Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka (1954) was a United States
Supreme Court case that ruled that the practice of separating public schools
based on race was unconstitutional under the Equal Protection Clauseof the Fourteenth Amendment which
upheld the constitutionality of the Separate but Equal Doctrine. Brown v. Board
of Education determined that this separation of black and white students
provided unequal educational opportunities for black children.
The Equal Protection Clause, which is of significant importance in
Brown v. Board of Education, requires that states provide the same amount of
rights and protection to all citizens. The main argument in this case was that
the Separate but Equal Doctrine was not effective because the accommodations
for blacks’ educational institutions were far inferior to those for whites.
In Brown v. Board of Education, the main finding
of the Court was that even if schools were equal in educational standards,
segregation of black students was detrimental to their educational success and
unconstitutional. Expert testimony was presented in court that showed
segregation had a negative effect on the mental well-being of black Americans.
The Court concurred that even if it was found that the black and white schools
were evenly matched, which in fact many were not, the act of segregation itself
was unconstitutional. The previous ruling in Plessy v. Ferguson ruled on the
aspect of equality in the Separate but Equal Doctrine. Brown v. Board of Education
focused on the “separate” aspect, declaring this against the Equal Protection
Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.
Due to the ruling in Brown v. Board of Education,
the City of Topeka integrated their elementary schools. Students were assigned
to the school closest to their neighborhood, regardless of their race. There
was some severe resistance to the Brown v. Board of Ed decision. The Massive
Resistance, for example, took place in Virginia where Senator Byrd resorted to
closing down schools rather than desegregating them. In Arkansas, black
students were blocked from entering Little Rock High School. Brown v. Board of
Education was a landmark Supreme Court decision because it denied the claims of
scientific racists that segregation was beneficial for black students.