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Brown Vs. Board Of Education

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The Brown vs. Board of Education case took place in the 1950s and developed from several court cases involving school segregation, which all started with one black 3rd grader named Linda Brown wanting to go to an all white school. In the case the U.S. Supreme Court declared it was unconstitutional to create separate schools for children on the basis of race. The case ranked as one of the most important Supreme Court decisions of the 20th century, which helped launch the modern civil rights movement and led to other court decisions that struck down all forms of legalized racial discrimination and ultimately led to desegregation not only in the South, but throughout the entire country. Just as Brown vs. Board of Education eliminated separate schools in public education based o race and began to change the public's views on racial discrimination, in the book To Kill A Mockingbird, Atticus believed that everyone should get a fair trial regardless of race and tried to teach his children about everyone being equal under the law.

The Brown vs. Board of Education case combined four cases: Brown itself, Briggs vs. Elliott, Davis vs. County School Board of Prince Edward County, and Gebhart vs. Belton. All of these cases were sponsored by the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People). The NAACP was led by W.E.B. Du Bois and Arthur and Joel Spingarn. "It was an organization dedicated to fighting for racial equality and ending segregation; equal rights. It challenged segregation through its legal Defense and Education Fund," (Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka (MSN Encarta).

The Brown vs. Board of Education decision was the first to go against the Plessy vs. Ferguson "separate but equal" doctrine, whereby the practice of segregation was permitted as long as the separate facilities were "equal." Despite the "equality" purported under the "separate but equal" doctrine, segregated schools reflected a grave inequality between the quality of the education available to black children verses white children. The Brown court believed that segregation is not acceptable in public places. Rather, both blacks and whites should be able to go to the same places and use the same things without regard to race.

The big question that was addressed by the Court, involved the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The question being "Does segregation of children in public school solely on the basics of race, even though the physical faculties and other 'tangible' factors may be equal, deprive the children...of equal educational opportunities?" (Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka (1954). The court had to determine if segregation of schools was constitutional or not. "Racial segregation in Southern public school dates back to the 1860s. Throughout the 19th century, more than 95% of all blacks lived in the South, so segregation there affected an overwhelming majority of America's black population" (Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka (MSN Encarta). By the 1900s, the South was a deeply segregated society.

The case began on behalf of Linda Brown, a black 3rd grader living in Topeka, Kansas. Linda lived five blocks from an all-white school. To get to the all-black school, she had to walk 21blocks. She was denied permission to attend the nearby all-white school where her friend went to school. Her parents filed a lawsuit against the Topeka Board of Education to compel the Board to allow their daughter to attend the school closest to their house, regardless of race, so she wouldn't have to travel as far. Other parents and the NAACP became involved as well.

In 1951, the NAACP pressed for an injunction forcing Topeka to stop public school segregation. The U.S. District Court ruled in favor of the Topeka Board of Education. In 1952, the NAACP pressed on with the challenge. The Brown case was combined with four other school segregation cases under the same name on appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. The case was argued before the U.S. Supreme Court in December 1952.

The high court wasn't able to make a decision in the case after the initial

arguments so they set a second hearing held in December 1953. Shortly before

the second round of arguments, the administration of president Dwight D.

Eisenhower backed the segregation challengers with a "friend of the court" brief

filed by Attorney General Herbert Brownell Jr. Thurgood Marshall, who would

later become the first black Supreme Court Justice, argued the case for the

NAACP. John W. Davis, a former U.S. Representative from West Virginia and a

Democratic presidential candidate in 1924, led the pro-segregation arguments,

(Brown v. Board of Education: 50th Anniversary (Research Feature).

The two sides argued whether "separate but equal" laws violated the 14th Amendment, which provides that states shall not "deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws" (Brown v. Board of Education: 50th Anniversary (Research Feature). The Brown side argued that the operation of separate schools, based on race, was harmful to African-American children. They provided support that legal segregation fundamentally resulted in both unequal education and low self-esteem among minority students. They argued that segregation under the law implied that blacks were inherently inferior to the whites. They asked the court to strike down segregation under law as unconstitutional.

The Board of Education side argued that the separate schools for nonwhites were equal in every way and were in complete conformity with the Plessy standard of "separate but equal." They said that, while black and white children may go to different schools, the schools were equal in every way. They argued that the buildings, the different courses of study, and the equality of teachers were completely compatible. In some cases, they noted, some of the programs for minority children were better than those offered at the white-only schools. They pointed to the Plessy decision as precedent to support segregation and argued that they had in good faith created "equal facilities" even though they segregated white children and black children. They further claimed that segregation by race did not harm the children at all and, hence, Plessy did not violate the 14th Amendment.




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