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Brown v. Bd. of Educ.

Supreme Court of the United States

December 9, 1952, Argued ; May 17, 1954, Decided

No. 1

Case Summary

Procedural Posture

Plaintiff African-American minors challenged the judgment of the United States District Court for the District of Kansas that, although it held that segregation in public education had a detrimental effect upon African-American children, denied relief on the ground that the schools were substantially equal with respect to buildings, transportation, curricula, and educational qualifications of teachers.

Overview

By consolidated opinion, the Court reviewed four state cases in which African-American minors sought admission to the public schools of their community on a non-segregated basis. In each instance, they had been denied admission to schools attended by Caucasian children under laws requiring or permitting segregation according to race. This segregation was alleged to deprive the minors of the equal protection of the laws under the Fourteenth Amendment. In each case, except the Delaware case, the district court denied relief to the minors on the "separate but equal" doctrine announced by the Supreme Court in Plessy v. Ferguson, 163 U.S. 537. The minors contended that the public schools were not equal and could not be made equal, thereby denying them equal protection of the law. The common legal question among the cases was whether Plessy should be held inapplicable to public education and whether segregation of children in public schools solely on the basis of race, even though the physical facilities and other tangible factors were equal, deprived the children of the minority group of equal educational opportunities. The Court held in the affirmative as to both.

Outcome

The Court overturned Plessy v. Ferguson and the "separate but equal" doctrine, finding that it had no place in public education. Segregation was a denial of the equal protection of the laws under the Fourteenth Amendment. Separate educational facilities were inherently unequal.

LexisNexis® Headnotes

 

 

Constitutional Law > Equal Protection > National Origin & Race

HN1  Equal Protection, National Origin & Race

Segregation of children in public schools solely on the basis of race, even though the physical facilities and other tangible factors may be equal, deprives the children of the minority group of equal educational opportunities.

 

Constitutional Law > Equal Protection > National Origin & Race

HN2  Equal Protection, National Origin & Race

A segregated law school for African-Americans cannot provide them equal educational opportunities because of those qualities that are incapable of objective measurement but which make for greatness in a law school.

 

Constitutional Law > Equal Protection > National Origin & Race

HN3  Equal Protection, National Origin & Race

In requiring that an African-American admitted to a white graduate school be treated like all other students, the Supreme Court resorts to intangible considerations: his ability to study, to engage in discussions and exchange views with other students, and, in general, to learn his profession. Such considerations apply with added force to children in grade and high schools. To separate them from others of similar age and qualifications solely because of their race generates a feeling of inferiority as to their status in the community that may affect their hearts and minds in a way unlikely ever to be undone.

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347 U.S. 483 ; 74 S. Ct. 686 ; 98 L. Ed. 873 ; 1954 U.S. LEXIS 2094 ; 38 A.L.R.2d 1180; 53 Ohio Op. 326

BROWN ET AL. v. BOARD OF EDUCATION OF TOPEKA ET AL.

Subsequent History:  [1]  Reargued December 8, 1953.

Prior History: APPEAL FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF KANSAS.

Disposition: The Court overturned Plessy v. Ferguson and the "separate but equal" doctrine, finding that it had no place in public education. Segregation was a denial of the equal protection of the laws under the Fourteenth Amendment. Separate educational facilities were inherently unequal.