Brown v. Board of Education (1954) unanimously held that the racial segregation of children in public schools violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. It used the Constitution to support racial equality and contribute to the civil rights movement.
An earlier Supreme Court decision made racially segregated schools constitutional so long as the black and white facilities were equal to each other. By the mid-twentieth century, civil rights groups set up legal and political challenges to racial segregation.
Brown v. Board of Education was filed against the Topeka, Kansas school board by Oliver Brown, parent of one of the children denied access to Topeka's white schools. Brown claimed that Topeka's racial segregation violated the Constitution's Equal Protection Clause because the city's black and white schools were not equal to each other. When the case reached the Supreme Court, Thurgood Marshall—the first black justice of the Court—was chief counsel for the plaintiffs.
The Supreme Court decision noted that public education in the 20th century had become an essential part of a citizen's public life, forming the basis of democratic citizenship, normal socialization, and professional training. Education has become a right that must be afforded equally to both blacks and whites.
In a later decision, the Supreme Court ordered school integration. Widespread racial integration of the South was achieved by the late 1960s and 1970s. The equal protection ruling in Brown affected other areas of the law.
Source: Brown v. Board of Education (1954)
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