Brown v. Board of Education

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Easily one of the Supreme Court's most famous and significant cases, Brown v. Board of Education was a unanimous decision in which the justices said that separate schools for black students and white students were inherently unequal and therefore unconstitutional. A year later, in a case known as Brown II, the Court ordered the states to integrate their schools "with all deliberate speed." Resistance to the decision was often strong and violentand futile. The Brown cases began a tumultuous period in the nation's history during which the federal government forcibly desegregated public school systems.

Brown dealt only with public schools, the underpinning legal rationale would later be applied too all sorts of public accommodationsultimately ending official segregation in public life.


 Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka


347 U.S. 483 (1954)



Segregation of white and Negro children in the public schools of a State solely on the basis of race, pursuant to state laws permitting or requiring such segregation, denies to Negro children the equal protection of the laws guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment -- even though the physical facilities and other "tangible" factors of white and Negro schools may be equal. Pp. 347 U. S. 486-496.

(a) The history of the Fourteenth Amendment is inconclusive as to its intended effect on public education. Pp. 347 U. S. 489-490.

(b) The question presented in these cases must be determined not on the basis of conditions existing when the Fourteenth Amendment was adopted, but in the light of the full development of public education and its present place in American life throughout the Nation. Pp. 347 U. S. 492-493.

(c) Where a State has undertaken to provide an opportunity for an education in its public schools, such an opportunity is a right which must be made available to all on equal terms. P. 347 U. S. 493.

(d) Segregation of children in public schools solely on the basis of race deprives children of the minority group of equal educational opportunities, even though the physical facilities and other "tangible" factors may be equal. Pp. 347 U. S. 493-494.

(e) The "separate but equal" doctrine adopted in Plessy v. Ferguson, 163 U. S. 537, has no place in the field of public education. P. 347 U. S. 495.

(f) The cases are restored to the docket for further argument on specified questions relating to the forms of the decrees. Pp. 347 U. S. 495-496.

To read the full opinion in Brown v. Board of Education, go to Nolos US Supreme Court Center.

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