The Supreme Court"s opinion in the Brown v. Board of Education case of 1954 legally ended decades of racial segregation in America"s public institutions. Chief Justice Earl Warren ceded the unanimous judgment in the landmark civil civil liberties situation. State-sanctioned segregation of public institutions was a violation of the 14th Amendment and was therefore unconstitutional. This historic decision marked the end of the "sepaprice yet equal" precedent set by the Supreme Court nearly 60 years previously and served as a catalyst for the expanding civil civil liberties motion. Read even more...

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English class at Moton High School, a institution for Babsence students, one of a number of photographs entered as evidence in the case Davis v. County School Board of Prince Edward County, Virginia, which was one of five situations that the Supreme Court consolidated under Brown v. Board of Education,ca. 1951

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Order of Argument in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka in the time of which attorneys resaid the five cases that the Supreme Court heard jointly and consolidated under the name Brown v. Board of Education, 12/1953

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Judgment of May 31, 1955, in Brown v. Board of Education (Brown II) – a year after the ruling that racial segregation in public institutions was unconstitutional – directing that colleges be desegregated "with all delibeprice speed"

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The "Rights in America" web page on DocsTeach has primary sources and document-based teaching tasks related to exactly how people and groups have actually asserted their legal rights as Americans. It contains topics such as segregation, racism, citizenship, women"s independence, immigration, and more.

Further Background Information

While the 13th Amendment to the United States Constitution outlawed slaextremely, it wasn"t until 3 years later, in 1868, that the 14th Amendment guaranteed the legal rights of citizenship to all persons born or naturalized in the USA, including due process and also equal defense of the regulations. These two amendments, as well as the 15th Amendment protecting voting civil liberties, were intfinished to remove the last remnants of slaextremely and also to protect the citizenship of Babsence Americans.

In 1875, Congress additionally passed the first Civil Rights Act, which held the "ehigh quality of all men prior to the law" and dubbed for fines and also penalties for anyone found denying patronage of public locations, such as theaters and inns, on the basis of race. However, a reactionary Supreme Court reasoned that this act was past the scope of the 13th and 14th Amendments, as these amendments just came to the actions of the federal government, not those of personal citizens. With this judgment, the Supreme Court narrowed the field of regulation that can be sustained by the Constitution and also at the exact same time turned the tide against the civil rights activity.

By the late 1800s, segregation regulations ended up being nearly universal in the South where previous law and also amendments were, for all helpful objectives, ignored. The races were separated in colleges, in restaurants, in restrooms, on public transport, and also also in voting and holding office.

Plessy v. Ferguson

In 1896, the Supreme Court uphosted the lower courts" decision in the case of Plessy v. Ferguson. Homer Plessy, a Black man from Louisiana, challenged the constitutionality of segregated railroad coaches, first in the state courts and also then in the U. S. Supreme Court.

The high court uporganized the lower courts, noting that because the sepaprice cars offered equal services, the equal security clause of the 1fourth Amendment was not violated. Hence, the "sepaprice however equal" doctrine ended up being the constitutional basis for segregation. One dissenter on the Court, Justice John Marshall Harlan, declared the Constitution "color blind" and accurately predicted that this decision would become as baneful as the inrenowned Dred Scott decision of 1857.


In 1909 the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) was officially developed to champion the modern Civil Rights Movement. In its at an early stage years its primary purposes were to eliminate lynching and to achieve fair trials for Babsence Americans. By the 1930s, but, the activities of the NAACP started concentrating on the finish integration of American society. One of their tactics was to force admission of Black Americans right into universities at the graduate level wbelow establishing separate but equal facilities would certainly be hard and expensive for the claims.

At the forefront of this movement was Thurgreat Marshall, a young Babsence lawyer who, in 1938, became basic counsel for the NAACP"s Legal Defense and also Education Fund. Monumental victories at this level included Gaines v. University of Missouri in 1938, Sipuel v. Board of Regents of University of Oklahoma in 1948, and Sweatt v. Painter in 1950. In each of these situations, the goal of the NAACP defense team was to assault the "equal" typical so that the "separate" typical would subsequently come to be susceptible.

Five Cases Consolidated under Brvery own v. Board of Education

By the 1950s, the NAACP was beginning to support obstacles to segregation at the elementary school level. Five separate situations were filed in Kansas, South Carolina, Virginia, the District of Columbia, and Delaware:

Oliver Brown et al. v. Board of Education of Topeka, Shawnee County, Kansas, et al. Harry Briggs, Jr., et al. v. R.W. Elliott, et al. Dorothy E. Davis et al. v. County School Board of Prince Edward County, Virginia, et al. Spottshardwood Thomas Bolling et al. v. C. Melvin Sharpe et al. Francis B. Gebhart et al. v. Ethel Louise Belton et al.

While each case had its distinct elements, all were carried on the befifty percent of elementary institution children, and all affiliated Black schools that were inferior to white institutions. Many importantly, quite than just complex the inferiority of the separate schools, each situation asserted that the "sepaprice however equal" judgment violated the equal security clause of the 14th Amendment.

The lower courts ruled versus the plaintiffs in each case, noting the Plessy v. Ferguchild judgment of the United States Supreme Court as precedent. In the case of Brvery own v. Board of Education, the Federal district court even cited the injurious effects of segregation on Babsence youngsters, however organized that "sepaprice but equal" was still not a violation of the Constitution. It was clear to those associated that the just effective path to terminating segregation in public schools was going to be with the USA Supreme Court.

In 1952 the Supreme Court agreed to hear all five instances jointly. This grouping was significant because it stood for college segregation as a nationwide worry, not just a southerly one. Thurexcellent Marshall, among the lead attorneys for the plaintiffs (he said the Briggs case), and also his fellow lawyers offered testimony from more than 30 social researchers affirming the deleterious effects of segregation on Babsence and white youngsters. These disagreements were similar to those alluded to in the Dissenting Opinion of Judge Waites Waring in Harry Briggs, Jr., et al. v. R. W. Elliott, Chairmale, et al. (shown above).

These testified regarding their study and researches and their actual tests with children of varying ages and they confirmed that the humiliation and disgrace of being set aside and segregated as unfit to associate via others of different color had actually an evil and also ineradicable effect upon the psychological procedures of our young which would certainly remain via them and also dedevelop their see on life until and throughout their maturity....They showed past a doubt that the evils of segregation and also shade prejudice come from at an early stage is tough and also almost difficult to change and eradicate these early prejudices yet solid may be the appeal to reason…if segregation is wrong then the location to speak it is in the first grade and also not in graduate colleges.

The lawyers for the college boards based their defense primarily on precedent, such as the Plessy v. Ferguson judgment, and on the importance of states" legal rights in matters relating to education.

Realizing the meaning of their decision and being separated among themselves, the Supreme Court took until June 1953 to decide they would certainly rehear disagreements for all five instances.

The debates were booked for the complying with term. The Court wanted briefs from both sides that would certainly answer 5 inquiries, all having actually to carry out through the attorneys" opinions on whether or not Congress had actually segregation in public schools in mind once the 1fourth amendment was validated.

The Order of Argument (displayed above) offers a window into the three days in December of 1953 in the time of which the attorneys resuggested the situations. The record lists the names of each situation, the states from which they came, the order in which the Court heard them, the names of the attorneys for the appellants and appellees, the total time allotted for disagreements, and also the days over which the arguments took place.

Briggs v. Elliott

The first instance provided, Briggs v. Elliott, originated in Clarendon County, South Carolina, in the fevery one of 1950. Harry Briggs was among 20 plaintiffs that were charging that R.W. Elliott, as president of the Clarendon County School Board, violated their ideal to equal security under the fourteenth amendment by upholding the county"s segregated education legislation. Briggs featured social science testimony on behalf of the plaintiffs from some of the nation"s leading boy psychologists, such as Dr. Kenneth Clark, whose well known doll study concluded that segregation negatively influenced the self-esteem and also psyche of African-Amerihave the right to youngsters. Such testimony was groundbreaking because on just one other occasion in U.S. background had actually a plaintiff attempted to current such proof before the Court.

Thurgreat Marshall, the listed NAACP attorney and future Supreme Court Justice, said the Briggs situation at the District and Federal Court levels. The U.S. District Court"s three-judge panel ruled against the plaintiffs, through one judge dissenting, stating that "separate however equal" colleges were not in violation of the 1fourth amendment. In his dissenting opinion (presented above), Judge Waties Waring presented some of the debates that would later be offered by the Supreme Court in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas. The case was appeabrought about the Supreme Court.

Davis v. County School Board of Prince Edward County, Virginia

Marshall additionally argued the Davis v. County School Board of Prince Edward County, Virginia, instance at the Federal level. Originally filed in May of 1951 by plaintiff"s attorneys Spottswood Robinboy and also Oliver Hill, the Davis case, favor the others, suggested that Virginia"s segregated institutions were unconstitutional because they violated the equal defense clause of the fourteenth amendment. And choose the Briggs case, Virginia"s three-judge panel ruled against the 117 students who were determined as plaintiffs in the situation. (For even more on this case, seePhotographs from the Dorothy Davis Case.)

Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka

Listed third in the order of disagreements, Brvery own v. Board of Education of Topeka was initially filed in February of 1951 by three Topeka location lawyers, assisted by the NAACP"s Robert Carter and also Jack Greenberg. As in the Briggs instance, this situation featured social science testimony on behalf of the plaintiffs that segregation had a harmful result on the psychology of African-Amerihave the right to youngsters. While that testimony did not prevent the Topeka judges from ruling versus the plaintiffs, the evidence from this case inevitably discovered its method into the wording of the Supreme Court"s May 17, 1954 opinion. The Court concluded that:

To separate them from others of similar age and also qualifications exclusively because of their race generates a feeling of inferiority as to their condition in the community that might affect their hearts and also minds in a method unmost likely to ever before be undone.Bolling v. Sharpe

Because Washington, D.C., is a Federal territory governed by Congress and also not a state, the Bolling v. Sharpe instance was argued as a fifth amendment violation of "due process." The fourteenth amendment just mentions says, so this case can not be suggested as a violation of "equal protection," as were the other cases. When a District of Columbia parent, Gardner Bishop, uneffectively attempted to obtain 11 African-Amerihave the right to students admitted right into a recently built white junior high institution, he and the Consolidated Paleas Group filed suit versus C. Melvin Sharpe, president of the Board of Education of the District of Columbia. Charles Hamilton Houston, the NAACP"s distinct counsel, previous dean of the Howard University School of Law, and also mentor to Thurgreat Marshall, took up the Bolling case.

With Houston"s health and wellness already failing in 1950 when he filed suit, James Nabrit, Jr. reinserted Houston as the original attorney. By the time the instance got to the Supreme Court on appeal, George E.C. Hayes had actually been added as an attorney for the petitioners, beside James Nabrit, Jr. According to the Court, due to the decision in Plessy, "the plaintiffs and also others similarly situated" had actually been "deprived of the equal security of the regulations guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment," therefore, segregation of America"s public institutions was unconstitutional.

Belton v. Gebhart

The last situation listed in the order of arguments, Belton v. Gebhart, was actually 2 practically similar cases (the other being Bulah v. Gebhart), both originating in the state of Delmindful in 1952. Ethel Belton was among the parents listed as plaintiffs in the instance lugged in Claymont, while Sarah Bulah lugged suit in the tvery own of Hockessin, Delmindful. While both of these plaintiffs lugged suit bereason their African-Amerihave the right to youngsters had actually to attfinish inferior colleges, Sarah Bulah"s instance was distinct in that she was a white womale via an embraced Babsence kid, who was still subject to the segregation laws of the state. Local attorney Louis Redding, Delaware"s just African-American attorney at the time, originally suggested both cases in Delaware"s Court of Chancery. NAACP attorney Jack Greenberg assisted Redding. Belton/Bulah v. Gebhart was argued at the Federal level by Delaware"s attorney basic, H. Albert Young.

Supreme Court Rehears Arguments

Rediscussion of the Brvery own v. Board of Education situations at the Federal level took place December 7-9, 1953. Throngs of spectators lined up outside the Supreme Court by sunrise on the morning of December 7, although debates did not actually commence until one o"clock that afternoon. Spottstimber Robinson began the debate for the appellants, and Thurgreat Marshall complied with him. Virginia"s Assistant Attorney General, T. Justin Moore, followed Marshall, and also then the court recessed for the evening.

On the morning of December 8, Moore resumed his dispute, complied with by his colleague, J. Lindsay Almond, Virginia"s Attorney General. Following this discussion, Assistant USA Attorney General J. Lee Rankin, presented the U.S. government"s amicus curiae brief on behalf of the appellants, which showed its assistance for desegregation in public education. In the afternoon, Robert Carter began arguments in the Kansas situation, and Paul Wilson, Attorney General for the state of Kansas, followed him in rebuttal.

On December 9, after James Nabrit and Milton Kormale debated Bolling, and also Louis Redding, Jack Greenberg, and also Delaware"s Attorney General, H. Albert Young suggested Gebhart, the Court recessed. The attorneys, the plaintiffs, the defendants, and also the nation waited five months and eight days to get the unanimous opinion of Chief Justice Earl Warren"s court, which declared, "in the area of public education and learning, the doctrine of "separate however equal" has no place."

The Warren Court

In September 1953, President Eisenhower had appointed Earl Warren, governor of The golden state, as the brand-new Supreme Court chief justice. Eisenhower thought Warren would certainly follow a modeprice course of action toward desegregation. His feelings about the appointment are detailed in the closing paragraphs of a letter he composed to E. E. "Swede" Hazlett, a childhood friend (displayed above). On the problem of segregation, Eisenhower thought that the brand-new Warren court would certainly "be incredibly modeprice and also accord a maximum initiative to neighborhood courts."

In his brief to the Warren Court that December, Thurgreat Marshall described the sepaprice yet equal ruling as erroneous and also referred to as for an immediate reversal under the 1fourth Amendment. He suggested that it permitted the federal government to prohibit any type of state activity based upon race, including segregation in public colleges. The defense countered this interpretation pointing to a number of says that were practicing segregation at the moment they ratified the 14th Amendment. Sucount they would not have done so if they had actually believed the 1fourth Amendment applied to segregation legislations. The UNITED STATE Department of Justice also filed a brief; it was in favor of desegregation however asked for a progressive changeover.

Over the following few months, the new chief justice worked to lug the splintered Court together. He knew that clear guidelines and also gradual implementation were going to be necessary considerations, as the largest concern remaining among the justices was the racial unrest that would doubtmuch less follow their judgment.

The Supreme Court Ruling

Finally, on May 17, 1954, Chief Justice Earl Warren read the unanimous opinion: college segregation by legislation was unconstitutional (shown above). Arguments were to be heard during the following term to identify precisely exactly how the judgment would certainly be implemented.

Just over one year later, on May 31, 1955, Warren check out the Court"s unanimous decision, now described as Brvery own II (likewise shown above). It instructed claims to begin desegregation plans "with all deliberate rate." Warren employed cautious wording in order to ensure backing of the complete Court in his main judgment.

The Brvery own decision was a waterburned in Amerihave the right to legal and also civil legal rights history because it overturned the "sepaprice but equal" doctrine first articulated in the Plessy v. Fergukid decision of 1896. By overturning Plessy, the Court finished America"s 58-year-lengthy exercise of legal racial segregation and also paved the means for the integration of America"s public school devices.


Regardless of 2 unanimous decisions and careful, if not vague, wording, tbelow was substantial resistance to the Supreme Court"s ruling in Brvery own v. Board of Education. In enhancement to the evident disgranting segregationists were some constitutional scholars who felt that the decision went versus legal heritage by relying heavily on information provided by social researchers rather than precedent or establimelted law. Supporters of judicial restraint thought the Court had actually overstepped its constitutional powers by essentially writing brand-new legislation.

However, minority teams and members of the Civil Rights Movement were buoyed by the Brown decision also without certain directions for implementation. Proponents of judicial activism believed the Supreme Court had actually as necessary provided its position to adapt the basis of the Constitution to deal with new difficulties in new times. The Warren Court continued to be this course for the following 15 years, deciding cases that substantially affected not only race connections, but also the administration of criminal justice, the operation of the political procedure, and the separation of church and also state.

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Parts of this message were adapted from an post created by Mary Frances Greene, a teacher at Marie Murphy School in Wilmette, IL.

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