The Warren Court (1953–69)

Racial Discrimination

What was Brown v. Board of Education?

Brown v. Board of Education was one of the most important U.S. Supreme Court decisions. On May 17, 1954, the Court’s opinion invalidated segregated public schools as violative of the Equal Protection Clause. The decision was a consolidation of challenges to segregated public schools in the states of Kansas, Delaware, South Carolina, and Virginia. The other cases were Briggs v. Elliott (South Carolina), Davis v. County School Board of Prince Edward County (Virginia), and Gebhart v. Belton (Delaware). A group of African Americans, represented by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), mounted a challenge to the segregated school systems. They not only alleged that the schools their children attended were inferior to schools attended by white children, but they also alleged that separate schools based on race was unconstitutional on its face.

The Court ruled that segregated public schools were “inherently unequal.” The Court wrote: “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.”


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