Sixty-four years ago today, the Supreme Court issued its landmark ruling in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka Kansas, holding that segregation in public schools violated the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution, which says that no state may deny equal protection of the laws to any person within its jurisdiction. May 17th, 1954, marked a pivotal legal turning point for the civil-rights movement in America when the Supreme Court ruled against segregation for the first time. Brown overturned the infamous “separate but equal” doctrine which was put in place by the Supreme Court sixty years earlier in Plessy v Ferguson. In his unanimous decision, Chief Justice Earl Warren ruled that even IF segregated black and white schools were of equal quality in facilities and teachers (which all knew was not the case), segregation by itself was harmful to students and unconstitutional. Warren wrote, “We conclude that, in the field of public education, the doctrine of “separate but equal” has no place. Separate educational facilities are inherently unequal.”
Before becoming the first Black justice on the Supreme Court, the head of the NAACP’s legal defense fund, Thurgood Marshall recognized there was much more still to be done after the ruling stating that “the fight has just begun.” Marshall was absolutely correct. The Supreme Court’s ruling didn’t establish a method for ending segregation, and for decades America did and still does, struggle with de facto segregation in public schools. However, Brown was still a catalyst for the civil-rights movement and the fight to end segregation, not only in public schools but all facets of life.
Sadly, this is the first anniversary of the ruling since the passing of Linda Brown, the school-girl who was at the center of Brown when her father attempted to enroll her in an all-white elementary school in Topeka, Kansas. Linda Brown passed away in March at the age of 76 in Topeka, Kansas, where she spent her life as a civil rights activist and advocate for equal access to education.
Photo Courtesy of Associated Press