Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka was a landmark Supreme Court Case in 1954. The Supreme Court justices ruled unanimously that racial segregation in public schools was not constitutional. This case brought down the earlier pattern of separate but equal and showed that the segregated facilities were not equal at all. During this court case there was a lot of disagreement on the topic, the people believed in racism being okay and they didn’t believe that what they were doing was wrong.
The United States Constitution guarantees all citizens liberty and equal opportunity. In history, these rights have not always been supplied. The education in America is a very big example of this equality being sparse.
In early American history, the education system has always separated schools for children based on their race. The schools for African American children were low-quality facilities, half the time the equipment that the African American students received barely worked. They had out-of-date text books and not enough supplies for all the students that were attending the school. While on the other hand, the all-white schools were kept clean, maintained, and all of the supplies needed was available.
In 1951, a class action law suit was filed against the Board of Education of the City of Topeka, Kansas. The plaintiffs consisted of thirteen parents in Topeka with their twenty children. This suit called for the school district to reverse the policy of racial segregation. The Topeka Board of Education operated separate schools under a Kansas law which allowed districts to maintain separate elementary school facilities for black and white students. The plaintiffs were recruited by the Topeka NAACP.
Oliver L. Brown was an African American and the father of Linda Carol Brown. Linda was a third grader and had to walk six blocks to her bus stop to ride to Monroe Elementary. This was a segregated black school that was one mile away. However, an all-white school, Sumner Elementary was seven blocks from her house. He attempted to enroll his daughter into the all-white neighborhood school in the fall of 1951. The schools refused enrollment because of the child’s race. In his law suit, Oliver Brown declared that schools for black children were not equal to the schools for white children. His argument was strong because if you would compare an all-white school to the African Americans school you can clearly see the difference in the quality. He said that segregation violated the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment. This amendment presents the law that says no state can deny any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.
The District Court ruled in favor for the Board of Education. They cited the U.S Supreme Court precedent in the case Plessy v. Ferguson. This case upheld a state law that required separate but equal segregated facilities for blacks and whites in train cars. The District Court panel found that segregation in public education has a big impact on African American children. However, the court denied any change saying that the black and white schools are practically equal due to their transportation, buildings, curricula, and the qualifications of their teachers.
The Supreme Court first heard arguments for the case in December of 1952. There was controversy and resistance from southern states, so no decision was reached. During recess of the case, Chief Justice Vinson died due to a heart attack. This led to the president appointing Chief Justice Warren to the court. In December of 1953, the court heard the case another time and then again on May 17, 1954. This led to a unanimous rule stating that segregation was unconstitutional. The court ruled that separate is not equal and segregation violated the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment.
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