Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka

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Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka
Court U.S. Supreme Court
Citation 347 U.S. 483 (1954)
Date decided May 17, 1954
Appealed from U.S.D.C., District of Kansas
Overturned Berea College v. Kentucky
Cumming v. Richmond County Board of Education
Partially overturned Plessy v. Ferguson
Cited Sweatt v. Painter
Case Opinions
unanimous written by Earl Warren

Facts:This case was the consolidation of cases arising in Kansas, South Carolina, Virginia, Delaware, and Washington D.C. relating to the segregation of public schools on the basis of race. In each of the cases, African American students had been denied admittance to certain public schools based on laws allowing public education to be segregated by race. They argued that such segregation violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The plaintiffs were denied relief in the lower courts based on Plessy v. Ferguson, which held that racially segregated public facilities were legal so long as the facilities for blacks and whites were equal. (This was known as the “separate but equal” doctrine.)


Issue: Does the segregation of public education based solely on race violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment?


Holding: Yes.


Rationale: Separate but equal educational facilities for racial minorities is inherently unequal, violating the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.


"In approaching this problem, we cannot turn the clock back to 1868, when the Amendment was adopted, or even to 1896, when Plessy v. Ferguson was written. We must consider public education in the light of its full development and its present place in American life throughout the Nation. Only in this way can it be determined if segregation in public schools deprives these plaintiffs of the equal protection of the laws.
"Today, education is perhaps the most important function of state and local governments."