Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka 347 U.S. 483 (1954)

Brown v. Board of Education, as it is commonly referred to, is the United States Supreme Court decision which held that separate education systems for white and black students is unconstitutional. It was actually filed as a class action lawsuit against the Board of Education of Topeka . Brown is often cited for other Fourteenth Amendment cases involving arguments under the Equal Protection Clause.

Brown overturned the 1896 Plessy v. Ferguson, a case regarding segregation of railroad passenger cars, where The Supreme Court had held that separate railway cars were acceptable, within the Louisiana state boundaries, so long as the cars were the same, hence the origination of the "separate but equal" standard.

The relevant statute in Brown allowed for, but did not require, the maintenance of separate elementary schools for blacks and whites. The named plaintiff's daughter in the case, Linda Brown, was a third grade girl whom had to ride the bus to her black elementary school over a mile away, rather than being able to attend the white elementary school, just seven blocks from her home.

The main holding of the case dealt with the legality of the "separate but equal" holding. The Court determined that eventhough the facilities, curriculum, and staff involved were of substantial similarity, the black children were disadvantaged both socially and psychologically, based in part on social science data presented.  The Court had particular disdain for the fact that the segregation carried the force of the law, which thus constituted a sort of legal connotation of inferiority. The Court thus held that the separate but equal was inherently separate and unequal, thus overturning Plessy.

For more information about Constitutional Law, click here. Click here, for more information about Civil Rights.

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