Brown vs Board of Education

Overview:  Brown Vs. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansa

On  May 17, 1954 , the United States Supreme Court announced its decision that “separate educational facilities are inherently unequal.” The decision effectively eliminated the legal basis for segregation in  Kansas and 20 other states with segregated classrooms and would forever change race relations in the United States.


In the Midwest town of Topeka, Kansas, a nine year old girl named Linda Brown had to ride the bus five miles to school each day although a public school was located only four blocks from her house. The school wasn’t full and the little girl met all of the requirements to attend — all but one that is. Linda Brown was black.  Blacks were not allowed to attend schools with white children.

“Jim Crow” school in the South.

The Supreme Court decision Plessy v. Ferguson marks the law in the pages of American history. In this landmark decision of 1896, the court found that the doctrine of “separate but equal” concerning segregation of public facilities did not violate the constitution. Separate schools for whites and blacks became a basic rule in southern society, legitimated in this doctrine that legalized segregation.

Prince Edward County, Virginia:

One of the five cases of the U. S. Supreme Court 1954 Brown v. Board  was Dorothy E. Davis, et al v. School Board of Prince Edward County, Virginia.  Dorothy E. Davis was a fifteen year old ninth grader and a daughter of a farmer who wanted the best for his child.

The 1951 student strike at Moton High School “set in motion events that forever changed the landscape of American education, and arguably marked the start of the modern civil rights movement.”- Don Baker, *The Washington Post Magazine*, Mar. 4, 2001, p. 10.

The Case:

It was not until 1954 that the doctrine of “separate but equal” was successfully challenged. In an attempt to gain equal education opportunities for their children that were not provided under the Plessy v. Ferguson decision, African-American community leaders took action against segregation in America’s schools. Aided by the local chapter of the NAACP, a group of thirteen parents filed a class action suit against the Board of Education of Topeka Schools.

Governor of Alabama George Wallace, one of the chief spokesmen for school segregation: “I draw the line in the dust and toss the gauntlet before the feet of tyranny and I say segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever.”(Inaugural address, Jan. 14, 1963)

pict1On May 17, 1954, the Supreme Court ruled in a unanimous decision that the “separate but equal” clause was unconstitutional because it violated the children’s 14th amendment rights by separating them solely on the classification of the color of their skin. Chief Justice Warren delivered the court’s opinion, stating that “segregated schools are not equal and cannot be made equal, and hence they are deprived of the equal protection of the laws.”