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Brown v. Board of Education | Study Guide

United States Supreme Court

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United States Supreme Court


May 17, 1954


Primary Source


Law, U.S. Supreme Court Case

At a Glance

  • In the early 1950s public schools in 17 U.S. states were racially segregated. African American parents from several states, with help from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), sued for their children's right to attend schools with white children.
  • The parents' cases were combined to form a single case heard twice by the U.S. Supreme Court (1952 and 1953). African American lawyer Thurgood Marshall (1908–93) argued on the parents' behalf. Chief Justice Earl Warren (1891–1974) delivered the final ruling on May 17, 1954.
  • The court, in a noticeable nine to zero verdict, declared segregated public schools to be an unconstitutional violation of citizens' 14th Amendment rights. The verdict overturned the 1896 "separate but equal" legal precedent long used to justify public segregation.
  • After a third hearing in 1955, the court ordered that schools employ "deliberate speed" to integrate. Nevertheless, school segregation in the South continued until the late 1960s.
  • The landmark case dealt a blow to racial segregation in the United States in schools and other public spaces. It also helped launch the civil rights movement in the largest sense and subsequent sweeping national changes in race relations.


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