The Rise and Fall of Jim Crow A Century of Segregation
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Brown V. Board of Education (1954)
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On May 17, 1954, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously that racial segregation in public schools violated the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution, which says that no state may deny equal protection of the laws to any person within its jurisdiction. The 1954 decision declared that separate educational facilities were inherently unequal. Following a series of Supreme Court cases argued between 1938 and 1950 that chipped away at legalized segregation, Brown v. Board of Education of We conclude that , in the field of public education, the doctrine of 'seperate but equal' has no place. Seperate educational facilities are inherently unequal." Topeka reversed an earlier Supreme Court ruling (Plessy v. Ferguson, 1896) that permitted "separate but equal" public facilities. The 1954 decision was limited to the public schools, but it was believed to imply that segregation was not permissible in other public facilities. The key phrase in the ruling delivered by Chief Justice Earl Warren was as follows:

"Segregation of white and colored children in public schools has a detrimental effect upon the colored children. The impact is greater when it has the sanction of the law, for the policy of separating the races is usually interpreted as denoting the inferiority of the Negro group. A sense of inferiority affects the motivation of a child to learn. Segregation with the sanction of law, therefore, has a tendency to [retard] the educational and mental development of Negro children and to deprive them of some of the benefits they would receive in a racially integrated school system. ... We conclude that, in the field of public education, the doctrine of "separate but equal" has no place. Separate educational facilities are inherently unequal."

Brown v. Board received its name from the lawsuit brought by the parents of eight-year-old Linda Brown, who had to travel a great distance to attend grade school while white children went to a school a few blocks away. The NAACP brought suit on behalf of her parents to admit her to her neighborhood school. The Brown case was one of a total of five cases charging that segregation
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students on the Brown v. Board of Education decision.

in education was a violation of the equal protection of the laws clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. They included Briggs v. Elliot at al. (South Carolina) Davis at al. V. County School Board of Prince Edward County (Virginia); Gebhart et al. V. Benton (Delaware), and Bolling v. Sharpe (District of Columbia). Four of the cases were brought by the National Association For the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and were argued before the Supreme Court by Thurgood Marshall. Marshall would later become the first black justice on the Supreme Court.

-- Richard Wormser

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Did you Know ...

Officials in Prince Edward County, Virginia, closed the public schools after the Brown v. Board of Education ruling.
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Plessy v. Ferguson
14th Amendment
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