Brown v. Board of Education

(Topeka, Kansas)

347 U.S. 483 (1954)

    Facts: Linda Brown was denied admission to her local elementary school in Topeka because she was black. Eventually four black children sought the aid of the courts to be admitted to the all ­white public schools in their community after having been denied admission under laws which permitted racial segregation. The youths stated that these laws deprived them of the equal protection of the law under the Fourteenth Amendment, even though their all­ black schools were equal to the all white schools with respect to buildings, curricula, qualifications and salaries of teachers, and other tangible factors.

    Issue : Are separate but equal schools constitutional?

    Decision: The Supreme Court unanimously overruled the separate but equal doctrine of Plessy vs. Ferguson, holding for the first time that de jure segregation in the public schools violated the principle of equal protection under the law guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution reasoning that separate but equal is inherently unequal and is therefore unconstitutional. They based their decision on the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Thurgood Marshall (at the time a lawyer for the NAACP urged..... ...(the) badge of inferiority stamped on minority children by segregation hindered their full development no matter how equal physical facilities might be. (dejure segregation).

    Significance: In 1955 the Court declared that schools must be desegregated with all deliberate speed....even if the facilities were physically equal, the children of the minority group were still receiving an inferior education. Separate educational facilities were held to be inherently unequal.

This heralded the beginning the desegregation process. Restricted in application to de jure segregation, the Brown rule was applied mainly to Southern school systems. School administrators had to take immediate action toward desegregation under the supervision of the lower courts. This ruling stimulated the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950's and 1960's speeding up integration of public accommodations and facilities. De facto segregation of schools caused by residential housing patterns (white flight)and a variety other conditions rather than by law, has been approached with limited success by the busing of students.(Swann v. Charlotte ­Mecklenburg County Board of Education) This landmark decision is commemorated by the Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site in Topeka, Kansas.


Corkill, Phillip. The Law and American Education. Tucson, Arizona. 1991 (Lecture presented at the Flowing Wells School District Administrative Office).

Important Landmark Cases in Educational Law