Brown et al. v. Board of Education of Topeka et al.
Decided on May 17, 1954; 347 US 483


School segregation denies equal protection of the law to black students and thus is unconstitutional. The case overturned Plessy v. Fergusson which established the doctrine of "separate but equal."

I. ISSUES II. CASE SUMMARY III. AMICI CURIAE IV. DECISION V. WIN OR LOSS?
I. ISSUES:

A. Issues Discussed: Racial discrimination, due process

B. Legal Question Presented:

Does segregation of children in public schools solely on the basis of race, even though the physical facilities and other "tangible" factors may be equal, deprive the children of the minority group of equal educational opportunities?

II. CASE SUMMARY:

A. Background:

The US Supreme Court consolidated the following cases under Brown (case No. 1): No.2, Briggs et al. v. Elliott et al., on appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of South Carolina; No.4, Davis et al. v. County School Board of Prince Edward County, Virginia et al., on appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia; No.10, Gebhart et al. v. Belton et al., on certiorari from the Supreme Court of Delaware

In each of the four cases, black children were denied admission to public schools attended by white children under state laws that either allowed or required segregation. The Kansas, South Carolina and Virginia courts reaffirmed Plessy v. Ferguson, which created the "separate but equal" standard. The Delaware court ordered the black children admitted, finding the facilities at the black school as unacceptably inferior, but suggested that, according to Plessy, schools may be re-segregated when the state finished equalizing the physical facilities. The NAACP, in the name of the parents of the black children, appealed these cases to the US Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court send the cases back to docket to formulate decrees consistent with the Court decision.

B. Counsel of Record:
ACLU Side
(Petitioner/Appellant)
Opposing Side
(Respondent/Appellee)
Unavailable Unavailable
C. The Arguments:
ACLU Side
(Petitioner/Appellant)
Opposing Side
(Respondent/Appellee)
Unavailable Unavailable
III. AMICI CURIAE:
ACLU Side
(Petitioner/Appellant)
Opposing Side
(Respondent/Appellee)
Briefs of amici curiae supporting appellants in No. 1 were filed by Shad Polier, Will Maslow and Joseph B. Robison for the American Jewish Congress; by Edwin J. Lukas, Arnold Forster, Arthur Garfield Hays, Frank E. Karelsen, Leonard Haas, Saburo Kido and Theodore Leskes for the American Civil Liberties Union et al.; and by John Ligtenberg and Selma M. Borchardt for the American Federation of Teachers. Briefs of amici curiae supporting appellants in No. 1 and respondents in No. 10 were filed by Arthur J. Goldberg and Thomas E. Harris for the Congress of Industrial Organizations and by Phineas Indritz for the American Veterans Committee, Inc

By special leave of Court, Assistant Attorney General Rankin argued the cause for the United States on the reargument, as amicus curiae, urging reversal in Nos. 1, 2 and 4 and affirmance in No. 10. With him on the brief were Attorney General Brownell, Philip Elman, Leon Ulman, William J. Lamont and M. Magdelena Schoch. James P. McGranery, then Attorney General, and Philip Elman filed a brief for the United States on the original argument, as amicus curiae, urging reversal in Nos. 1, 2 and 4 and affirmance in No. 10.

Robert L. Carter argued the cause for appellants in No. 1 on the original argument and on the reargument. Thurgood Marshall argued the cause for appellants in No. 2 on the original argument and Spottswood W. Robinson, III, for appellants in No. 4 on the original argument, and both argued the causes for appellants in Nos. 2 and 4 on the reargument. Louis L. Redding and Jack Greenberg argued the cause for respondents in No. 10 on the original argument and Jack Greenberg and Thurgood Marshall on the reargument.

On the briefs were Robert L. Carter, Thurgood Marshall, Spottswood W. Robinson, III, Louis L. Redding, Jack Greenberg, George E. C. Hayes, William R. Ming, Jr., Constance Baker Motley, James M. Nabrit, Jr., Charles S. Scott, Frank D. Reeves, Harold R. Boulware and Oliver W. Hill for appellants in Nos. 1, 2 and 4 and respondents in No. 10; George M. Johnson for appellants in Nos. 1, 2 and 4; and Loren Miller for appellants in Nos. 2 and 4. Arthur D. Shores and A. T. Walden were on the Statement as to Jurisdiction and a brief opposing a Motion to Dismiss or Affirm in No. 2.

Paul E. Wilson, Assistant Attorney General of Kansas, argued the cause for appellees in No. 1 on the original argument and on the reargument. With him on the briefs was Harold R. Fatzer, Attorney General.

John W. Davis argued the cause for appellees in No. 2 on the original argument and for appellees in Nos. 2 and 4 on the reargument. With him on the briefs in No. 2 were T. C. Callison, Attorney General of South Carolina, Robert McC. Figg, Jr., S. E. Rogers, William R. Meagher and Taggart Whipple. [347 U.S. 483, 485]

J. Lindsay Almond, Jr., Attorney General of Virginia, and T. Justin Moore argued the cause for appellees in No. 4 on the original argument and for appellees in Nos. 2 and 4 on the reargument. On the briefs in No. 4 were J. Lindsay Almond, Jr., Attorney General, and Henry T. Wickham, Special Assistant Attorney General, for the State of Virginia, and T. Justin Moore, Archibald G. Robertson, John W. Riely and T. Justin Moore, Jr. for the Prince Edward County School Authorities, appellees.

v H. Albert Young, Attorney General of Delaware, argued the cause for petitioners in No. 10 on the original argument and on the reargument. With him on the briefs was Louis J. Finger, Special Deputy Attorney General.




IV. THE SUPREME COURT'S DECISION:

"Segregation of white and Negro children in the public schools of a State solely on the basis of race, pursuant to state laws permitting or requiring such segregation, denies to Negro children the equal protection of the laws guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment - even though the physical facilities and other 'tangible' factors of white and Negro schools may be equal.

(a) The history of the Fourteenth Amendment is inconclusive as to its intended effect on public education.

(b) The question presented in these cases must be determined, not on the basis of conditions existing when the Fourteenth Amendment was adopted, but in the light of the full development of public education and its present place in American life throughout the Nation.

(c) Where a State has undertaken to provide an opportunity for an education in its public schools, such an opportunity is a right which must be made available to all on equal terms.

(d) Segregation of children in public schools solely on the basis of race deprives children of the minority group of equal educational opportunities, even though the physical facilities and other 'tangible' factors may be equal.

(e) The 'separate but equal' doctrine adopted in Plessy v. Ferguson, 163 U.S. 537, has no place in the field of public education.

The Supreme Court restored the cases "to the docket for further argument on specified questions relating to the forms of the decrees."

Justice Vote: 9 Pro vs. 0 Con
(Unanimous Decision for Petitioner/Appellant)
  • Warren, E. Pro (Wrote majority opinion)
  • Jackson, R. Pro (Joined majority opinion)
  • Reed, S. Pro (Joined majority opinion)
  • Minton, S. Pro (Joined majority opinion)
  • Douglas, W. Pro (Joined majority opinion)
  • Black, H. Pro (Joined majority opinion)
  • Clark, T. Pro (Joined majority opinion)
  • Frankfurter, F. Pro (Joined majority opinion)
  • Burton, H. Pro (Joined majority opinion)
V. A WIN OR LOSS FOR THE ACLU?

The ACLU, as amicus curiae, urged reversal of the District Courts and Supreme Court's Judgments; the Supreme Court reversed in a 9-0 vote, giving the ACLU an apparent win.