What Did Brown v. Board of Education Overturn?

The Brown v. Board of Education decision overturned the Plessy v. Ferguson decision, which had allowed for “separate but equal” public facilities.

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The Plessy v. Ferguson Decision

In 1896, the Supreme Court case Plessy v. Ferguson established the “separate but equal” doctrine, which permitted states to segregate public facilities by race as long as the facilities for each race were equal. This case pertained to railroad cars, but the “separate but equal” doctrine was quickly extended to other public facilities, such as schools.

The “separate but equal” doctrine

In Plessy v. Ferguson, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of racial segregation under the “separate but equal” doctrine. This legal principle was first established in an 1849 case involving transportation facilities, and it was reaffirmed in a subsequent case involving public schools (Briggs v. Elliott, 1952).

The “separate but equal” doctrine remained the law of the land until it was overturned by the Brown v. Board of Education decision in 1954. This landmark case held that segregating public school children on the basis of race was a violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The Brown decision paved the way for desegregation and other measures to promote equality in education and other areas of public life.

The “equal protection” clause

The Supreme Court’s decision in Plessy v. Ferguson was issued on May 18, 1896. In a 7-to-1 decision, the Court stated that Louisiana’s racial segregation laws were constitutional. The Court reasoned that as long as the separate facilities for blacks and whites were “equal,” then segregating them did not violate the Fourteenth Amendment’s “equal protection” clause.

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The Plessy decision was effectively overturned by the Supreme Court’s decision in Brown v. Board of Education (1954). In Brown, the Court ruled that the doctrine of “separate but equal” had no place in public education. The Court held that segregated schools were inherently unequal and violated the Fourteenth Amendment’s “equal protection” clause.

The Brown v. Board of Education Decision

The Brown v. Board of Education decision was a landmark Supreme Court case that overturned the “separate but equal” doctrine that had been established by the Plessy v. Ferguson decision. The Brown v. Board of Education decision declared that segregated public schools were inherently unequal and violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The decision paved the way for desegregation of public schools and the civil rights movement.

The “equal protection” clause

The “equal protection” clause, which is part of the fourteenth amendment to the United States Constitution, provides that no state shall “deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” The Supreme Court has interpreted this clause to mean that states must provide equal protection of the laws to all persons within their jurisdiction, regardless of race.

In the case of Brown v. Board of Education, the Supreme Court held that segregated public school systems are inherently unequal and violate the equal protection clause. As a result, the Court overturned its previous decision in Plessy v. Ferguson, which had upheld the constitutionality of “separate but equal” public facilities.

The “due process” clause

The “due process” clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution protects citizens from arbitrary action by government. Under the Due Process Clause, no person may be deprived of “life, liberty, or property” without “due process of law.”

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In the landmark case of Brown v. Board of Education (1954), the Supreme Court held that racial segregation in public schools violates the Due Process Clause. The Court ruled that public schools must be desegregated “with all deliberate speed.”

The Brown decision overturned the Court’s previous ruling in Plessy v. Ferguson (1896), which had upheld state laws mandating racial segregation in public facilities such as railcars.

The Impact of Brown v. Board of Education

Brown v. Board of Education was a landmark Supreme Court case that overturned the “separate but equal” doctrine. This doctrine allowed for separate schools and other facilities for black and white students. The Court ruled that this doctrine was unconstitutional and violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. This case had a major impact on education and racial segregation in the United States.

Desegregation of public schools

The landmark 1954 case Brown v. Board of Education overturned the “separate but equal” doctrine that had justified racial segregation in public schools. The Supreme Court’s unanimous decision paved the way for integrated schools and helped bring the end to Jim Crow laws that enforced racial separation in the South.

The case began in Topeka, Kansas, where a little girl named Linda Brown had to walk more than a mile through a railroad switchyard to get to her all-black elementary school, even though a white school was only seven blocks away from her house. Linda’s father, Oliver Brown, tried unsuccessfully to enroll her in the white school. He then joined with other black families in filing a class-action lawsuit against the Topeka Board of Education, arguing that segregated schools violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

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Chief Justice Earl Warren delivered the opinion of the Court, which overturned Plessy v. Ferguson, a 1896 case that had established “separate but equal” as constitutional doctrine. The Court ruled that “separate but equal” public education was inherently unequal and therefore unconstitutional. In order to ensure compliance with its decision, the Court ordered schools in Topeka and elsewhere to desegregate “with all deliberate speed.”

Although it did not end segregation immediately or everywhere, Brown v. Board of Education laid the groundwork for further action to ensure equal treatment for all Americans regardless of race.

The Civil Rights Movement

The Civil Rights Movement was a series of political and social protests in the United States during the early 1960s. The main aim of the movement was to achieve equality for African Americans in areas such as education, employment, voting, and accommodations. Through a series of landmark court cases, such as Brown v. Board of Education, and nonviolent protests, such as the Montgomery Bus Boycott, the movement succeeded in desegregating many public facilities and eliminating Jim Crow laws.

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