ryan b asked in Arts & HumanitiesHistory · 1 decade ago

What is Brown v. Board of Education?

4 Answers

  • 1 decade ago
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    Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas is the name of a case which resulted in a sweeping decision by the United States Supreme Court in 1954.

    Ever since public education became a significant development in the United States, schools had been subject to rigid segregation. Initially, this was based on race and sex, but over time, women (girls) were allowed to attend school on terms roughly equal to the terms on which boys attended.

    In many parts of the country, however, non-whites were either refused any education or relegated to inferior schools. This was especially true in the states of the former Confederacy, where racial segregation was imposed through many means, making second-class citizenship for blacks a simple fact of life. This segregation extended all the way from elementary schools through graduate level college programs and professional schools such as law schools.

    Beginning in the late 1920s, under the leadership of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, lawyers began planning and implementing a grand strategy for attacking school segregation. Imposing a discipline of a military campaign, NAACP lawyers canvassed the nation for appropriate test cases, in which the facts were especially outlandish and the test plaintiffs chosen with rigorous care so that they wold do nothing that might embarrass or undercut their own positions. They began with law schools, insisting that programs that sent non-white students out of state rather than allow them to attend school in state ere inadequate. To do this, the NAACP enlisted the cooperation of many of the top deans and law professors in the nation to serve as expert witnesses. most of whom did so without fee.

    The key line of reasoning in these cases was an attack on the 1896 case of Plessy v. Ferguson, in which the Supreme Court had ruled that states could require that blacks and whites have separate facilities, so long as these facilities were "equal." In case after case, the NAACP was able to show by overwhelming evidence that various policies of separation meant that blacks were not given the same opportunities as those who attended the white schools.

    Finally, beginning in 1951 and 1952, the NAACP filed a number of cases challenging state and local laws requiring blacks to attend segregated schools. Foremost of these cases was from South Carolina, Briggs v. Elliot, originating in the Orangeburg School District. In each of these cases, the NAACP work meticulously to create a judicial record which established an overwhelming factual basis for claiming that separate was inherently unequal.

    Another of the cases, brought in Topeka, Kansas, pressed specifically against the separation issue. The NAACP did not claim that the black school in Topeka was grossly inferior to the white school. Indeed, the Topeka Board of Education had done an admirable job of seeing that the schools were substantially equal in virtually every regard. Nevertheless, blacks could not attend the white school. There was no law preventing whites from attending the black school, but social custom was if anything more rigid than law. No white ever attempted to enroll in a black school.

    In the fall of 1952, the Supreme Court agreed to hear a group of cases. In the Supreme Court, the NAACP hoped to make Briggs v. Elliot the named case when the various cases were consolidated. The Court, however, listed Brown as the lead case, giving the case its name. Because the Supreme Court is extremely secretive about such matters, there are only legends to explain why Brown was named as the lead case.

    Oral arguments were heard in December, 1952. The black students were represented by Thurgood Marshall, who would eventually be named to the U.S. Supreme Court. The school districts had decided to have a single lawyer present their case, choosing the great John W. Davis, one of the most powerful and influential lawyers in the nation.

    After the oral argument, the Supreme Court continued to wrestle with the issues in the case throughout the summer, something almost extraordinary. By custom, the Supreme Court always rendered its decisions on the cases it had heard by the time the Court reconvened in October after its summer recess. By September, no decision had been announced. Tidbits of information issued later suggested that the nine justice were hopelessly divided and deadlocked over this case, one which they knew would be one of the most important of the twentieth century. Apparently, several of the justices feared that the Court could not produce anything that approached consensus.


    Then, in September 1953, Chief Justice Fred Vinson died suddenly of a heart attack. One of his severest critics on the Court, Justice Felix Frankfurter, spent several days muttering such things as "an act of providence" over Vinson's desk, and reported;y claim that for the first time in his life, he was convinced that there w

  • 1 decade ago

    It was the supreme court case that overturned segregation. It overturned the previous Supreme Court case of Plessy V. Furgeson (the case that made segregation legal). The lawyer representing Brown against the Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas was Thurgood Marshall - who would eventually use the fame from this win to become the first African American Supreme Court Justice.

  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    It's a supreme court case that took place in 1954. Essentially, it states that having separate schools for black and white children could not be equal in educational quality.

  • El
    Lv 6
    1 decade ago

    Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, 347 U.S. 483 (1954),[1] was a landmark decision of the United States Supreme Court, which overturned earlier rulings going back to Plessy v. Ferguson in 1896, by declaring that state laws that established separate public schools for black and white students denied black children equal educational opportunities. Handed down on May 17, 1954, the Warren Court's unanimous (9-0) decision stated that "separate educational facilities are inherently unequal." As a result, de jure racial segregation was ruled a violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution. This victory paved the way for integration and the civil rights movement.[2]

    Brown v. Board of EducationIn 1951, a class action suit was filed against the Board of Education of the City of Topeka, Kansas in the U.S. District Court for the District of Kansas. The plaintiffs were thirteen Topeka parents on behalf of their twenty children.[5]

    The suit called for the school district to reverse its policy of racial segregation. Separate elementary schools were operated by the Topeka Board of Education under an 1879 Kansas law, which permitted (but did not require) districts to maintain separate elementary school facilities for black and white students in twelve communities with populations over 15,000. The plaintiffs had been recruited by the leadership of the Topeka NAACP. Notable among the Topeka NAACP leaders were the chairman McKinley Burnett; Charles Scott, one of three serving as legal counsel for the chapter; and Lucinda Todd.

    The named plaintiff, Oliver L. Brown was a parent, a welder in the shops of the Santa Fe Railroad, an assistant pastor at his local church, and an African American.[6] Brown had initially contacted Topeka attorney William Everett Glenn, Sr. about his concerns regarding "separate but equal" policies of Topeka schools. Attorney Glenn referred him to the local Topeka NAACP chapter. He was convinced to join the lawsuit by Scott, a childhood friend. Brown's daughter Linda, a third grader, had to walk twenty one blocks to her school bus stop to ride to Monroe Elementary, her segregated black school one mile (1.6 km) away, while Sumner Elementary, a white school, was only seven blocks from her house.

    As directed by the NAACP leadership, the parents each attempted to enroll their children in the closest neighborhood school in the fall of 1951. They were each refused enrollment and directed to the segregated schools. Linda Brown Thompson later recalled the experience in a 2004 PBS documentary:

    . . . well. like I say, we lived in an integrated neighborhood and I had all of these playmates of different nationalities. And so when I found out that day that I might be able to go to their school, I was just thrilled, you know. And I remember walking over to Sumner school with my dad that day and going up the steps of the school and the school looked so big to a smaller child. And I remember going inside and my dad spoke with someone and then he went into the inner office with the principal and they left me out . . . to sit outside with the secretary. And while he was in the inner office, I could hear voices and hear his voice raised, you know, as the conversation went on. And then he immediately came out of the office, took me by the hand and we walked home from the school. I just couldn't understand what was happening because I was so sure that I was going to go to school with Mona and Guinevere, Wanda, and all of my playmates.[7]

    The Kansas case, "Oliver Brown et al v. The Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas," was named after Oliver Brown as a legal strategy to have a man at the head of the roster. Also, it was felt by lawyers with the National Chapter of the NAACP, that having Mr. Brown at the head of the roster would be better received by the U.S. Supreme Court Justices because Mr.Brown had an intact, complete family, as opposed to someone who was a single parent head of household. The thirteen plaintiffs were: Oliver Brown, Darlene Brown, Lena Carper, Sadie Emmanuel, Marguerite Emerson, Shirley Fleming, Zelma Henderson, Shirley Hodison, Maude Lawton, Alma Lewis, Iona Richardson, and Lucinda Todd.[8][9] The last surviving plaintiff, Zelma Henderson, died in Topeka, on May 20, 2008, at the age of 88.[10][11]

    The District Court ruled in favor of the Board of Education, citing the U.S. Supreme Court precedent set in Plessy v. Ferguson, 163 U.S. 537 (1896), which had upheld a state law requiring "separate but equal" segregated facilities for blacks and whites in railway cars.[12] The three-judge District Court found that segregation in public education has a detrimental effect upon ***** children, but denied relief on the ground that the ***** and white schools in Topeka were substantially equal with respect to buildings, transportation, curricular, and educational qualifications of teachers.[13]

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