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Wikipage—Supreme Court Case
Brown v. Board of Education
Background: This case is one of many in the 1950s that concerns segregation in schools. The
name of this particular case is actually the name given to five consolidated court cases by the
Supreme Court that concerned the constitutionality of state-sponsored desegregation in public
schools. The cases included are from Kansas, South Carolina, Virginia, and Delaware: Brown v.
Board of Education of Topeka, Briggs v. Elliot, Davis v. Board of Education of Prince Edward
County, Boiling v. Sharpe, and Gebhart v. Ethel. Thurgood Marshall, the National Association
for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), and the Education Fund handled these five
cases, among others concerning the civil rights of African Americans and minorities in America.
Each of these cases, though with different background stories, all had the same general
argument. Numerous black children and their lawyers or legal representatives were fighting for
admission to schools that enforced segregation based on race. The plaintiffs were collectively
represented by Thurgood Marshall. Marshall argued that the concept of school systems
separating students based on race, color, or creed are “inherently unequal” and unconstitutional
under the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.
These cases were initially heard in the Supreme Court in 1952. The Supreme Court
justices had a split in opinions, thus the case was left unresolved in June 1953 when the court
failed to make a decision before the end of its term. The case was set to be reheard in December
of that same year. Before then, Chief Justice Fred Vinson died and was replace by Governor Earl
Warren from California. After rehearing the case, Chief Justice Warren brought all the Justices
together and delivered an unanimous decision in favor of the plaintiffs, unlike the lack of
decision which his predecessor operated in. He delivered the Court’s opinion on May 14, 1954.
Plaintiff: Young black students of KS, SC, VA, and DE, seeking admission to segregated public
schools that did not permit them based on their race. They argued that separating students based
on race did not allow students to learn as equals, denouncing the “separate but equal” doctrine in
school systems.
Defendant: School systems and educational boards from those respective states from which the
plaintiffs hailed denied the unconstitutionality of segregation, arguing that the “separate but
equal” doctrine held true.
Majority Decision: Delivered on May 14th, 1954, Chief Justice Earl Warren gave the unanimous
opinion of the Supreme Court, stating that “in the field of public education the doctrine of
‘separate but equal’ has no place. Separate educational facilities are inherently unequal.” The
separation of black children from other children based entirely on their race induces a sense of
inferiority relative to their community in those children that ultimately affects their hearts and
minds irreparably, and can affect their motivation to learn. Protecting segregation in schools with
the law can infringe on the development of black children mentally and educationally, thus
Wikipage—Supreme Court Case
depriving those children of the same opportunities afforded to them in a desegregated public
school setting.
Dissenting Decision: None
Precedent set: All public schools were then forced to desegregate their public schools, though
the Supreme Court did not immediately try to give direction in order to implement their ruling
after releasing the court decision. It instead asked all state attorney generals to submit plans in
order to facilitate and begin desegregating their public schools.
Part of Bill of Rights affected by this case: This case affected the 14th Amendment of the
Constitution, which states that no state can make a law that takes civil liberties or rights away
from an American citizen. In this case, the defense argued that the privileges of white children
should not be infringed upon by forcing them to go to school with black children. However,
Chief Justice Warren decided against them on the grounds that the basis for the creation of the
14th Amendment were not the same at the time of its implementation, and that the Constitution
must be looked at in its entirety in light of the role of public education in America currently. That
called for the decision to be made in favor of the five plaintiffs.
Works Cited
"Brown v. Board of Education: Case Brief Summary." Virginia College. Web. 03 May
2012. <>.
"History of Brown v. Board of Education." United States Courts. Administrative Office of the US
Courts. Web. 03 May 2012.
"The Constitution of the United States: Amendments 11-27." The Constitution of the United States:
Amendments 11-27. National Archives and Records Administration. Web. 8 May 2012.