States is the supreme law of the United States of America. It is the framework for the organization of the United States government and for the relationship of the federal government with the states, citizens, and all people within the United States.The first three...

. This ruling paved the way for integration
Racial integration
Racial integration, or simply integration includes desegregation . In addition to desegregation, integration includes goals such as leveling barriers to association, creating equal opportunity regardless of race, and the development of a culture that draws on diverse traditions, rather than merely...

 and the civil rights movement.

Background


For much of the sixty years preceding the Brown case, race relations in the U.S. had been dominated by racial segregation
Racial segregation in the United States
Racial segregation in the United States, as a general term, included the racial segregation or hypersegregation of facilities, services, and opportunities such as housing, medical care, education, employment, and transportation along racial lines...

. This policy had been endorsed in 1896
Nadir of American race relations
The "nadir of American race relations" is a term that refers to the period in United States history from the end of Reconstruction through the early 20th century, when racism in the country is deemed to have been worse than in any other period after the American Civil War. During this period,...

 by the United States Supreme Court
Supreme Court of the United States
The Supreme Court of the United States is the highest court in the United States. It has ultimate appellate jurisdiction over all state and federal courts, and original jurisdiction over a small range of cases...

 case of Plessy v. Ferguson
Plessy v. Ferguson
Plessy v. Ferguson, 163 U.S. 537 , is a landmark United States Supreme Court decision in the jurisprudence of the United States, upholding the constitutionality of state laws requiring racial segregation in private businesses , under the doctrine of "separate but equal".The decision was handed...

, which held that as long as the separate facilities for the separate races were equal, segregation did not violate the Fourteenth Amendment
Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution
The Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution was adopted on July 9, 1868, as one of the Reconstruction Amendments.Its Citizenship Clause provides a broad definition of citizenship that overruled the Dred Scott v...

 ("no State shall... deny to any person... the equal protection of the laws.").

The plaintiffs in Brown asserted that this system of racial separation
Racial segregation in the United States
Racial segregation in the United States, as a general term, included the racial segregation or hypersegregation of facilities, services, and opportunities such as housing, medical care, education, employment, and transportation along racial lines...

, while masquerading as providing separate but equal treatment of both white and black Americans, instead perpetuated inferior accommodations, services, and treatment for black Americans. Racial segregation in education varied widely from the 17 states that required racial segregation to the 16 that prohibited it. Brown was influenced by UNESCO
UNESCO
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization is a specialized agency of the United Nations...

's 1950 Statement, signed by a wide variety of internationally renowned scholars, titled The Race Question
The Race Question
The Race Question is the first of four UNESCO statements about issues of race. It was issued on 18 July 1950 following World War II and Nazi racism. The statement was an attempt to clarify what was scientifically known about race and a moral condemnation of racism...

. This declaration denounced previous attempts at scientifically justifying racism
Scientific racism
Scientific racism is the use of scientific techniques and hypotheses to sanction the belief in racial superiority or racism.This is not the same as using scientific findings and the scientific method to investigate differences among the humans and argue that there are races...

 as well as morally condemning racism
Racism
Racism is the belief that inherent different traits in human racial groups justify discrimination. In the modern English language, the term "racism" is used predominantly as a pejorative epithet. It is applied especially to the practice or advocacy of racial discrimination of a pernicious nature...

. Another work that the Supreme Court cited was Gunnar Myrdal
Gunnar Myrdal
Karl Gunnar Myrdal was a Swedish Nobel Laureate economist, sociologist, and politician. In 1974, he received the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences with Friedrich Hayek for "their pioneering work in the theory of money and economic fluctuations and for their penetrating analysis of the...

's An American Dilemma: The Negro Problem and Modern Democracy (1944). Myrdal had been a signatory of the UNESCO declaration. The research performed by the educational psychologists Kenneth B. Clark
Kenneth and Mamie Clark
Kenneth Bancroft Clark and Mamie Phipps Clark were African-American psychologists who as a married team conducted important research among children and were active in the Civil Rights Movement...

 and Mamie Phipps Clark
Kenneth and Mamie Clark
Kenneth Bancroft Clark and Mamie Phipps Clark were African-American psychologists who as a married team conducted important research among children and were active in the Civil Rights Movement...

 also influenced the Court's decision. The Clarks' "doll test" studies presented substantial arguments to the Supreme Court about how segregation had an impact on black schoolchildren's mental status.

Brown v. Board of Education


In 1951, a class action
Class action
In law, a class action, a class suit, or a representative action is a form of lawsuit in which a large group of people collectively bring a claim to court and/or in which a class of defendants is being sued...

 suit was filed against the Board of Education of the City of Topeka, Kansas
Topeka, Kansas
Topeka |Kansa]]: Tó Pee Kuh) is the capital city of the U.S. state of Kansas and the county seat of Shawnee County. It is situated along the Kansas River in the central part of Shawnee County, located in northeast Kansas, in the Central United States. As of the 2010 census, the city population was...

 in the United States District Court for the District of Kansas
United States District Court for the District of Kansas
The United States District Court for the District of Kansas is the federal district court whose jurisdiction is the state of Kansas. The Court operates out of the Robert J. Dole United States Courthouse in Kansas City, the Frank Carlson Federal Building in Topeka, and the United States Courthouse...

. The plaintiffs were thirteen Topeka parents on behalf of their twenty children.

The suit called for the school district to reverse its policy of racial segregation. Separate elementary schools were operated by the Topeka Board of Education under an 1879 Kansas law, which permitted (but did not require) districts to maintain separate elementary school facilities for black and white students in twelve communities with populations over 15,000. The plaintiffs had been recruited by the leadership of the Topeka NAACP. Notable among the Topeka NAACP leaders were the chairman McKinley Burnett
McKinley Burnett
McKinley Burnett played a pivotal role in the landmark Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka school desegregation case as President of the Topeka NAACP by recruiting 13 Topeka families to participate in the court action.-Early life:...

; Charles Scott, one of three serving as legal counsel for the chapter; and Lucinda Todd.

The named plaintiff, Oliver L. Brown
Oliver Brown (civil rights)
Oliver L. Brown was the plaintiff in the landmark U.S. Supreme Court case Brown v. Board of Education of 1954. The Court overturned the doctrine of separate but equal for public schools....

, was a parent, a welder in the shops of the Santa Fe Railroad
Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway
The Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway , often abbreviated as Santa Fe, was one of the larger railroads in the United States. The company was first chartered in February 1859...

, an assistant pastor at his local church, and an African American
African American
African Americans are citizens or residents of the United States who have at least partial ancestry from any of the native populations of Sub-Saharan Africa and are the direct descendants of enslaved Africans within the boundaries of the present United States...

. He was convinced to join the lawsuit by Scott, a childhood friend. Brown's daughter Linda, a third grader, had to walk six blocks to her school bus stop to ride to Monroe Elementary
Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site
Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site was established in Topeka, Kansas, on October 26, 1992, by the United States Congress to commemorate the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision aimed at ending racial segregation in public schools...

, her segregated black school one mile (1.6 km) away, while Sumner Elementary, a white school, was seven blocks from her house.

As directed by the NAACP leadership, the parents each attempted to enroll their children in the closest neighborhood school in the fall of 1951. They were each refused enrollment and directed to the segregated schools. Linda Brown Thompson later recalled the experience in a 2004 PBS documentary:
. . . well. like I say, we lived in an integrated neighborhood and I had all of these playmates of different nationalities. And so when I found out that day that I might be able to go to their school, I was just thrilled, you know. And I remember walking over to Sumner school
Sumner Elementary School
The Sumner Elementary School in Topeka, Kansas was involved in the Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka in 1954. Linda Brown attempted to enroll in the Sumner School, which was closer to her house than the all black Monroe School to which she was attending. Her enrollment was rejected by the...

 with my dad that day and going up the steps of the school and the school looked so big to a smaller child. And I remember going inside and my dad spoke with someone and then he went into the inner office with the principal and they left me out . . . to sit outside with the secretary. And while he was in the inner office, I could hear voices and hear his voice raised, you know, as the conversation went on. And then he immediately came out of the office, took me by the hand and we walked home from the school. I just couldn't understand what was happening because I was so sure that I was going to go to school with Mona and Guinevere, Wanda, and all of my playmates.


The Kansas case, "Oliver Brown et al. v. The Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas," was named after Oliver Brown as a legal strategy to have a man at the head of the roster. Also, it was felt by lawyers with the National Chapter of the NAACP, that having Mr. Brown at the head of the roster would be better received by the U.S. Supreme Court Justices because Mr. Brown had an intact, complete family, as opposed to someone who was a single parent head of household. The thirteen plaintiffs were: Oliver Brown, Darlene Brown, Lena Carper, Sadie Emmanuel, Marguerite Emerson, Shirley Fleming, Zelma Henderson
Zelma Henderson
Zelma Henderson was the last surviving plaintiff in the 1954 landmark federal school desegregation case, Brown v. Board of Education. The case outlawed segregation nationwide in all of the United States' public schools...

, Shirley Hodison, Maude Lawton, Alma Lewis, Iona Richardson, and Lucinda Todd. The last surviving plaintiff, Zelma Henderson, died in Topeka, on May 20, 2008, at the age of 88.

The District Court ruled in favor of the Board of Education, citing the U.S. Supreme Court precedent set in Plessy v. Ferguson
Plessy v. Ferguson
Plessy v. Ferguson, 163 U.S. 537 , is a landmark United States Supreme Court decision in the jurisprudence of the United States, upholding the constitutionality of state laws requiring racial segregation in private businesses , under the doctrine of "separate but equal".The decision was handed...

, , which had upheld a state law requiring "separate but equal" segregated facilities for blacks and whites in railway cars. The three-judge District Court panel found that segregation in public education has a detrimental effect upon negro children, but denied relief on the ground that the negro and white schools in Topeka were substantially equal with respect to buildings, transportation, curricular, and educational qualifications of teachers.

Supreme Court review


The case of Brown v. Board of Education as heard before the Supreme Court combined five cases: Brown itself, Briggs v. Elliott
Briggs v. Elliott
Briggs et al. v. Elliott et al., , commonly Briggs v. Elliott, was the first of the five cases combined into Brown v. Board of Education , the famous case in which the U.S. Supreme Court officially overturned racial segregation in U.S. public schools...

 (filed in South Carolina
South Carolina
South Carolina is a state in the Deep South of the United States that borders Georgia to the south, North Carolina to the north, and the Atlantic Ocean to the east. Originally part of the Province of Carolina, the Province of South Carolina was one of the 13 colonies that declared independence...

), Davis v. County School Board of Prince Edward County
Davis v. County School Board of Prince Edward County
Davis v. County School Board of Prince Edward County was one of the five cases combined into Brown v. Board of Education, the famous case in which the U.S. Supreme Court, in 1954, officially overturned racial segregation in U.S. public schools...

 (filed in Virginia
Virginia
The Commonwealth of Virginia , is a U.S. state on the Atlantic Coast of the Southern United States. Virginia is nicknamed the "Old Dominion" and sometimes the "Mother of Presidents" after the eight U.S. presidents born there...

), Gebhart v. Belton
Gebhart v. Belton
Gebhart v. Belton, 33 Del. Ch. 144, 87 A.2d 862 , aff'd, 91 A.2d 137 , was a case decided by the Delaware Court of Chancery in 1952 and affirmed by the Delaware Supreme Court in the same year. Gebhart was one of the five cases combined into Brown v...

 (filed in Delaware
Delaware
Delaware is a U.S. state located on the Atlantic Coast in the Mid-Atlantic region of the United States. It is bordered to the south and west by Maryland, and to the north by Pennsylvania...

), and Bolling v. Sharpe
Bolling v. Sharpe
Bolling v. Sharpe, 347 U.S. 497 , is a landmark United States Supreme Court case which deals with civil rights, specifically, segregation in the District of Columbia's public schools. Originally argued on December 10–11, 1952, a year before Brown v. Board of Education, 347 U.S...

 (filed in Washington D.C.).

All were NAACP-sponsored cases. The Davis case, the only case of the five originating from a student protest, began when sixteen-year-old Barbara Rose Johns
Barbara Rose Johns
Barbara Rose Johns was a young American civil rights hero who in 1951, at the age of 16, campaigned for the integration of Moton High School in Farmville, Prince Edward County, Virginia. After she appealed to the NAACP for legal representation, her suit became part of the historic 1954 United...

 organized and led a 450-student walkout of Moton High School
Robert Russa Moton Museum
Robert Russa Moton Museum in the town of Farmville in Prince Edward County, Virginia is a museum which serves as a center for the study of civil rights in education.It is housed in the former R. R...

. The Gebhart case was the only one where a trial court, confirmed by the Delaware Supreme Court
Delaware Supreme Court
The Supreme Court of Delaware is the sole appellate court in the United States' state of Delaware. Because Delaware is a popular haven for corporations, the Court has developed a worldwide reputation as a respected source of corporate law decisions, particularly in the area of mergers and...

, found that discrimination was unlawful; in all the other cases the plaintiffs had lost as the original courts had found discrimination to be lawful.

The Kansas case was unique among the group in that there was no contention of gross inferiority of the segregated schools' physical plant, curriculum, or staff. The district court found substantial equality as to all such factors. The Delaware case was unique in that the District Court judge in Gebhart ordered that the black students be admitted to the white high school due to the substantial harm of segregation and the differences that made the schools separate but not equal. The NAACP's chief counsel, Thurgood Marshall
Thurgood Marshall
Thurgood Marshall was an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court, serving from October 1967 until October 1991...

—who was later appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court in 1967—argued the case before the Supreme Court for the plaintiffs. Assistant attorney general Paul Wilson—later distinguished emeritus professor of law at the University of Kansas
University of Kansas
The University of Kansas is a public research university and the largest university in the state of Kansas. KU campuses are located in Lawrence, Wichita, Overland Park, and Kansas City, Kansas with the main campus being located in Lawrence on Mount Oread, the highest point in Lawrence. The...

—conducted the state's ambivalent defense in his first appellate trial.

Unanimous opinion and key holding


In spring 1953 the Court heard the case but was unable to decide the issue and asked to rehear the case in fall 1953, with special attention to whether the Fourteenth Amendment's Equal Protection Clause prohibited the operation of separate public schools for whites and blacks.

The case was being reargued at the behest of Associate Justice Felix Frankfurter
Felix Frankfurter
Felix Frankfurter was an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court.-Early life:Frankfurter was born into a Jewish family on November 15, 1882, in Vienna, Austria, then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in Europe. He was the third of six children of Leopold and Emma Frankfurter...

, who used re-argument as a stalling tactic, to allow the Court to gather a unanimous consensus around a Brown opinion that would outlaw segregation. Chief Justice Vinson had been a key stumbling block. The justices in support of desegregation spent much effort convincing those who initially dissented to join a unanimous opinion. Even though the legal effect would be same for a majority versus unanimous decision, it was felt that it was vital to not have a dissent which could be relied upon by opponents of desegregation as a legitimizing counterargument.

Conference notes and draft decisions illustrate the division of opinions before the decision was issued. Justices Douglas
William O. Douglas
William Orville Douglas was an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court. With a term lasting 36 years and 209 days, he is the longest-serving justice in the history of the Supreme Court...

, Black
Hugo Black
Hugo Lafayette Black was an American politician and jurist. A member of the Democratic Party, Black represented Alabama in the United States Senate from 1927 to 1937, and served as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States from 1937 to 1971. Black was nominated to the Supreme...

, Burton
Harold Hitz Burton
Harold Hitz Burton was an American politician and lawyer.He served as the 45th mayor of Cleveland, Ohio, as a U.S. Senator from Ohio, and as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. He was known as a dispassionate jurist who prized equal justice under the law.-Biography:He...

, and Minton
Sherman Minton
Sherman "Shay" Minton was a Democratic United States Senator from Indiana and an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. He was the most educated justice during his time on the Supreme Court, having attended Indiana University, Yale and the Sorbonne...

 were predisposed to overturn Plessy. Fred M. Vinson
Fred M. Vinson
Frederick Moore Vinson served the United States in all three branches of government and was the most prominent member of the Vinson political family. In the legislative branch, he was an elected member of the United States House of Representatives from Louisa, Kentucky, for twelve years...

 noted that Congress had not issued desegregation legislation; Stanley F. Reed discussed incomplete cultural assimilation
Cultural assimilation
Cultural assimilation is a socio-political response to demographic multi-ethnicity that supports or promotes the assimilation of ethnic minorities into the dominant culture. The term assimilation is often used with regard to immigrants and various ethnic groups who have settled in a new land. New...

 and states' rights
States' rights
States' rights in U.S. politics refers to political powers reserved for the U.S. state governments rather than the federal government. It is often considered a loaded term because of its use in opposition to federally mandated racial desegregation...

 and was inclined to the view that segregation worked to the benefit of the African-American community; Tom C. Clark
Tom C. Clark
Thomas Campbell Clark was United States Attorney General from 1945 to 1949 and an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States .- Early life and career :...

 wrote that "we had led the states on to think segregation is OK and we should let them work it out." Felix Frankfurter
Felix Frankfurter
Felix Frankfurter was an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court.-Early life:Frankfurter was born into a Jewish family on November 15, 1882, in Vienna, Austria, then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in Europe. He was the third of six children of Leopold and Emma Frankfurter...

 and Robert H. Jackson
Robert H. Jackson
Robert Houghwout Jackson was United States Attorney General and an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court . He was also the chief United States prosecutor at the Nuremberg Trials...

 disapproved of segregation, but were also opposed to judicial activism
Judicial activism
Judicial activism describes judicial ruling suspected of being based on personal or political considerations rather than on existing law. It is sometimes used as an antonym of judicial restraint. The definition of judicial activism, and which specific decisions are activist, is a controversial...

 and expressed concerns about the proposed decision's enforceability. After Vinson died in September 1953, President Dwight D. Eisenhower
Dwight D. Eisenhower
Dwight David "Ike" Eisenhower was the 34th President of the United States, from 1953 until 1961. He was a five-star general in the United States Army...

 appointed Earl Warren
Earl Warren
Earl Warren was the 14th Chief Justice of the United States.He is known for the sweeping decisions of the Warren Court, which ended school segregation and transformed many areas of American law, especially regarding the rights of the accused, ending public-school-sponsored prayer, and requiring...

 as Chief Justice. Warren had supported the integration of Mexican-American students in California school systems following Mendez v. Westminster
Mendez v. Westminster
Mendez, et al v. Westminster School District, et al, 64 F.Supp. 544 , aff'd, 161 F.2d 774 , was a 1946 federal court case that challenged racial segregation in Orange County, California schools...

.

While all but one justice personally rejected segregation, the self-restraint faction questioned whether the Constitution gave the Court the power to order its end. The activist faction believed the Fourteenth Amendment did give the necessary authority and were pushing to go ahead. Warren, who held only a recess appointment, held his tongue until the Senate, dominated by southerners, confirmed his appointment.

Warren convened a meeting of the justices, and presented to them the simple argument that the only reason to sustain segregation was an honest belief in the inferiority of Negroes. Warren further submitted that the Court must overrule Plessy to maintain its legitimacy as an institution of liberty, and it must do so unanimously to avoid massive Southern resistance. He began to build a unanimous opinion.

Although most justices were immediately convinced, Warren spent some time after this famous speech convincing everyone to sign onto the opinion. Justices Robert Jackson and Stanley Reed finally decided to drop their dissent to what was by then an opinion backed by all the others. The final decision was unanimous. Warren drafted the basic opinion and kept circulating and revising it until he had an opinion endorsed by all the members of the Court.

Holding


The key holding of the Court was that, even if segregated black and white schools were of equal quality in facilities and teachers, segregation by itself was harmful to black students and unconstitutional. They found that a significant psychological and social disadvantage was given to black children from the nature of segregation itself, drawing on research conducted by Kenneth Clark
Kenneth and Mamie Clark
Kenneth Bancroft Clark and Mamie Phipps Clark were African-American psychologists who as a married team conducted important research among children and were active in the Civil Rights Movement...

 assisted by June Shagaloff
June Shagaloff Alexander
-Early life:June Shagaloff Alexander was born in 1928 in New York City. Her parents, Samuel Shagaloff and Gertrude Bellinson, immigrated to the United States from Russia in 1905. Their household was secular Jewish, and valued socialist ideals. Her father was a pharmacist who owned and managed a...

. This aspect was vital because the question was not whether the schools were "equal", which under Plessy they nominally should have been, but whether the doctrine of separate was constitutional. The justices answered with a strong "no":

Does segregation of children in public schools solely on the basis of race, even though the physical facilities and other "tangible" factors may be equal, deprive the children of the minority group of equal educational opportunities? We believe that it does...

Segregation of white and colored children in public schools has a detrimental effect upon the colored children. The impact is greater when it has the sanction of the law, for the policy of separating the races is usually interpreted as denoting the inferiority of the negro group. A sense of inferiority affects the motivation of a child to learn. Segregation with the sanction of law, therefore, has a tendency to [retard] the educational and mental development of negro children and to deprive them of some of the benefits they would receive in a racial[ly] integrated school system...

We conclude that, in the field of public education, the doctrine of "separate but equal" has no place. Separate educational facilities are inherently unequal. Therefore, we hold that the plaintiffs and others similarly situated for whom the actions have been brought are, by reason of the segregation complained of, deprived of the equal protection of the laws guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment.

Local outcomes


The Topeka middle schools had been integrated since 1941. Topeka High School was integrated from its inception in 1871 and its sports teams from 1949 on. The Kansas law permitting segregated schools allowed them only "below the high school level."

Soon after the district court decision, election outcomes and the political climate in Topeka changed. The Board of Education of Topeka began to end segregation in the Topeka elementary schools in August 1953, integrating two attendance districts. All the Topeka elementary schools were changed to neighborhood attendance centers in January 1956, although existing students were allowed to continue attending their prior assigned schools at their option. Plaintiff Zelma Henderson, in a 2004 interview, recalled that no demonstrations or tumult accompanied desegregation in Topeka's schools:
"They accepted it," she said. "It wasn't too long until they integrated the teachers and principals."


The Topeka Public Schools administration building is named in honor of McKinley Burnett, NAACP chapter president who organized the case.

Monroe Elementary
Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site
Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site was established in Topeka, Kansas, on October 26, 1992, by the United States Congress to commemorate the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision aimed at ending racial segregation in public schools...

 was designated a U.S. National Historic Site unit of the National Park Service on October 26, 1992.

Social implications


Not everyone accepted the Brown v. Board of Education decision. In Virginia, Senator Harry F. Byrd, Sr. organized the Massive Resistance
Massive resistance
Massive resistance was a policy declared by U.S. Senator Harry F. Byrd, Sr. on February 24, 1956, to unite other white politicians and leaders in Virginia in a campaign of new state laws and policies to prevent public school desegregation after the Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision...

 movement that included the closing of schools rather than desegregating them. See, for example, The Southern Manifesto. For more implications of the Brown decision, see Desegregation
Desegregation
Desegregation is the process of ending the separation of two groups usually referring to races. This is most commonly used in reference to the United States. Desegregation was long a focus of the American Civil Rights Movement, both before and after the United States Supreme Court's decision in...

.

In 1957, Arkansas
Arkansas
Arkansas is a state located in the southern region of the United States. Its name is an Algonquian name of the Quapaw Indians. Arkansas shares borders with six states , and its eastern border is largely defined by the Mississippi River...

 Governor Orval Faubus
Orval Faubus
Orval Eugene Faubus was the 36th Governor of Arkansas, serving from 1955 to 1967. He is best known for his 1957 stand against the desegregation of Little Rock public schools during the Little Rock Crisis, in which he defied a unanimous decision of the United States Supreme Court by ordering the...

 called out his state's National Guard
Arkansas Army National Guard
The Arkansas Army National Guard is a component of the Arkansas National Guard and the United States National Guard. Nationwide, the Army National Guard comprises approximately one half of the US Army's available combat forces and approximately one third of its support organization...

 to block black students' entry
Little Rock Nine
The Little Rock Nine was a group of African-American students who were enrolled in Little Rock Central High School in 1957. The ensuing Little Rock Crisis, in which the students were initially prevented from entering the racially segregated school by Arkansas Governor Orval Faubus, and then...

 to Little Rock Central High School. President Dwight Eisenhower responded by deploying elements of the 101st Airborne Division
101st Airborne Division
The 101st Airborne Division—the "Screaming Eagles"—is a U.S. Army modular light infantry division trained for air assault operations. During World War II, it was renowned for its role in Operation Overlord, the D-Day landings on 6 June 1944, in Normandy, France, Operation Market Garden, the...

 from Fort Campbell
Fort Campbell
Fort Campbell is a United States Army installation located astraddle the Kentucky-Tennessee border between Hopkinsville, Kentucky, and Clarksville, Tennessee...

, Kentucky, to Arkansas and by federalizing Faubus' National Guard.

Also in 1957, Florida
Florida
Florida is a state in the southeastern United States, located on the nation's Atlantic and Gulf coasts. It is bordered to the west by the Gulf of Mexico, to the north by Alabama and Georgia and to the east by the Atlantic Ocean. With a population of 18,801,310 as measured by the 2010 census, it...

's response was mixed. Its legislature passed an Interposition
Interposition
Interposition is an asserted right of U.S. states to declare federal actions unconstitutional. Interposition has not been upheld by the courts. Rather, the courts have held that the power to declare federal laws unconstitutional lies with the federal judiciary, not with the states...

 Resolution denouncing the decision and declaring it null and void. But Florida Governor Thomas LeRoy Collins
LeRoy Collins
Thomas LeRoy Collins was the 33rd Governor of Florida.-Early life:Collins was born and raised in Tallahassee, Florida, where he attended Leon High School. He went on to attend the Eastman Business College in New York and then went on to the Cumberland School of Law in Birmingham, Alabama to...

, though joining in the protest against the court decision, refused to sign it arguing that the attempt to overturn the ruling must be done in legal methods.

In 1963, Alabama
Alabama
Alabama is a state located in the southeastern region of the United States. It is bordered by Tennessee to the north, Georgia to the east, Florida and the Gulf of Mexico to the south, and Mississippi to the west. Alabama ranks 30th in total land area and ranks second in the size of its inland...

 Gov. George Wallace
George Wallace
George Corley Wallace, Jr. was the 45th Governor of Alabama, serving four terms: 1963–1967, 1971–1979 and 1983–1987. "The most influential loser" in 20th-century U.S. politics, according to biographers Dan T. Carter and Stephan Lesher, he ran for U.S...

 personally blocked the door to Foster Auditorium
Foster Auditorium
Foster Auditorium is a multi-purpose facility at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. It was built in 1939 and has been used for Alabama basketball, women's sports , graduations, lectures, concerts, and other large gatherings, including registration...

 at the University of Alabama
University of Alabama
The University of Alabama is a public coeducational university located in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, United States....

 to prevent the enrollment of two black students. This became the infamous Stand in the Schoolhouse Door
Stand in the Schoolhouse Door
The Stand in the Schoolhouse Door took place at Foster Auditorium at the University of Alabama on June 11, 1963. George Wallace, the Governor of Alabama, in a symbolic attempt to keep his inaugural promise of "segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever" and stop the desegregation of...

 where Wallace personally backed his "segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever" policy that he had stated in his 1963 inaugural address. He moved aside only when confronted by General Henry Graham of the Alabama National Guard, who was ordered by President John F. Kennedy to intervene.

The intellectual roots of Plessy v. Ferguson
Plessy v. Ferguson
Plessy v. Ferguson, 163 U.S. 537 , is a landmark United States Supreme Court decision in the jurisprudence of the United States, upholding the constitutionality of state laws requiring racial segregation in private businesses , under the doctrine of "separate but equal".The decision was handed...

, the landmark United States Supreme Court decision upholding the constitutionality of racial segregation
Racial segregation in the United States
Racial segregation in the United States, as a general term, included the racial segregation or hypersegregation of facilities, services, and opportunities such as housing, medical care, education, employment, and transportation along racial lines...

 in 1896 under the doctrine of "separate but equal
Separate but equal
Separate but equal was a legal doctrine in United States constitutional law that justified systems of segregation. Under this doctrine, services, facilities and public accommodations were allowed to be separated by race, on the condition that the quality of each group's public facilities was to...

" were, in part, tied to the scientific racism
Scientific racism
Scientific racism is the use of scientific techniques and hypotheses to sanction the belief in racial superiority or racism.This is not the same as using scientific findings and the scientific method to investigate differences among the humans and argue that there are races...

 of the era. However, the popular support for the decision was more likely a result of the racist beliefs held by many whites at the time. In deciding Brown v. Board of Education, the Supreme Court rejected the ideas of scientific racists about the need for segregation, especially in schools. The Court buttressed its holding by citing (in footnote 11) social science research about the harms to black children caused by segregated schools.

Both scholarly and popular ideas of hereditarianism
Hereditarianism
Hereditarianism is the doctrine or school of thought that heredity plays a significant role in determining human nature and character traits, such as intelligence and personality. Hereditarians believe in the power of genetics to explain human character traits and solve human social and political...

 played an important role in the attack and backlash that followed the Brown decision. The Mankind Quarterly
Mankind Quarterly
The Mankind Quarterly is a peer-reviewed academic journal dedicated to physical and cultural anthropology and is currently published by the Council for Social and Economic Studies in Washington, D.C. It contains articles on human evolution, intelligence, ethnography, linguistics, mythology,...

 was founded in 1960, in part in response to the Brown decision.

School desegregation has been argued to have contributed to white flight
White flight
White flight has been a term that originated in the United States, starting in the mid-20th century, and applied to the large-scale migration of whites of various European ancestries from racially mixed urban regions to more racially homogeneous suburban or exurban regions. It was first seen as...

.

Legal criticism and praise



William Rehnquist
William Rehnquist
William Hubbs Rehnquist was an American lawyer, jurist, and political figure who served as an Associate Justice on the Supreme Court of the United States and later as the 16th Chief Justice of the United States...

 wrote a memo titled "A Random Thought on the Segregation Cases" when he was a law clerk for Justice Robert H. Jackson
Robert H. Jackson
Robert Houghwout Jackson was United States Attorney General and an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court . He was also the chief United States prosecutor at the Nuremberg Trials...

 in 1952, during early deliberations that led to the Brown v. Board of Education decision. In his memo, Rehnquist argued: "I realize that it is an unpopular and unhumanitarian position, for which I have been excoriated by 'liberal' colleagues but I think Plessy v. Ferguson
Plessy v. Ferguson
Plessy v. Ferguson, 163 U.S. 537 , is a landmark United States Supreme Court decision in the jurisprudence of the United States, upholding the constitutionality of state laws requiring racial segregation in private businesses , under the doctrine of "separate but equal".The decision was handed...

 was right and should be reaffirmed." Rehnquist continued, "To the argument . . . that a majority may not deprive a minority of its constitutional right, the answer must be made that while this is sound in theory, in the long run it is the majority who will determine what the constitutional rights of the minorities are." Rehnquist also argued for Plessy with other law clerks. However, during his 1971 confirmation hearings, Rehnquist said, "I believe that the memorandum was prepared by me as a statement of Justice Jackson's tentative views for his own use." Justice Jackson had initially planned to join a dissent in Brown. Later, at his 1986 hearings for the slot of Chief Justice, Rehnquist put further distance between himself and the 1952 memo: "The bald statement that Plessy was right and should be reaffirmed, was not an accurate reflection of my own views at the time."
In any event, while serving on the Supreme Court, Rehnquist made no effort to reverse or undermine the Brown decision, and frequently relied upon it as precedent.

Some aspects of the Brown decision are still debated. Notably, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas
Clarence Thomas
Clarence Thomas is an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. Succeeding Thurgood Marshall, Thomas is the second African American to serve on the Court....

, himself an African American, wrote in Missouri v. Jenkins
Missouri v. Jenkins
Missouri v. Jenkins, 515 U.S. 70 , is a case decided by the United States Supreme Court. On June 12, 1995 the Court, in a 5-4 decision, overturned a District Court ruling that required the state of Missouri to correct de facto racial inequality in schools by funding salary increases and remedial...

 (1995) that at the very least, Brown I has been misunderstood by the courts.
Brown I did not say that "racially isolated" schools were inherently inferior; the harm that it identified was tied purely to de jure segregation, not de facto segregation. Indeed, Brown I itself did not need to rely upon any psychological or social-science research in order to announce the simple, yet fundamental truth that the Government cannot discriminate among its citizens on the basis of race. . . .

Segregation was not unconstitutional because it might have caused psychological feelings of inferiority. Public school systems that separated blacks and provided them with superior educational resources making blacks "feel" superior to whites sent to lesser schools—would violate the Fourteenth Amendment, whether or not the white students felt stigmatized, just as do school systems in which the positions of the races are reversed. Psychological injury or benefit is irrelevant . . .

Given that desegregation has not produced the predicted leaps forward in black educational achievement, there is no reason to think that black students cannot learn as well when surrounded by members of their own race as when they are in an integrated environment. (. . .) Because of their "distinctive histories and traditions," black schools can function as the center and symbol of black communities, and provide examples of independent black leadership, success, and achievement.


Some Constitutional originalists, notably Raoul Berger
Raoul Berger
Raoul Berger was an attorney and professor at The University of California at Berkeley and Harvard University School of Law. While at Harvard, he was the Charles Warren Senior Fellow in American Legal History....

 in his influential 1977 book "Government by Judiciary," make the case that Brown cannot be defended by reference to the original understanding of the 14th Amendment. They support this reading of the 14th amendment by noting that the Civil Rights Act of 1875
Civil Rights Act of 1875
The Civil Rights Act of 1875 was a United States federal law proposed by Senator Charles Sumner and Representative Benjamin F. Butler in 1870...

 did not ban segregated schools. Other originalists, including Michael W. McConnell
Michael W. McConnell
Michael William McConnell is a constitutional law scholar who served as a federal judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit from 2002 until 2009. Since 2009, Judge McConnell has served as Director of the Stanford Constitutional Law Center at Stanford Law School...

, a federal judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit
United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit
The United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit is a federal court with appellate jurisdiction over the district courts in the following districts:* District of Colorado* District of Kansas...

, in his article "Originalism and the Desegregation Decisions," argue that the Radical Reconstructionists who spearheaded the 14th Amendment were in favor of desegregated southern schools.

The case also has attracted some criticism from more liberal authors, including some who say that Chief Justice Warren's reliance on psychological criteria to find a harm against segregated blacks was unnecessary. For example, Drew S. Days has written: "we have developed criteria for evaluating the constitutionality of racial classifications that do not depend upon findings of psychic harm or social science evidence. They are based rather on the principle that 'distinctions between citizens solely because of their ancestry are by their very nature odious to a free people whose institutions are founded upon the doctrine of equality,' Hirabayashi v. United States
Hirabayashi v. United States
Hirabayashi v. United States, 320 U.S. 81 , was a case in which the United States Supreme Court held that the application of curfews against members of a minority group were constitutional when the nation was at war with the country from which that group originated. Yasui v...

, 320 U.S. 81 (1943). . . ."

In his book "The Tempting of America" (page 82), Robert Bork
Robert Bork
Robert Heron Bork is an American legal scholar who has advocated the judicial philosophy of originalism. Bork formerly served as Solicitor General, Acting Attorney General, and judge for the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit...

 endorsed the Brown decision as follows:
By 1954, when Brown came up for decision, it had been apparent for some time that segregation rarely if ever produced equality. Quite aside from any question of psychology, the physical facilities provided for blacks were not as good as those provided for whites. That had been demonstrated in a long series of cases . . . The Court's realistic choice, therefore, was either to abandon the quest for equality by allowing segregation or to forbid segregation in order to achieve equality. There was no third choice. Either choice would violate one aspect of the original understanding, but there was no possibility of avoiding that. Since equality and segregation were mutually inconsistent, though the ratifiers did not understand that, both could not be honored. When that is seen, it is obvious the Court must choose equality and prohibit state-imposed segregation. The purpose that brought the fourteenth amendment into being was equality before the law, and equality, not separation, was written into the law.


In June 1987, Philip Elman
Philip Elman
Philip Elman was an American lawyer at the United States Department of Justice and former member of the Federal Trade Commission. He is best known for writing the government's brief in Brown v...

, a civil rights attorney who served as an associate in the Solicitor General's office during Harry Truman's term, claimed he and Felix Frankfurter were mostly responsible for the Supreme Court's decision, and stated that the NAACP's arguments did not present strong evidence. Elman has been criticized for offering a self-aggrandizing history of the case, omitting important facts, and denigrating the work of civil rights attorneys who had laid the groundwork for the decision over many decades. Public officials in the United States today are nearly unanimous in lauding the ruling. In May 2004, the fiftieth anniversary of the ruling, President George W. Bush
George W. Bush
George Walker Bush is an American politician who served as the 43rd President of the United States, from 2001 to 2009. Before that, he was the 46th Governor of Texas, having served from 1995 to 2000....

 spoke at the opening of the "Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site
Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site
Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site was established in Topeka, Kansas, on October 26, 1992, by the United States Congress to commemorate the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision aimed at ending racial segregation in public schools...

", calling Brown "a decision that changed America for the better, and forever." Most Senators and Representatives issued press releases hailing the ruling.

Brown II



In 1955, the Supreme Court considered arguments by the schools requesting relief concerning the task of desegregation. In their decision, which became known as "Brown II" the court delegated the task of carrying out school desegregation to district courts with orders that desegregation occur "with all deliberate speed," a phrase traceable to Francis Thompson
Francis Thompson
Francis Thompson was an English poet and ascetic. After attending college, he moved to London to become a writer, but in menial work, became addicted to opium, and was a street vagrant for years. A married couple read his poetry and rescued him, publishing his first book, Poems in 1893...

's poem, The Hound of Heaven
Hound of Heaven
The Hound of Heaven is a 182 line poem written by English poet Francis Thompson. The poem became famous and was the source of much of Thompson's posthumous reputation. The poem was first published in Thompson's first volume of poems in 1893. It was included in the Oxford Book of English Mystical...

.

Supporters of the earlier decision were displeased with this decision. The language “all deliberate speed” was seen by critics as too ambiguous to ensure reasonable haste for compliance with the court's instruction. Many Southern states and school districts interpreted "Brown II" as legal justification for resisting, delaying, and avoiding significant integration for years—and in some cases for a decade or more—using such tactics as closing down school systems, using state money to finance segregated "private" schools, and "token" integration where a few carefully selected black children were admitted to former white-only schools but the vast majority remained in underfunded, unequal black schools.

For example, based on "Brown II," the U.S. District Court ruled that Prince Edward County, Virginia
Prince Edward County, Virginia
Prince Edward County is a county located in the Commonwealth of Virginia. As of 2010, the population was 23,368. Its county seat is Farmville.-Formation and County Seats:...

 did not have to desegregate immediately. When another court case in 1959 ruled that the county's schools finally had to desegregate, the county board of supervisors stopped appropriating money for public schools which remained closed for five years, from 1959 to 1964. White students in the county were given assistance to attend white-only "private academies" that were taught by teachers formerly employed by the public school system, while black students had no education at all unless they moved out of the county.

Brown III


In 1978, Topeka attorneys Richard Jones, Joseph Johnson and Charles Scott Jr. (son of the original Brown team member), with assistance from the American Civil Liberties Union
American Civil Liberties Union
The American Civil Liberties Union is a U.S. non-profit organization whose stated mission is "to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in this country by the Constitution and laws of the United States." It works through litigation, legislation, and...

, persuaded Linda Brown Smith—who now had her own children in Topeka schools—to be a plaintiff in reopening Brown. They were concerned that the Topeka Public Schools' policy of "open enrollment" had led to and would lead to further segregation. They also believed that with a choice of open enrollment, white parents would shift their children to "preferred" schools that would create both predominantly African American and predominantly European American schools within the district. The district court reopened the Brown case after a 25-year hiatus, but denied the plaintiffs' request finding the schools "unitary". In 1989, a three-judge panel of the 10th Circuit
United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit
The United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit is a federal court with appellate jurisdiction over the district courts in the following districts:* District of Colorado* District of Kansas...

 on 2–1 vote found that the vestiges of segregation remained with respect to student and staff assignment. In 1993, the Supreme Court denied the appellant School District's request for certiorari
Certiorari
Certiorari is a type of writ seeking judicial review, recognized in U.S., Roman, English, Philippine, and other law. Certiorari is the present passive infinitive of the Latin certiorare...

 and returned the case to District Court Judge Richard Rodgers for implementation of the Tenth Circuit's mandate.

After a 1994 plan was approved and a bond issue passed, additional elementary magnet schools were opened and district attendance plans redrawn, which resulted in the Topeka schools meeting court standards of racial balance by 1998. Unified status was eventually granted to Topeka Unified School District #501 on July 27, 1999. One of the new magnet schools is named after the Scott family attorneys for their role in the Brown case and civil rights.

Related cases

  • Plessy v. Ferguson
    Plessy v. Ferguson
    Plessy v. Ferguson, 163 U.S. 537 , is a landmark United States Supreme Court decision in the jurisprudence of the United States, upholding the constitutionality of state laws requiring racial segregation in private businesses , under the doctrine of "separate but equal".The decision was handed...

    , 163 U.S. 537 (1896)—separate but equal for schools
  • Lum v. Rice
    Lum v. Rice
    Lum v. Rice, 275 U.S. 78 , is a United States Supreme Court case in which the Court held that the exclusion on account of race of a child of Chinese ancestry from a state high school did not violate the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution...

    , 275 U.S. 78 (1927)-separate schools for Chinese pupils from white schoolchildren
  • Powell v. Alabama
    Powell v. Alabama
    Powell v. Alabama was a United States Supreme Court decision which determined that in a capital trial, the defendant must be given access to counsel upon his or her own request as part of due process.-Background of the case:...

    , 287 U.S. 45 (1932)—access to counsel
  • Hernandez v. Texas
    Hernandez v. Texas
    Hernandez v. Texas, 347 U.S. 475 , was a landmark United States Supreme Court case that decided that Mexican Americans and all other racial groups in the United States had equal protection under the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution....

    , 347 U.S. 475 (1954)—the Fourteenth Amendment protects those beyond the racial classes of white or Negro.
  • Smith v. Allwright
    Smith v. Allwright
    Smith v. Allwright , 321 U.S. 649 , was a very important decision of the United States Supreme Court with regard to voting rights and, by extension, racial desegregation. It overturned the Democratic Party's use of all-white primaries in Texas, and other states where the party used the...

    , 321 U.S. 649 (1944)—non-white voters in primary elections
  • Sipuel v. Board of Regents of Univ. of Okla.
    Sipuel v. Board of Regents of Univ. of Okla.
    Sipuel v. Board of Regents of Univ. of Okla., 332 U.S. 631 is a United States Supreme Court case that dealt with the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution....

    , 332 U.S. 631 (1948)—access to taxpayer state funded law schools
  • Shelley v. Kraemer
    Shelley v. Kraemer
    Shelley v. Kraemer, 334 U.S. 1 , is a United States Supreme Court case which held that courts could not enforce racial covenants on real estate.-Facts of the case:...

    , 334 U.S. 1 (1948)—restrictive covenants
  • Mendez v. Westminster
    Mendez v. Westminster
    Mendez, et al v. Westminster School District, et al, 64 F.Supp. 544 , aff'd, 161 F.2d 774 , was a 1946 federal court case that challenged racial segregation in Orange County, California schools...

    , 64 F. Supp. 544 (1946)—prohibits segregating Mexican American children in California
  • Sweatt v. Painter
    Sweatt v. Painter
    Sweatt v. Painter, , was a U.S. Supreme Court case that successfully proved lack of equality, in favor of a black applicant, the "separate but equal" doctrine of racial segregation established by the 1896 case Plessy v. Ferguson. The case was also influential in the landmark case of Brown v...

    , 339 U.S. 629 (1950)—segregated law schools in Texas
  • McLaurin v. Oklahoma State Regents
    McLaurin v. Oklahoma State Regents
    McLaurin v. Oklahoma State Regents, 339 U.S. 637 , was a United States Supreme Court case that reversed a lower court decision upholding the efforts of the state-supported University of Oklahoma to adhere to the state law requiring African-Americans to be provided graduate or professional education...

    , 339 U.S. 637 (1950)—prohibits segregation in a public institution of higher learning
  • Briggs v. Elliott
    Briggs v. Elliott
    Briggs et al. v. Elliott et al., , commonly Briggs v. Elliott, was the first of the five cases combined into Brown v. Board of Education , the famous case in which the U.S. Supreme Court officially overturned racial segregation in U.S. public schools...

    , 347 U.S. 483 (1952) Brown Case #1—Summerton, South Carolina.
  • Davis v. County School Board of Prince Edward County
    Davis v. County School Board of Prince Edward County
    Davis v. County School Board of Prince Edward County was one of the five cases combined into Brown v. Board of Education, the famous case in which the U.S. Supreme Court, in 1954, officially overturned racial segregation in U.S. public schools...

    , 103 F. Supp. 337 (1952)
    Brown Case #2—Prince Edward County, Virginia.
  • Gebhart v. Belton
    Gebhart v. Belton
    Gebhart v. Belton, 33 Del. Ch. 144, 87 A.2d 862 , aff'd, 91 A.2d 137 , was a case decided by the Delaware Court of Chancery in 1952 and affirmed by the Delaware Supreme Court in the same year. Gebhart was one of the five cases combined into Brown v...

    , 33 Del. Ch. 144 (1952) Brown Case #3—Claymont, Delaware
  • Bolling v. Sharpe
    Bolling v. Sharpe
    Bolling v. Sharpe, 347 U.S. 497 , is a landmark United States Supreme Court case which deals with civil rights, specifically, segregation in the District of Columbia's public schools. Originally argued on December 10–11, 1952, a year before Brown v. Board of Education, 347 U.S...

    , 347 U.S. 497 (1954)
    Brown companion case—dealt with the constitutionality of segregation in the District of Columbia, which—as a federal district, not a state—is not subject to the Fourteenth Amendment
    Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution
    The Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution was adopted on July 9, 1868, as one of the Reconstruction Amendments.Its Citizenship Clause provides a broad definition of citizenship that overruled the Dred Scott v...

    .
  • NAACP v. Alabama
    NAACP v. Alabama
    National Association for the Advancement of Colored People v. Alabama, 357 U.S. 449 , was an important civil rights case brought before the United States Supreme Court....

    , 357 U.S. 449 (1958)—privacy of NAACP membership lists, and free association of members
  • Cooper v. Aaron
    Cooper v. Aaron
    Cooper v. Aaron, 358 U.S. 1 , was a landmark decision of the Supreme Court of the United States, which held that the states were bound by the Court's decisions, and could not choose to ignore them.-Background of the case:...

    , 358 U.S. 1 (1958) – Federal court enforcement of desegregation
  • Boynton v. Virginia
    Boynton v. Virginia
    Boynton v. Virginia, 364 U.S. 454 was a decision by the Supreme Court of the United States. The case overturned a judgment convicting an African American law student for trespassing by being in a restaurant in a bus terminal which was "whites only." It held that racial segregation in public...

    , 364 U.S. 454 (1960) — outlawed racial segregation in public transportation
  • Heart of Atlanta Motel v. United States
    Heart of Atlanta Motel v. United States
    Heart of Atlanta Motel Inc. v. United States, 379 U.S. 241 , was a landmark United States Supreme Court case holding that the U.S. Congress could use the Constitution's Commerce Clause power to force private businesses to abide by the Civil Rights Act of 1964.- Background :This important case...

    , 379 U.S. 241 (1964)—held constitutional the Civil Rights Act of 1964
    Civil Rights Act of 1964
    The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was a landmark piece of legislation in the United States that outlawed major forms of discrimination against African Americans and women, including racial segregation...

    , which banned racial discrimination in public places, particularly in public accommodations even in private property.
  • Loving v. Virginia
    Loving v. Virginia
    Loving v. Virginia, , was a landmark civil rights case in which the United States Supreme Court, in a unanimous decision, declared Virginia's anti-miscegenation statute, the "Racial Integrity Act of 1924", unconstitutional, thereby overturning Pace v...

    , 388 U.S. 1 (1967) — banned anti-miscegenation laws
    Anti-miscegenation laws
    Anti-miscegenation laws, also known as miscegenation laws, were laws that enforced racial segregation at the level of marriage and intimate relationships by criminalizing interracial marriage and sometimes also sex between members of different races...

     (race-based restrictions on marriage).
  • Alexander v. Holmes County Board of Education, 396 U.S. 1218 (1969) – changed Browns requirement of desegregation "with all deliberate speed" to one of "desegregation now"
  • Swann v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education
    Swann v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education
    Swann v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education, 402 U.S. 1 was an important United States Supreme Court case dealing with the busing of students to promote integration in public schools...

    , 402 U.S. 1 (1971) — established bussing as a solution
  • Guey Heung Lee v. Johnson
    Guey Heung Lee v. Johnson
    Guey Heung Lee v. Johnson, , was a case decided by the Supreme Court of the United States regarding the desegregation of schools in San Francisco....

    , 404 U.S 1215 (1971) – "Brown v. Board of Education was not written for blacks alone", desegregation of Asian schools in opposition to parents of Asian students
  • Milliken v. Bradley
    Milliken v. Bradley
    Milliken v. Bradley, 418 U.S. 717 , was a significant United States Supreme Court case dealing with the planned desegregation busing of public school students across district lines among 53 school districts in metropolitan Detroit. It concerned the plans to integrate public schools in the United...

    , 418 U.S. 717 (1974) — rejected bussing across school district lines.
  • Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School District No. 1
    Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School District No. 1
    Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School District No. 1, 551 U.S. 701 , decided together with Meredith v. Jefferson County Board of Education, is a decision of the U.S...

    , 551 U.S. 701, 127 S. Ct. 2738 (2007)—rejected using race as the sole determining factor for assigning students to schools.
  • List of United States Supreme Court Cases


* See Case citation
Case citation
Case citation is the system used in many countries to identify the decisions in past court cases, either in special series of books called reporters or law reports, or in a 'neutral' form which will identify a decision wherever it was reported...

for an explanation of these numbers.

Common misconceptions

  • The most common misconception about Brown v. Board of Education is that the case is solely about Linda Brown and whether she should or should not be able to attend the school nearest her home. In fact, Brown was a consolidation of five different cases, from four states, all of which dealt with the same issue. (A similar case from the District of Columbia was handled separately.) Linda Brown was merely the "poster child," as it were, for some 200 plaintiffs altogether. A dozen attorneys and countless community activists were involved in effort to eliminate "de jure" racial segregation in the public schools.
  • The second most common misconception is that the case talks about the hardship that affected Linda Brown because she was not able to attend her local school, because it was for white children only. In fact, the case discusses the hardships collectively faced by all of the children concerned. It also focuses a lot of attention on the psychological well-being of the children in reference to the segregation of schools.
  • It is sometimes thought that Oliver Brown was the named plaintiff in the consolidated cases because he was alphabetically first in the list. In fact Darlene Brown, another plaintiff, (no relation to Oliver Brown) would have been the named plaintiff if that had actually been the case.
  • It is also frequently thought that Brown was the first legal challenge to racially segregated schools in the United States. In fact, it was the eleventh case to challenge the 1879 Kansas law, and the third case from Topeka.

External links