Brown v. BOE was named after Oliver Brown, a
black man who lived in Topeka, whose daughter Linda was denied
admission to an all-white school in their neighborhood and
was forced to attend an all-black school far from home.
The Brown v. BOE case was a combination of several court cases
that considered public school segregation, unequal environments
and funding, and inadequate learning supplies to be unconstitutional.
The cases were: Belton v. Gebhart, Gebhart v. Belton, and Briggs
Thurgood Marshall was the special counsel who handled the case
with help from the lawyers of the National Association for
the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Marshall wanted
to end the notion of “separate but equal” facilities
that was accepted despite the Fourteenth Amendment that required
equality in treatment and equal protection of the laws.
Marshall’s argument emphasized the injustice of the Plessy
v. Ferguson case, which found a man guilty of sitting in the “whites
only” section of a passenger train. Plessy was not protected
under the Fourteenth Amendment because the state applied its
laws to the case instead of applying the Fourteenth Amendment.
The court ruled that the facilities were indeed separate, but
they were intrinsically “equal.”
Marshall argued that facilities were not equal and thereby
Brown v. BOE sought to eliminate segregation in the social
environment of public schools, where children developed knowledge
about life and morality. If the children were taught that there
was a classification in the real world based on race, their
intelligence would be limited by a premise that they were inferior
because they were treated as such in white society.
Marshall and the NAACP argued that segregation would put blacks
at a disadvantage and would produce adverse reactions for white
and black students.
After more than two years of deliberations, the Supreme Court
ruled, unanimously, on May 17, 1954, that segregation was unconstitutional.
Chief Justice Earl Warren wrote the court opinion. It noted
that segregation “generates a feeling of inferiority
as to their (blacks’) status in the community that may
affect their hearts and minds in a way unlikely to be undone.”
This was a landmark victory for the blacks and the NAACP.
The Supreme Court’s decision was upheld with schools
either desegregating voluntarily or by government intervention.
Although this was a positive step toward equality for black
people, strong opposition and discrimination would still
play a major role in the South, where many blacks would
to gain fair and just treatment from the white community.