Today in Legal History: Brown v. Board of Education Decided

On May 17, 1954, in a monumental civil rights victory, the U. S. Supreme Court unanimously decided in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka that racial segregation in public schools is unconstitutional. The court argued that segregation of children based solely on race denied black children equal protection of the laws guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment.  The “separate but equal doctrine handed down by the court in Plessy v. Fergson (163 U.S. 537), had been applied in three federal district courts’ decisions to uphold segregation in public schools. The Supreme Court, however, argued that the segregated schools could never be “equal” as guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment, and were therefore unconstitutional.

A year later, the Supreme Court published procedures requiring all public school systems to fully integrate. The Brown v. Board of Education decision significantly aided the civil rights movement, and eventually led to the desegregation of all public facilities.

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