If you're seeing this message, it means we're having trouble loading external resources on our website.

If you're behind a web filter, please make sure that the domains *.kastatic.org and *.kasandbox.org are unblocked.

To log in and use all the features of Khan Academy, please enable JavaScript in your browser.

Course: US history   >   Unit 8

  • Introduction to the Civil Rights Movement
  • African American veterans and the Civil Rights Movement

Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka

  • Emmett Till
  • The Montgomery Bus Boycott
  • "Massive Resistance" and the Little Rock Nine
  • The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom
  • The Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965
  • SNCC and CORE
  • Black Power
  • The Civil Rights Movement
  • In Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka (1954) a unanimous Supreme Court declared that racial segregation in public schools is unconstitutional.
  • The Court declared “separate” educational facilities “inherently unequal.”
  • The case electrified the nation, and remains a landmark in legal history and a milestone in civil rights history.

A segregated society

The brown v. board of education case, thurgood marshall, the naacp, and the supreme court, separate is "inherently unequal", brown ii: desegregating with "all deliberate speed”, what do you think.

  • James T. Patterson, Grand Expectations: The United States, 1945-1974 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1996), 387.
  • James T. Patterson, Brown v. Board of Education: A Civil Rights Milestone and Its Troubled Legacy (New York: Oxford University Press, 2001), 25-27.
  • Patterson, Brown v. Board of Education, 387.
  • Patterson, Brown v. Board of Education, 32.
  • See Patterson, Brown v. Board of Education, and Richard Kluger, Simple Justice: The History of Brown v. Board of Education and Black America’s Struggle for Equality (New York: Knopf, 2004).
  • Patterson, Brown v. Board of Education, 43-45.
  • Supreme Court of the United States, Brown v. Board of Education, 347 U.S. 483 (1954).
  • Patterson, Grand Expectations, 394-395.

Want to join the conversation?

  • Upvote Button navigates to signup page
  • Downvote Button navigates to signup page
  • Flag Button navigates to signup page

Good Answer

Explore the Constitution

The constitution.

  • Read the Full Text

Dive Deeper

Constitution 101 course.

  • The Drafting Table
  • Supreme Court Cases Library
  • Founders' Library
  • Constitutional Rights: Origins & Travels

National Constitution Center Building

Start your constitutional learning journey

  • News & Debate Overview
  • Constitution Daily Blog
  • America's Town Hall Programs
  • Special Projects
  • Media Library

America’s Town Hall

America’s Town Hall

Watch videos of recent programs.

  • Education Overview

Constitution 101 Curriculum

  • Classroom Resources by Topic
  • Classroom Resources Library
  • Live Online Events
  • Professional Learning Opportunities
  • Constitution Day Resources

Student Watching Online Class

Explore our new 15-unit high school curriculum.

  • Explore the Museum
  • Plan Your Visit
  • Exhibits & Programs
  • Field Trips & Group Visits
  • Host Your Event
  • Buy Tickets

First Amendment Exhibit Historic Graphic

New exhibit

The first amendment, supreme court case, brown v. board of education of topeka (1954).

347 U.S. 483 (1954)

Thurgood Marshall, sitting on couch next to lamp, dressed in suit, three-quarter portrait by Thomas O'Halloran, photographer 1957.

“We conclude that in the field of public education the doctrine of ‘separate but equal’ has no place. Separate educational facilities are inherently unequal.”

Selected by

brown v. board of education of topeka kansas decision

Caroline Fredrickson

Visiting Professor, Georgetown University Law Center and Senior Fellow at the Brennan Center for Justice

brown v. board of education of topeka kansas decision

Ilan Wurman

Associate Professor, Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law at Arizona State University

Brown is a consolidated case addressing the constitutionality of school segregation. There, the challengers—African American children and their parents—attacked the “separate but equal” doctrine created in Plessy v. Ferguson . They argued that school segregation violated the Fourteenth Amendment by depriving the African American students of equal educational opportunities. In a unanimous decision authored by Chief Justice Earl Warren, the Court agreed—overturning Plessy and declaring school segregation unconstitutional. As part of its analysis, the Court cited the negative impact of segregation on children’s mental and emotional development. With this landmark decision, the Court took an important step in desegregating our nation’s schools, opening the door to further legal challenges to Jim Crow laws in other contexts, and reinvigorating the promise of the Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause.

Read the Full Opinion

Excerpt: Majority Opinion, Chief Justice Earl Warren

These cases come to us from the States of Kansas, South Carolina, Virginia, and Delaware. They are premised on different facts and different local conditions, but a common legal question justifies their consideration together in this consolidated opinion.

In each of the cases, minors of the Negro race, through their legal representatives, seek the aid of the courts in obtaining admission to the public schools of their community on a nonsegregated basis. In each instance, they had been denied admission to schools attended by white children under laws requiring or permitting segregation according to race. This segregation was alleged to deprive the plaintiffs of the equal protection of the laws under the Fourteenth Amendment. In each of the cases other than the Delaware case, a three-judge federal district court denied relief to the plaintiffs on the so-called “separate but equal” doctrine announced by this Court in Plessy v. Ferguson . . . . Under that doctrine, equality of treatment is accorded when the races are provided substantially equal facilities, even though these facilities be separate. . . .

The plaintiffs contend that segregated public schools are not “equal” and cannot be made “equal,” and that hence they are deprived of the equal protection of the laws. . . .

In the first cases in this Court construing the Fourteenth Amendment, decided shortly after its adoption, the Court interpreted it as proscribing all state-imposed discriminations against the Negro race. The doctrine of “separate but equal” did not make its appearance in this Court until 1896 in the case of Plessy v. Ferguson, . . . involving not education but transportation. American courts have since labored with the doctrine for over half a century. In this Court, there have been six cases involving the “separate but equal” doctrine in the field of public education. In Cumming v. County Board of Education . . . and Gong Lum v. Rice . . . the validity of the doctrine itself was not challenged. In more recent cases, all on the graduate school level, inequality was found in that specific benefits enjoyed by white students were denied to Negro students of the same educational qualifications. . . . In none of these cases was it necessary to reexamine the doctrine to grant relief to the Negro plaintiff. And in Sweatt v. Painter . . . , the Court expressly reserved decision on the question whether Plessy v. Ferguson should be held inapplicable to public education.

In the instant cases, that question is directly presented. Here . . . , there are findings below that the Negro and white schools involved have been equalized, or are being equalized, with respect to buildings, curricula, qualifications and salaries of teachers, and other ‘tangible’ factors. Our decision, therefore, cannot turn on merely a comparison of these tangible factors in the Negro and white schools involved in each of the cases. We must look instead to the effect of segregation itself on public education. . . .

Today, education is perhaps the most important function of state and local governments. Compulsory school attendance laws and the great expenditures for education both demonstrate our recognition of the importance of education to our democratic society. It is required in the performance of our most basic public responsibilities, even service in the armed forces. It is the very foundation of good citizenship. Today it is a principal instrument in awakening the child to cultural values, in preparing him for later professional training, and in helping him to adjust normally to his environment. In these days, it is doubtful that any child may reasonably be expected to succeed in life if he is denied the opportunity of an education. Such an opportunity, where the state has undertaken to provide it, is a right which must be made available to all on equal terms.

We come then to the question presented: Does segregation of children in public schools solely on the basis of race, even though the physical facilities and other “tangible” factors may be equal, deprive the children of the minority group of equal educational opportunities? We believe that it does. . . .

To separate them from others of similar age and qualifications solely because of their race generates a feeling of inferiority as to their status in the community that may affect their hearts and minds in a way unlikely ever to be undone. The effect of this separation on their educational opportunities was well stated by a finding in the Kansas case by a court which nevertheless felt compelled to rule against the Negro plaintiffs: “Segregation of white and colored children in public schools has a detrimental effect upon the colored children. The impact is greater when it has the sanction of the law; for the policy of separating the races is usually interpreted as denoting the inferiority of the Negro group. A sense of inferiority affects the motivation of a child to learn. Segregation with the sanction of law, therefore, has a tendency to [retard] the educational and mental development of Negro children and to deprive them of some of the benefits they would receive in a racial[ly] integrated school system.”

Whatever may have been the extent of psychological knowledge at the time of Plessy , this finding is amply supported by modern authority. Any language in Plessy contrary to this finding is rejected.

We conclude that in the field of public education the doctrine of “separate but equal” has no place. Separate educational facilities are inherently unequal. Therefore, we hold that the plaintiffs and others similarly situated for whom the actions have been brought are, by reason of the segregation complained of, deprived of [equal protection of the laws].

Modal title

Modal body text goes here.

Share with Students

Prologue Magazine

National Archives Logo

Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka

A landmark case unresolved fifty years later.

Spring 2004, Vol. 36, No. 1

By Jean Van Delinder

"Today, education is perhaps the most important function of state and local governments." —Chief Justice Earl Warren, Opinion on Segregated Laws Delivered May 1954

refer to caption

First page of the landmark Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka. (Records of the Supreme Court of the United States, RG 267)

View in National Archives Catalog

When the United States Supreme Court handed down its unanimous decision in the landmark Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka case fifty years ago this spring, it thrust the issue of school desegregation into the national spotlight.

The ruling that "separate educational facilities are inherently unequal" brought racial issues into the forefront of the national consciousness as never before and forced all Americans to confront a racially divided society and undemocratic social practices. At the same time, the decision opened the floodgates of decades of school desegregation suits in both the North and the South.

But the ruling did much more than that. It gave impetus to a young civil rights movement that would write much of American history during the next few decades.

The school segregation issue was ripe for being brought to the first tier of social concerns. Elsewhere in American society, segregation was breaking down.

Important steps were taken in 1941, when President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 8802 , forbidding racial discrimination by any defense contractor and establishing a Fair Employment Practices Committee as a regulatory agency to investigate charges of racial discrimination.

In 1947, Major League Baseball saw its first black player in Jackie Robinson . In 1948, President Harry S. Truman ordered the desegregation of the armed forces, which had already seen black and white Americans fighting side by side in World War II. That same year, under the guise of states' rights, racial issues split the Democratic Party.

School segregation came at a high cost even outside of the human costs. For example, school districts had to maintain two school systems within one geographical area. Prior to 1954, Topeka, Kansas, maintained half-empty classrooms in segregated schools in order to keep the races separate. After Brown, this pattern continued with racism disguised as "freedom of choice"—justifying building new schools in outlying areas as merely a response to the population shift to new subdivisions rapidly being built in the western areas of the city (which turned out to be predominantly white and upper class). Left behind were the less affluent, primarily black, residents who had little choice but to send their children to outdated and increasingly inferior schools.

Brown also caused Americans to revisit the role of the national government in regulating local issues. Century-old arguments, reminiscent of the debates over slavery, were revived to defend the primacy of states' rights over federal jurisdiction. The same language used to defend slavery was now being used to defend segregation. Words like "interposition" and "nullification"—which hadn't been heard for more than a century—were used to defend school segregation. 1

Just as the Civil War caused Americans to confront the ugly reality of slavery, so too did Brown inspire Americans to confront its undemocratic system of education.

In recognizing the importance of education as the foundation of a democratic society, the Brown decision expressed the sentiments of Thomas Jefferson that publicly funded education was to be the primary mechanism to develop a natural elite and to ensure that the new republic had a literate citizenry regardless of social class. Jefferson's beliefs were reflected in the words of Chief Justice Earl Warren, who justified the significance of education in the Brown decision as being "the very foundation of good citizenship." 2

The Topeka Brown case is important because it helped convince the Court that even when physical facilities and other "tangible" factors were equal, segregation still deprived minority children of equal educational opportunities.

Over the years, numerous scholars have traced the history of the Brown case and analyzed its impact as federal legislation. Yet most of these studies have been written from a national perspective, distant from the day-to-day life of the local people most affected by school desegregation.

The Topeka Brown records provide a glimpse of what people were doing in their local communities, where the struggle for racial justice was a continuing reality, year in and year out. The records help us to understand the reality of school segregation in places like Topeka, where it was only legal in the elementary schools. What was the effect of "separate-but-equal"?

Overview of the National Case before the Supreme Court

In October 1952, the Supreme Court announced it would hear five pending school desegregation cases collectively. In chronological order, the five consolidated cases were 1949: Briggs et al. v. Elliott et al. (South Carolina); 1950: Bolling v. Sharpe (District of Columbia); 3 May 1951: Davis et al. v. County School Board of Prince Edward County, Virginia, et al. (Virginia); June 1951: Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka (Kansas); October 1951: Gebhart et al. v. Belton et al. (Delaware).

These cases all document inadequate funding for segregated schools—meaning that many black children lacked playgrounds, ball fields, cafeterias, libraries, auditoriums, and other amenities provided for white children in newer schools. In Summerton, South Carolina, and Hockessin, Delaware, school buses were only provided for whites, while black children had to walk. In Claymont, Delaware, and Farmville, Virginia, there was no senior high school for black pupils.

The Brown case of Topeka, Kansas, itself included twelve other plaintiffs besides Oliver Brown, whose daughter Linda was being bused twenty-one blocks from her home to a segregated school. The nearest school in her neighborhood was only a few blocks away, but it was for whites only.

All of these cases were appealed to the Supreme Court, and the first round of arguments were held December 9–11, 1952. The following June, the Supreme Court ordered that a second round of arguments be heard in October 1953. When Chief Justice Fred Vinson, Jr., died unexpectedly of a heart attack in September, President Dwight D. Eisenhower nominated California Governor Earl Warren to replace Vinson. The Court rescheduled Brown v. Board arguments for December. On May 17, 1954, the Court declared that racial segregation in public schools violated the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, effectively overturning the 1896 Plessy v. Ferguson decision mandating "separate but equal."

The Brown ruling directly affected legally segregated schools in twenty-one states. In 1954, seventeen states had laws requiring segregated schools (Texas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, North Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, and Delaware), and four other states had laws permitting rather than requiring segregated schools (Kansas, Arizona, New Mexico, and Wyoming). Kansas's state statutes restricted segregated elementary schools only to cities, such as Topeka, that had populations of more than fifteen thousand.

refer to caption

Page 11 of the landmark Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, which states that the doctrine of "separate but equal" has no place in public education. (Records of the Supreme Court of the United States, RG 267)

Though the 1954 ruling declared racial segregation in public schools unconstitutional, it did not specify how this was to be remedied. Originally the Court scheduled arguments on this subject for later in the year, but it did not hear what would become the third round of arguments in Brown until April 1955. 4 On the last day of its term, the Supreme Court ordered desegregation to begin with "all deliberate speed."

In the intervening year, the District of Columbia and some school districts in other states had voluntarily begun to desegregate their schools. However, state-sanctioned opposition to desegregation was already well under way in Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, South Carolina, and Virginia, where the Court's decision had been declared "null, void, and no effect." Across the South, schools were closed and public education was suspended. Public funds were disbursed to parents to subsidize the education of their children in private schools. Some states even went so far as to impose sanctions on anyone who implemented desegregation.

Effects of the Supreme Court Decision in Kansas

In Topeka, resistance to desegregation was more indirect, subtle, and covert. Historically, the color line in Kansas was more permeable than it was South Carolina or Virginia. Its "border state" ideology was directed more toward racial collegiality and inclusion than animosity and exclusion. Kansas had relatively permissive segregation statutes (compared to some southern states).

For example, segregation was permitted in elementary schools where the population exceeded fifteen thousand (cities of the first class). The one segregated high school—Sumner High School in Kansas City, Kansas—had been established in 1905 after a special act of the legislature allowed segregation of a secondary school in this one instance. However, Kansas's permissive racial statutes served to disguise the underlying reality of an unwritten code of racial separation that rivaled locales where total de jure public segregation was practiced. Topeka's continued segregation of its public school system after Brown illustrates how the dismantling of a de jure system of segregation does not necessarily include the end of racist social practices.

Over the several decades following Brown, covert opposition to desegregation was carried out under cover of school redistricting and convoluted attendance boundaries. It was also aided by real estate developers riding the postwar housing boom, who urged white Topekans to buy new houses and move to the newer—and racially homogenous—western suburbs. The City of Topeka obliged this migration by annexing western territory several times between 1950 and 1979. There was a corresponding rise in demand for more schools from the Topeka Board of Education and its successor, Unified School District #501. Between 1957 and 1966, Topeka witnessed the creation of an "alternative predominantly white, school sub-system generally around the peripheral boundary but specifically concentrated in the southern and western portions of the Topeka school system." New schools built after 1959 would have pupil racial ratios that would be all or disproportionately white. Additionally, classroom additions and portable classrooms would be primarily placed at disproportionately white schools.

Though the official end of segregation in 1954 met with far less hostility in Kansas than in Mississippi or South Carolina, African Americans still encountered obstacles. News correspondent Carl T. Rowan had found Topeka to be a "pretty segregated city" when he lived there as a navy trainee during World War II. Returning to Kansas in 1953, he described his earlier experiences by observing, "Topeka was a paradox. There was no Jim Crow in some areas where you had expected it; segregation had deep roots where it was not expected."

The state's permissive segregation laws meant that overt segregation was strictly limited, while covert segregationist practices arose unrestrained. "There was no segregation on city buses, or in any public transportation," Rowan recalled. "But I was unable to go to a movie or into a restaurant with white navy buddies. Hotels, bowling alleys and other public recreation facilities were closed to Negroes."

A decade later and just a few months before the first Brown decision, Rowan still found it difficult to find a restaurant willing to serve him and his companion, attorney Charles Scott, the original lawyer involved in the Brown case. Despite the legal demise of segregation, informal segregation was still intact. Rowan and Scott were asked by one restaurant owner to eat in the kitchen not because of any law requiring racial separation, but simply because it was his "policy." As an attorney, Scott understood that it was much easier to remove segregation laws than to confront and change the informal racial practices that permeated the embarrassing day-to-day reality of racial segregation. "And it stems from Jim Crow schools," Scott declared to Rowan as they left one restaurant without being served, "because when segregation is part of the pattern of learning it permeates every area of life."

Early Challenges to School Segregation in Topeka: 1900–1950

In Kansas, the antecedents of the Brown case can be traced back through eleven previous lawsuits challenging segregation. Beginning in 1880, these suits all challenged the legality of school segregation as it was practiced in Kansas. 5 Of the three cases that involved Topeka's schools, two are especially relevant to the Brown case. The earliest case, dating from 1901, involved the introduction of segregation in recently annexed areas (the Reynolds case), and the other case (the Graham case in 1940) involved the decision of whether or not junior high schools fell under the state's segregation statutes.

Similar patterns of racial upheaval and containment, begun with the annexation issues related to the Reynolds case and the limitation of segregation to elementary schools as illustrated by the Graham case, continued throughout the Brown litigation.

The issues involved in both of these cases were the effect of segregation itself on public education, the system of social practices that had arisen around it, and whether segregation as it existed was a violation of the due process clause in the Fourteenth Amendment, the same issues involved in the Brown decision.

"In approaching this problem," Chief Justice Warren wrote in 1954, "we cannot turn the clock back to 1868 when the [Fourteenth] Amendment was adopted, or even to 1896 when Plessy v. Ferguson was written. We must consider public education in the light of its full development and its present place in American life throughout the Nation. Only in this way can it be determined if segregation in public schools deprives these plaintiffs of the equal protection of the laws."

In Kansas, both the Reynolds and Graham cases illustrate the development of the issues that came to fruition nationally in the Brown case.

The Reynolds Case

refer to caption

The Topeka State Journal reported the historic May 17, 1954, decision that segregation in public schools must end. (Records of District Courts of the United States, RG 21, NARA–Central Plains Region [Kansas City])

On February 1, 1901, William Reynolds tried to enroll his eight-year-old son Raul in the new school that was reserved for whites. When he was refused, Reynolds filed suit on behalf of his son. In the complaint, the court record stated that

Because of race and color, and for no other reason whatever, his child has been and is excluded from attending school in said new building by the express order and direction of said board . . . thus putting publicly upon the plaintiff and his child the badge of a servile race, and holds them up to public gaze as unfit to associate, even in a public institution of the state, with other races and nationalities, in violation of the thirteenth and fourteenth amendments to the constitution of the United States, and, in violation of said fourteenth amendment, denies to the plaintiff and his child the equal protection of the laws.

The context behind the Reynolds suit was related to the geographical circumstances of Topeka. The westward growth of Topeka was caused in part by its being geographically constrained by the Kansas River to its north and southeast. Due to the contours of its flood plain, the least desirable land was north and east of the city, an area that came to be predominately African American. The more desirable land—which rarely flooded—was toward the west and south, and was predominately white. This pattern of settlement would continue throughout the twentieth century.

In the 1890s, the city of Topeka annexed part of a rural district, No. 91, south and west of the town's center, locally known as the "Lowman Hill District." Being a rural district, No. 91 did not have segregated schools. After annexation it continued to be integrated because "it did not become convenient or expedient to make provision for separate schools . . . until the said school building was destroyed by fire." After a fire occurred on July 20, 1900, the district implemented segregation by ordering that the fifty African American children living in the area be forced to attend classes in an old building that had been moved to the original site of the burnt-out school and outfitted with second-hand furniture. The district then built a new school for the 130 white children living in the area, which brought about the Reynolds suit.

Reynolds ultimately lost his case, and his son had to attend a segregated school. The school board argued that the new school building was larger and more centrally located in order to accommodate the white children, who outnumbered the African American children living in the area.

We see that as early as 1901, the parents of white children were able to enjoy the benefits of sending their children to newer, neighborhood schools while the parents of African American children had to send their children to segregated schools, many of which were not located close to where they lived.

The Graham Case

Just as land annexation resulted in a challenge to segregation, so too did the shift toward junior high curriculum bring another challenge to Topeka's segregated schools with the Graham case. When the segregation statutes were first written in 1861 and later modified in 1879, junior high schools did not exist, and very few people of any race went on to high school. The subsequent redefinition of state segregation statutes after 1940 was in response to an innovation in the institutional structure of public education accompanied by rapidly increasing enrollments in secondary and post-secondary institutions.

When Topeka adopted the junior high system, it implemented a different educational curriculum for seventh and eighth grade students based on race. White students were provided with a 6-3-3 system, consisting of six years of elementary or grade school, three years of junior high school, and three years of senior high school. Black children were under an 8-1-3 plan.

The 8-1-3 plan meant that African American children in Topeka remained in segregated schools through the eighth grade, choosing either to enter an integrated ninth grade at Boswell Junior High or remain in a segregated class by electing to attend Roosevelt Junior High. White children who left elementary school after sixth grade and attended junior high school were consequently introduced to a much more specialized curriculum.

refer to caption

A 1953 letter from the superintendent of schools advises a black teacher that she won't be retained if segregation is ruled unconstitutional. (Records of District Courts of the United States, RG 21, NARA–Central Plains Region [Kansas City])

The court transcript of the Graham case illustrates the differences between the segregated elementary schools and the junior high schools. When the plaintiff, who had just finished sixth grade, tried to enroll in Boswell Junior High School, he was refused admittance on the basis of his race. He filed suit, claiming the course of instruction offered at Buchanan Elementary was not equal to that available at Boswell Junior High.Boswell was a new facility and built for the express purpose of being a junior high. It contained many more classrooms than the elementary schools, allowing for students to change classes for specialized teaching. In the segregated schools, one instructor taught most of the subjects.

At segregated Buchanan School, one teacher taught most of the math and English courses, while at Boswell Junior High School different instructors taught all these subjects. In the testimony provided by witnesses in the Graham case, the home economics teacher at Buchanan, Miss Ruth Ridley, reported that though her students were well prepared when they graduated from the eighth grade, they did not have facilities comparable to the better equipped and more up-to-date sewing and cooking rooms at Boswell.

Graham won his case: The junior highs in Topeka were legally desegregated. However, the effect was uncertain—desegregation did not include the teaching and administrative staff. For example, after the Graham case, eight African American teachers lost their jobs due to the integration of the junior highs. The assumption that the curriculum was not equal to the white schools reflected poorly on the high dedication and exemplary training of the black teachers, which many of them rightly resented. At two of the four segregated schools in Topeka, more of the teachers held master's degrees than at any of the white grade schools.

Though no formal policy existed to not hire black teachers, it soon became obvious in Topeka that the number of African American teachers slowly dwindled after April 1953. Before the Brown decision, Topeka had 27 African American teachers who taught 779 students. By 1956, the number of African American pupils had increased to 898, but the number of full-time teachers had declined to 21. After the desegregation of the elementary schools in 1954, for most black teachers in Topeka and elsewhere, Brown did not result in integration; it still meant segregation or even worse, unemployment. This decline in employment of black teachers after integration is a largely unacknowledged fact of desegregation.

Contemporary Challenges to School Segregation in Topeka: 1950–1985

By 1950, the Topeka school system had twenty-two elementary schools (9.6 percent black), six junior high schools (9.9 percent black), and one senior high school (7.6 percent black). As permitted by state law, racial segregation of students at the elementary level was strictly adhered to. The four schools that were maintained for black students were Buchanan, McKinley, Monroe, and Washington. Each of these four schools was geographically located in predominately black areas, although students were brought in from throughout the system. Five of the eighteen white elementary schools were located in predominately white areas, while the remaining thirteen schools, though reserved exclusively for whites, were located in racially mixed neighborhoods.

Segregation was maintained at a considerable cost as the four segregated elementary schools had much smaller student enrollments than their white counterparts. In 1950, all four of the segregated schools had an average of 143 pupil spaces underutilized, while the all-white schools were much more crowded, averaging only 28 spaces underutilized. The average black school had an enrollment of 165 students, while the white schools had an average enrollment of 342. Topeka did not use the available classroom space in the black schools to relieve overcrowding in the white schools. Given that thirteen of the eighteen schools reserved for whites were in racially mixed neighborhoods, it would have been relatively simple to reassign pupils without the additional expense of providing transportation.

Racial segregation was sustained over the next thirty years as the Topeka School Board constantly changed boundary lines ensuring that some its elementary schools remained segregated, and its high schools became more segregated than they were before 1954. In 1955, three former all-black elementary schools were still 100 percent black with only 1 percent of its black children attending elementary schools that were formerly for whites.

From 1931 to 1958, Topeka had one, integrated, senior high school: Topeka Senior High School. Five years after the original Brown decision, when faced with the opportunity to continue the racial parity at the senior high school level that had already existed for more tan twenty years, the Topeka Board of Education made a series of decisions that ensured that racial segregation would be compounded by class. As city boundaries expanded to the south and west, two more high schools were added: Highland Park Senior High School, acquired through annexation in 1959, and Topeka West Senior High School, opened in 1961. The aging Topeka Senior High now had 83.2 percent of the black students in the Topeka school system assigned to it while was approximately 11 percent black, and Highland Park was 5.1 percent black. One year later, were now being Topeka High, while Highland Park had 6.5 percent and Topeka West had 0.3 percent.

The 1960 U.S. Census data indicates that the largest concentration of Topeka's black population with school-age children resided midway between Topeka High and Highland Park. A simple change in the attendance boundary when Highland Park was annexed would have brought its minority enrollment to 50 percent. It would have also alleviated overcrowding at Topeka High, since Highland Park had 497 empty seats. Instead, the Topeka School Board elected to build a third high school (Topeka West) at the western fringe of the growing city, assigning to it 2 black children and 702 white children.

Twenty years after Brown, in 1974, the Topeka school system (U.S.D #501) still underutilized predominately black schools while white schools remained overcrowded. For example, there was a 15.1 percent black enrollment at the elementary level, but more than half of them (56.7 percent) were assigned to seven schools, while the nine of the remaining eleven had an average of 4.5 black children assigned to each of them.

Two of those schools, McClure and Potwin, were all-white in 1974. On September 10, 1973, Johnson v. Whittier was filed as a class action brought on behalf of "all Black children who were then or had during the past ten years been students of elementary and junior high schools in East Topeka and North Topeka." The complaint concentrated more on "equality of facilities than distribution of students, alleging that the children in West Topeka and South Topeka received vastly superior educational facilities and opportunities, including buildings, equipment, libraries and faculties, than could be obtained by students in the areas of East Topeka and North Topeka, which contained higher percentages of minority students."

Though Johnson failed to qualify as a class action suit, it did set off an investigation by the Department of Health, Education and Welfare (HEW) into "the practices of the Topeka public schools regarding race discrimination." This investigation led HEW to prepare to cut off federal aid to Topeka schools for desegregation noncompliance and to schedule an administrative hearing. This action also resulted in the filing of U.S.D. #501 v. Weinberger, No. 74-160-C5. Though on August 27, 1974, Johnson moved to consolidate with Weinberger, this motion was never decided. The Weinberger case was later dismissed after the Topeka school district's motion for a preliminary injunction was granted by a U.S. district court judge, who found that the district court, and not HEW, had jurisdiction over Topeka's school desegregation.

The school board argued that it was in compliance with the original desegregation plan that was approved by the district court on October 28, 1955, and fully implemented by September 1, 1961. Since the junior high schools were desegregated before Brown in the early 1940s, and the high school was never segregated, they were not considered to be part of the original court order. Additionally, the school board argued that the district court has "exclusive jurisdiction to determine whether or not the Topeka school system is in violation of the Final Order of Judgment and the Court approved plan for desegregation." The HEW attorney disagreed, stressing, "that while the original plaintiffs in our case were attacking segregation at only the elementary school level, HEW was charged with investigating discrimination in all its aspects at all levels of the public school system." Meanwhile, two other class action suits related to illegal segregation were filed on August 8, 1979 (Miller v. Board of Education), and September 7, 1979 (Chapman v. Board of Education).

The original Brown case had targeted legal, or de jure, segregation. But it could not address de facto segregation, or the type of segregation that was the "natural" outgrowth of an individual's choice and their financial resources allowing them to live in any given neighborhood. In 1979 the Brown case was reactivated.

The original lead plaintiff, Linda Brown, now an adult, and other African American parents and their children argued that the Topeka School Board and its successor, U.S.D. #501, had failed to desegregate within the mandates of Brown and Brown II, in which the court in May 1955 ordered that desegregation proceed with "all deliberate speed." Between September 10, 1973, and September 7, 1979, four separate cases were filed in the federal district court of Kansas raising questions as to whether the Topeka Board of Education and its successor had complied with the mandates of the high court. Though these cases resulted in minor judgments, they did prompt an investigation by the Office of Civil Rights of the federal Department of Health, Education, and Welfare (HEW). HEW found that Topeka was not in compliance and brought further attention to the ways in which the Topeka Board of Education sought to circumvent desegregation.

The reopening of Brown in 1979 tried to prove that the resegregation of Topeka's schools was not the "natural" consequence of individual choice, but rather the result of the deliberate actions of U.S.D. #501 to segregate its more affluent citizens (primarily white), who had fled to its western suburbs, from the less affluent (primarily black), concentrated in East Topeka. Because the school board had designed and built schools with the effect of limiting access to its newer facilities to only those residing in Topeka's western suburbs, most African Americans in Topeka were relegated to East Topeka's rapidly aging and increasingly inferior schools.

Not only were African Americans geographically bound to attend inferior schools, they were also now economically limited by not having the financial resources to purchase homes that automatically provided them access to newer and better schools. By the 1970s, Topeka was more spatially and economically segregated than it had been before Brown.

There was one important difference: segregation was no longer based on race so much as it was on class, even though being "black" and being "poor" were fast becoming synonymous, not only in Topeka, but in many other American cities as well. The 1970 census showed that in Topeka, Kansas, the mean family income in the wealthy, predominately white West Hills area was triple that of the predominately black southeast area: $19,909 to $6,886. This statistic is also reflected in the 1970 median value of housing, $28,800 in West Hills to $9,550 in East Topeka.

In October 1986 the reactivated Brown was tried in the District Court of the District of Kansas. Six months later the plaintiffs appealed to the Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit when the district court decided that there was not enough evidence of purposeful discrimination.

On December 11, 1989, the court of appeals voted to reverse the findings of the lower court. The school district appealed to the Supreme Court, but on April 20, 1992, the Supreme Court sent the case back to the court of appeals for further consideration. The appellate court reaffirmed its earlier decision and denied rehearing on January 28, 1993.

A few months later on June 21, 1994, the Supreme Court declined to consider the matter further. Finally, on July 25, 1994, the district court approved the school district's third desegregation proposal, but the school district continued to be subject to the court's jurisdiction.

As the Brown case files demonstrate, by choosing not to distribute the responsibility of desegregation over the entire school system, the Topeka Board of Education, and its successor U.S.D. #501, used its administrative tools in an ongoing manner to actively separate black from white.

What is even more disturbing is that after 1954, not only was there continued segregation at the elementary level, but it had also crept into the middle, junior, and senior high grades as well. Segregation after 1954 was perpetuated not on racial lines but class lines. That class incorporated the race most affected by segregation made it even more pernicious than before Brown.

The issues involved in this case are far from resolved. Unlike segregation laws, the social practices that arose to circumvent Brown fifty years ago are much more difficult to overcome.

Jean Van Delinder teaches sociology and American studies at Oklahoma State University. Her book on the early civil rights movement, Border Campaigns: A Genealogy of Civil Rights Protest, will be published later this year.

Note on Sources

Researching the Brown case is complicated because there are really two cases: the famous Supreme Court case called Brown (which was in fact a consolidation of five school desegregation cases including the Topeka, Kansas, case), and the original Topeka case Brown. In this essay, I focus on the specifics of the Topeka school case and its aftermath using the files housed at the National Archives and Records Administration–Central Plains (Kansas City).

The Topeka Brown case files first arrived in Kansas City on September 1, 1967, as part of records center accession 021-68A367. According to Tim Rives, an archives specialist at NARA–Central Plains, Brown (T-316) had "been removed and placed in the archival depository, not as an actual transfer of custody, but more for safekeeping, to store it in archival quality space." The Brown files left NARA in the late 1970s and were returned almost twenty years later as an archives accession (meaning permanently transferred from the courts to NARA) on September 27, 1994. On that date, the court files became available to researchers; however, not all the files were completely returned until the last exhibits were transferred to NARA on August 29, 2000. These records contain a wealth of information about school segregation, desegregation, and resegregation in Topeka, which is a microcosm of what happened nationally in the fifty years since the original Brown decision.

Selected primary sources: William D. Lamson, "Race and Schools in Topeka, Kansas," March 1, 1985, p. 164, Plaintiff's Exhibit 219, T-316; William Reynolds v. The Board of Education of Topeka of the State of Kansas, Vol. 66, p. 674, Supreme Court of Kansas, Plaintiff's Exhibit 23, T-316; "Lowman Hill School: Fight to be brought to a Final Test, Case has been Filed," Topeka Capital Journal, Friday, February 7, 1902, Box 12, Folder 297, Plaintiff's Exhibit 297, T-316; Anna Mary Murphy, "Negro Problem in Kansas—Negro Teachers Hit by Desegregation," Topeka Capital, January 29, 1956, Box 16, #293, Plaintiff's Exhibit 293, T-316; Johnson v. Whittier, T-5430, Plaintiffs Exhibit 78, Brown v. Board, T-316; U.S. Bureau of the Census, Department of Commerce, 1970 Census of Population: General Social and Economic Characteristics, PC (1)-C, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C., 1971.

Selected secondary sources: Carl T. Rowan, "Jim Crow's Last Stand: December 1953," in Reporting Civil Rights, Part One: American Journalism 1941–1963 (New York: Library Classics of the United States, 2003). Richard Kluger, Simple Justice (New York: Vintage Books, 1975).

1 "Interposition" was a doctrine declared unconstitutional before the Civil War, supposedly allowing states to "interpose" their own authority in order "to protect their citizens from unjust actions of the federal government." It was resurrected to justify continuing school segregation as early as November 1955 in an editorial by James Kilpatrick that appeared in the Richmond News Leader. W. D. Workman, Jr., "The Deep South," in Don Shoemaker, ed., "With All Deliberate Speed" (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1957), p. 97.

2 Oliver Brown et al. v. Board of Education of Topeka, Shawnee County, Kansas, et al. 347 U.S. 483 (691).

3 The U.S. Supreme Court filed a separate opinion on Bolling because the Fourteenth Amendment was not applicable in Washington, D.C. In this case, the Court held that racial segregation in the District of Columbia public schools violated the due process clause of the Fifth Amendment.

4 This delay was related to the sudden death of Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson. To fill the vacancy, President Eisenhower nominated John Marshall Harlan in October 1954. Ironically, Harlan was the grandson of Justice John Marshall Harlan, the lone dissenter in Plessy. In 1896, Harlan wrote the prophetic words in his dissent that "separate but equal" would forever stamp blacks with a badge of inferiority. This same type of argument would prove a decisive factor fifty years later in Brown.

5 The following eleven cases reached the Kansas Supreme Court: Board of the City of Ottawa et al. v. Leslie Tinnon (1881); Knox v. Board of Education, Independence (1893); Reynolds v. Board of Education, Topeka (1903); Cartwright v. Board of Education, Coffeyville (1906); Rowles v. Board of Education, Wichita (1907); Williams v. Parsons (1908); Woolridge v. Board of Education of Galena (1916); Thurman-Watts v. Board of Education of Coffeyville (1924); Wright v. Board of Education, Topeka (1929); Graham v. Board of Education, Topeka (1941); Webb v. School District No. 90, South Park Johnson County, Kansas (1949).

brown v. board of education of topeka kansas decision

  • History Classics
  • Your Profile
  • Find History on Facebook (Opens in a new window)
  • Find History on Twitter (Opens in a new window)
  • Find History on YouTube (Opens in a new window)
  • Find History on Instagram (Opens in a new window)
  • Find History on TikTok (Opens in a new window)
  • This Day In History
  • History Podcasts
  • History Vault

Brown v. Board of Education: The First Step in the Desegregation of America’s Schools

By: Sarah Pruitt

Updated: September 7, 2023 | Original: May 16, 2018

The children involved in the landmark Civil Rights lawsuit Brown v. Board of Education, which challenged the legality of American public school segregation: Vicki Henderson, Donald Henderson, Linda Brown, James Emanuel, Nancy Todd, and Katherine Carper.

On May 17, 1954, Chief Justice Earl Warren issued the Supreme Court ’s unanimous decision in Brown v. Board of Education , ruling that racial segregation in public schools violated the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment . The upshot: Students of color in America would no longer be forced by law to attend traditionally under-resourced Black-only schools.

The decision marked a legal turning point for the American civil-rights movement . But it would take much more than a decree from the nation’s highest court to change hearts, minds and two centuries of entrenched racism. Brown was initially met with inertia and, in most southern states, active resistance. More than half a century later, progress has been made, but the vision of Warren’s court has not been fully realized.

The Supreme Court Rules 'Separate' Means Unequal

The landmark case began as five separate class-action lawsuits brought by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) on behalf of Black schoolchildren and their families in Kansas , South Carolina , Delaware , Virginia and Washington, D.C . The lead plaintiff, Oliver Brown, had filed suit against the Board of Education in Topeka, Kansas in 1951, after his daughter Linda was denied admission to a white elementary school.

Her all-Black school, Monroe Elementary, was fortunate—and unique—to be endowed with well-kept facilities, well-trained teachers and adequate materials. But the other four lawsuits embedded in the Brown case pointed to more common fundamental challenges. The case in Clarendon, South Carolina described school buildings as no more than dilapidated wooden shacks. In Prince Edward County, Virginia, the high school had no cafeteria, gym, nurse’s office or teachers’ restrooms, and overcrowding led to students being housed in an old school bus and tar-paper shacks.

Brown v. Board First to Rule Against Segregation Since Reconstruction Era

The Supreme Court’s decision in Brown v. Board marked a shining moment in the NAACP’s decades-long campaign to combat school segregation. In declaring school segregation as unconstitutional, the Court overturned the longstanding “separate but equal” doctrine established nearly 60 years earlier in Plessy v. Ferguson (1896). In his opinion, Chief Justice Warren asserted public education was an essential right that deserved equal protection, stating unequivocally that “separate educational facilities are inherently unequal.”

Still, Thurgood Marshall , head of the NAACP’s Legal Defense and Educational Fund and lead lawyer from the plaintiffs, knew the fight was far from over—and that the high court’s decision was only a first step in the long, complicated process of dismantling institutionalized racism. He warned his colleagues soon after the verdict came down: “The fight has just begun.”

In 1954, the Supreme Court unanimously strikes down segregation in public schools, sparking the Civil Rights movement.

Brown v. Board Does Not Instantly Desegregate Schools

The students for whom the famous Brown v. Board of Education case was brought, with their parents (L-R) Zelma Henderson, Oliver Brown, Sadie Emanuel, Lucinda Todd, and Lena Carper, 1953.

In its landmark ruling, the Supreme Court didn’t specify exactly how to end school segregation, but rather asked to hear further arguments on the issue. The Court’s timidity, combined with steadfast local resistance, meant that the bold Brown v. Board of Education ruling did little on the community level to achieve the goal of desegregation. Black students, to a large degree, still attended schools with substandard facilities, out-of-date textbooks and often no basic school supplies.

In a 1955 case known as Brown v. Board II , the Court gave much of the responsibility for the implementation of desegregation to local school authorities and lower courts, urging that the process proceed “with all deliberate speed.” But many lower court judges in the South, who had been appointed by segregationist politicians, were emboldened to resist desegregation by the Court’s lackluster enforcement of the Brown decision. 

In Prince Edward County, where one of the five class-action suits behind Brown was filed, the Board of Supervisors refused to appropriate funds for the County School Board, choosing to shut down the public schools for five years rather than integrate them.

This backlash against the Court’s verdict reached the highest levels of government: In 1956, 82 representatives and 19 senators endorsed a so-called “Southern Manifesto” in Congress, urging Southerners to use all “lawful means” at their disposal to resist the “chaos and confusion” that school desegregation would cause.

In 1964, a full decade after the decision, more than 98 percent of Black children in the South still attended segregated schools .

The Brown Ruling Becomes a Catalyst for the Civil Rights Movement

Nettie Hunt explaining to her daughter Nickie the meaning of the high court's ruling in the Brown v. Board of Education case on the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court. (Credit: Bettmann Archive/Getty Images)

For the first time since the Reconstruction Era , the Court’s ruling focused national attention on the subjugation of Black Americans. The result? The growth of the nascent civil-rights movement, which would doggedly challenge segregation and demand legal equality for Black families through boycotts, sit-ins, freedom rides and voter-registration drives.

The Brown verdict inspired Southern Blacks to defy restrictive and punitive Jim Crow laws, however, the ruling also galvanized Southern whites in defense of segregation—including the infamous standoff at a high school in Little Rock , Arkansas in 1957. Violence against civil-rights activists escalated, outraging many in the North and abroad, helping to speed up the passage of major civil-rights and voting-rights legislation by the mid-1960s.

Finally, in 1964, two provisions within the Civil Rights Act effectively gave the federal government the power to enforce school desegregation for the first time: The Justice Department could sue schools that refused to integrate, and the government could withhold funding from segregated schools. Within five years after the act took effect, nearly a third of Black children in the South attended integrated schools, and that figure reached as high as 90 percent by 1973.

Legacy and Impact of Brown v. Board

More than 60 years after the landmark ruling, assessing its impact remains a complicated endeavor. The Court’s verdict fell short of initial hopes that it would end school segregation in America for good, and some argued that larger social and political forces within the nation played a far greater role in ending segregation.

As the Supreme Court has grown increasingly polarized along political lines, both conservative and liberal justices have claimed the legacy of Brown v. Board to argue different sides in the constitutional debate. In 2007, the Court ruled 5-4 against allowing public schools to take race into account in their admission policies in order to achieve or maintain integration. 

Chief Justice John Roberts, writing for the majority, asserted: “The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race.” And in a dissenting opinion, Justice John Paul Stevens wrote that the ruling “rewrites the history of one of this court’s most important decisions.”

Are Schools 'Separate But Equal’ in the 21st Century?

School segregation remains in force all over America today, largely because many of the neighborhoods in which schools are still located are themselves segregated. Despite the passage of the Fair Housing Act in 1968 and later judicial decisions making racial discrimination illegal, exclusionary economic-zoning laws still bar low-income and working-class Americans from many neighborhoods, which in many cases reduces their access to higher quality schools. 

According to a 2014 report by Richard Rothstein of the Economic Policy Institute report , as of the 60th anniversary of the Brown v. Board verdict the typical Black student attended a school where only 29 percent of his or her fellow students were white, down from some 36 percent in 1980.

brown v. board of education of topeka kansas decision

HISTORY Vault: Black History

Watch acclaimed Black History documentaries on HISTORY Vault.

brown v. board of education of topeka kansas decision

Sign up for Inside History

Get HISTORY’s most fascinating stories delivered to your inbox three times a week.

By submitting your information, you agree to receive emails from HISTORY and A+E Networks. You can opt out at any time. You must be 16 years or older and a resident of the United States.

More details : Privacy Notice | Terms of Use | Contact Us

Brown et al., v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas, et al., 347 U.S. 483, 349 U.S. 294

May 17, 1954 to May 31, 1955

While speaking at an annual luncheon of the National Committee for Rural Schools on 15 December 1956, Martin Luther King, Jr., reflected on the importance of  Brown v. Board of Education : “To all men of good will, this decision came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of human captivity. It came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of colored people throughout the world who had had a dim vision of the promised land of freedom and justice … this decision came as a legal and sociological deathblow to an evil that had occupied the throne of American life for several decades” ( Papers  3:472 ).

Brown v. Board of Education  (1954) was a consolidation of five school desegregation cases:  Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas ;  Briggs v. Elliot ;  Davis v. County School Board of Prince Edward County, Virginia ;  Bolling v. Sharpe ; and  Belton v. Gebhart . These cases were designed to challenge the “separate but equal” doctrine established in the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1896  Plessy v. Ferguson  decision, and because of their common legal challenge the Supreme Court combined the cases and decided them together. The  National Association for the Advancement of Colored People  (NAACP) Legal Defense and Educational Fund’s chief counsel, Thurgood  Marshall , managed the case. He was well aware that the Fund’s reputation and national racial progress were reliant on the outcome of  Brown .

Social psychologist Kenneth Clark testified in the lower courts that segregation causes black children “to reject themselves and their color and accept whites as desirable” (Williams, 202). Clark had traveled to Clarendon County, South Carolina, to administer a test he and his wife, Mamie, had developed. In the test, black children were shown two dolls, a white doll and a black doll, and asked for their opinions of each. The Clarks’ findings indicated that feelings of inferiority existed at an early age, as children generally considered the white dolls prettier and smarter than the black dolls.

The Supreme Court’s unanimous  Brown  decision, handed down on 17 May 1954, determined that the  Plessy  doctrine of “separate but equal” had no place in education and violated the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Chief Justice Earl Warren wrote: “To separate [blacks] from others of similar age and qualifications solely because of their race generates a feeling of inferiority as to their status in the community that may affect their hearts and minds in a way unlikely ever to be undone” (347 U.S. 483 [1954]). With this decision, racial segregation in schools became unconstitutional.

Initial excitement over the  Brown  victory dwindled, however, when desegregation of schools was not mandated as quickly as had been hoped. Marshall and his staff were disappointed that the Court did not impose a desegregation deadline on southern school districts. The NAACP prepared briefs suggesting that school desegregation transpire before fall 1956 and went to court again to argue for this relief. In  Brown v. Board II , the Court focused on ways to quickly integrate school districts. The Court recognized that different districts would need to implement different techniques to end segregation, and Warren ruled on 31 May 1955 that school districts were required to desegregate only “with all deliberate speed” (349 U.S. 294 [1955]).

Brown et al., v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas, et al. , 347 U.S. 483 (1954), 349 U.S. 294 (1955).

King, “Desegregation and the Future,” Address Delivered at the Annual Luncheon of the National Committee for Rural Schools, 15 December 1956, in  Papers  3:471–479 .

Kluger,  Simple Justice , 1975.

Williams,  Thurgood Marshall , 1998.

  • Find a Lawyer
  • Ask a Lawyer
  • Research the Law
  • Law Schools
  • Laws & Regs
  • Newsletters
  • Justia Connect
  • Pro Membership
  • Basic Membership
  • Justia Lawyer Directory
  • Platinum Placements
  • Gold Placements
  • Justia Elevate
  • Justia Amplify
  • PPC Management
  • Google Business Profile
  • Social Media
  • Justia Onward Blog

Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, 349 U.S. 294 (1955)

The task of implementing programs to achieve desegregation in public schools belongs to the schools themselves.

After the Brown I decision, which ruled that segregation in public schools was unconstitutional, the Supreme Court sought an additional set of arguments on what remedies would be appropriate. This presented a notable challenge because the cases stemmed from many different regions of the U.S. with distinctive conditions and problems. The Court acknowledged that all of the federal, state, and local laws that condoned segregation must be altered.

  • Earl Warren (Author)
  • Hugo Lafayette Black
  • Stanley Forman Reed
  • Felix Frankfurter
  • William Orville Douglas
  • Tom C. Clark
  • Sherman Minton
  • Harold Hitz Burton
  • John Marshall Harlan II

The courts that are most closely situated to local conditions are best equipped to consider whether the schools are acting in good faith when they are applying the constitutional mandate. Any further hearings can most easily be conducted in those courts, which should consider the need to reconcile public and private interests as well as the importance of practical flexibility in determining what remedies may be appropriate. In all areas, however, the school systems must start pursuing full racial integration promptly. The amount of time needed to achieve the goals of Brown I is unclear, and the time period may need to be extended, but the schools will be responsible for proving to the courts that an extension is needed and is compliant in good faith with the Constitution. Some of the practical issues that courts may need to take into account include facilities, transportation systems, changes to school district and local laws, and any proposals made by the school districts. During the shift toward integration, the courts will retain authority over the project. The lower courts must enter order orders that are consistent with this opinion and that further the goal of providing children access to public schools on a race-neutral basis.

The Supreme Court used this decision to delegate the responsibilities of implementing Brown I. Several decades later, many observers would argue that these efforts either failed or produced only short-term results that were eroded. White flight and other phenomena have led to the re-segregation of public schools in many areas, often in situations where there may be no discriminatory intent.

U.S. Supreme Court

Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka

Reargued on the question of relief April 11-14, 1955

Opinion and judgments announced May 31, 1955*

349 U.S. 294

1. Racial discrimination in public education is unconstitutional, 347 U. S. 347 U.S. 483, 347 U. S. 497 , and all provisions of federal, state or local law requiring or permitting such discrimination must yield to this principle. P. 349 U. S. 298 .

2. The judgments below (except that in the Delaware case) are reversed and the cases are remanded to the District Courts to take such proceedings and enter such orders and decrees consistent with this opinion as are necessary and proper to admit the parties to these cases to public schools on a racially nondiscriminatory basis with all deliberate speed. P. 349 U. S. 301 .

(a) School authorities have the primary responsibility for elucidating, assessing and solving the varied local school problems which may require solution in fully implementing the governing constitutional principles. P. 349 U. S. 299 .

(b) Courts will have to consider whether the action of school authorities constitutes good faith implementation of the governing constitutional principles. P. 349 U. S. 299 .

(c) Because of their proximity to local conditions and the possible need for further hearings, the courts which originally heard these cases can best perform this judicial appraisal. P. 349 U. S. 299 .

(d) In fashioning and effectuating the decrees, the courts will be guided by equitable principles -- characterized by a practical flexibility in shaping remedies and a facility for adjusting and reconciling public and private needs. P. 349 U. S. 300 .

Page 349 U. S. 295

(e) At stake is the personal interest of the plaintiffs in admission to public schools as soon as practicable on a nondiscriminatory basis. P. 349 U. S. 300 .

(f) Courts of equity may properly take into account the public interest in the elimination in a systematic and effective manner of a variety of obstacles in making the transition to school systems operated in accordance with the constitutional principles enunciated in 347 U. S. 347 U.S. 483, 347 U. S. 497 ; but the vitality of these constitutional principles cannot be allowed to yield simply because of disagreement with them. P. 349 U. S. 300 .

(g) While giving weight to these public and private considerations, the courts will require that the defendants make a prompt and reasonable start toward full compliance with the ruling of this Court. P. 349 U. S. 300 .

(h) Once such a start has been made, the courts may find that additional time is necessary to carry out the ruling in an effective manner. P. 349 U. S. 300 .

(i) The burden rests on the defendants to establish that additional time is necessary in the public interest and is consistent with good faith compliance at the earliest practicable date. P. 349 U. S. 300 .

(j) The courts may consider problems related to administration, arising from the physical condition of the school plant, the school transportation system, personnel, revision of school districts and attendance areas into compact units to achieve a system of determining admission to the public schools on a nonracial basis, and revision of local laws and regulations which may be necessary in solving the foregoing problems. Pp. 349 U. S. 300 -301.

(k) The courts will also consider the adequacy of any plans the defendants may propose to meet these problems and to effectuate a transition to a racially nondiscriminatory school system. P. 349 U. S. 301 .

(l) During the period of transition, the courts will retain jurisdiction of these cases. P. 349 U. S. 301 .

3. The judgment in the Delaware case, ordering the immediate admission of the plaintiffs to schools previously attended only by white children, is affirmed on the basis of the principles stated by this Court in its opinion, 347 U. S. 347 U.S. 483, but the case is remanded to the Supreme Court of Delaware for such further proceedings as that Court may deem necessary in the light of this opinion. P. 349 U. S. 301 .

98 F. Supp. 797 , 103 F. Supp. 920 , 103 F. Supp. 337 and judgment in No. 4, reversed and remanded.

91 A.2d 137 , affirmed and remanded.

Page 349 U. S. 298

  • Opinions & Dissents
  • Copy Citation

Get free summaries of new US Supreme Court opinions delivered to your inbox!

  • Bankruptcy Lawyers
  • Business Lawyers
  • Criminal Lawyers
  • Employment Lawyers
  • Estate Planning Lawyers
  • Family Lawyers
  • Personal Injury Lawyers
  • Estate Planning
  • Personal Injury
  • Business Formation
  • Business Operations
  • Intellectual Property
  • International Trade
  • Real Estate
  • Financial Aid
  • Course Outlines
  • Law Journals
  • US Constitution
  • Regulations
  • Supreme Court
  • Circuit Courts
  • District Courts
  • Dockets & Filings
  • State Constitutions
  • State Codes
  • State Case Law
  • Legal Blogs
  • Business Forms
  • Product Recalls
  • Justia Connect Membership
  • Justia Premium Placements
  • Justia Elevate (SEO, Websites)
  • Justia Amplify (PPC, GBP)
  • Testimonials

Some case metadata and case summaries were written with the help of AI, which can produce inaccuracies. You should read the full case before relying on it for legal research purposes.

You are using an outdated browser no longer supported by Oyez. Please upgrade your browser to improve your experience.

  • Skip to global NPS navigation
  • Skip to this park navigation
  • Skip to the main content
  • Skip to this park information section
  • Skip to the footer section

brown v. board of education of topeka kansas decision

Exiting nps.gov

Alerts in effect, the story of brown.

Last updated: March 21, 2024

Park footer

Contact info, mailing address:.

1515 SE Monroe Street Topeka, KS 66612-1143

785 354-4273

Stay Connected

Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka

Monroe School, 1920s

In many states African American students were placed in schools that were inferior to those attended by white children. The plaintiffs in Topeka did not charge that the schools' facilities their children attended were inferior, but that segregation itself did psychological and educational damage to black children forced to attend schools isolated from the other children in the community. 

They began to develop their challenge in 1950 with Topeka attorneys Charles Scott , John Scott, and Charles Bledsoe.  A petition to the school board was drafted and a number of African American citizens began the difficult but successful effort to collect necessary signatures. They were assisted in this effort by volunteers from the Menninger Foundation. When the Board of Education failed to terminate segregation as requested, black Topekans, joined by the NAACP, and several other cases: Briggs v. Elliott from South Carolina; Davis v. County School Board of Prince Edward County , Virginia; Bolling v. Sharpe from the District of Columbia; and Gebhart v. Belton from Delaware, to take their fight to the U.S. Supreme Court. At the time of the Brown oral argument, 17 states in the Union provided for separate schools for white and black children. Four others permitted school boards to segregate. Those four were Wyoming, Kansas, New Mexico, and Arizona.

The Brown case was the first case to be argued to the court. Robert Carter, representing the Brown family and the other plaintiffs, began his argument on December 9, 1952.

Listen to this interview with Judge Robert Lee Carter in 1992.

The state of Kansas was represented by 36-year-old Assistant Attorney General Paul Wilson. By the fall of 1952, the school board of Topeka had been transformed by elections to a group whose majority did not want segregation and did not want to defend it. Kansas Attorney General Harold Fatzer, who would later become chief justice of the Kansas Supreme Court, was not enthusiastic about the state's side of the case. However, he could not concede that Kansas' law was unconstitutional. The Supreme Court essentially ordered the attorney general's office to file a brief and present oral arguments. Wilson, who would later become a much beloved law professor at the University of Kansas, wrote extensively about his experience in Brown. He had a feeling that he would lose the case because, as he said later, "history and social conscience had simply overtaken the law."

Following the 1952 oral argument, the Supreme Court justices remained deeply divided over the question of whether to uphold racial segregation in education. At the conclusion of the Court's session, the justices delayed their decision by asking the parties to present additional arguments. Five questions were issued to the parties, focusing on the original understanding of the Fourteenth Amendment and on judicial power to abolish segregation even if such abolition had not been contemplated by the writers of the Amendment and those who ratified it. The Court scheduled reargument on October 12, 1953. But those plans changed on September 9, 1953, when Chief Justice Fred Vinson died of a heart attack at the age of 63.

Less than one month after Chief Justice Vinson's death, Earl Warren took the oath of office to become the new Chief Justice of the United States. New arguments in Brown were rescheduled to begin on December 7, 1953.

During those arguments, the parties focused on whether, at the time the Fourteenth Amendment was ratified, Congress and others understood the Amendment would outlaw segregation in public schools. The parties also addressed whether future members of Congresses or the court had the power to interpret the Amendment to abolish segregation, it there was no such understanding at the time the Amendment was adopted.

The Supreme Court ruled unanimously that segregated public education violated the Fourteenth Amendment, a conclusion that rested not necessarily on the understanding or conditions existing when the Fourteenth Amendment was adopted, but on the later full development of public education and its current status in American life throughout the nation.

Because its decision applied to all public schools in a variety of local conditions, the Supreme Court was concerned about how to design a remedy. It directed the parties to submit additional briefs and return for another argument in 1955, this time concerning the relief that should be ordered. The Supreme Court ultimately ruled that school boards must make a "prompt and reasonable start toward full compliance" and that the courts would monitor school boards to make sure they were putting compliance plans in place and following them.

In 1999, the U.S. District Court finally closed the Brown case in Topeka, after monitoring compliance for 40 years. Today some U.S. school districts are still under monitoring and supervision of federal courts.

The Brown decision altered the daily lives of black and white Americans. It laid a foundation of equal rights and opportunities for all. It demonstrated that educational opportunity and achievement are core values and recognized that education can be a great equalizer among people of different races, classes, and backgrounds. It shines as a beacon to all Americans and to the rest of the world, demonstrating that the ideals in the Declaration of Independence and the tenets of the United States Constitution will be universally applied to all citizens.

The landmark case Brown v. Board of Education was the result of the hard work of many people, including the following Topeka plaintiffs, who began their challenge in the U.S. District Court in 1951:

Entry: Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka

Author: Kansas Historical Society

Author information: The Kansas Historical Society is a state agency charged with actively safeguarding and sharing the state's history.

Date Created: June 2003

Date Modified: January 2019

The author of this article is solely responsible for its content.

Submit Kansapedia content

We invite you to send further details about existing articles or submit articles on other topics in Kansas history.

Submission criteria

  • Kansas Memory

Our online collections contain more than 500,000 images of photos, documents, and artifacts, which grows daily. Find your story in Kansas through this rich resource!

G. P. Thielen and his automobile, Dorrance, Russell County, Kansas

Related Content

  • McKinley Burnett
  • Arthur Fletcher - Kansapedia
  • Billy McCray
  • Charles E. Bledsoe
  • Charles Scott, Sr.

6425 SW 6th Avenue · Topeka, KS 66615-1099 · 785-272-8681 · kshs.org · Contact the webmaster

© 2024 The Kansas Historical Society

http://www.kshs.org/kansapedia/brown-v-board-of-education-of-topeka/11994

About | Events | Shop

Kansapedia

  • STATE HISTORIC SITES
  • MUSEUM AND EDUCATION
  • PRESERVATION
  • State Archives
  • State Historic Sites
  • Internships
  • Calendar of events
  • Public notices
  • Kansas Open records
  • Executive director
  • Annual report
  • Plan Your visit
  • Plan your visit
  • Last Chance Store
  • Digital newspapers
  • Building survey
  • County records
  • Ancestry for Kansans
  • Research Room
  • Using Our Collections
  • Kansas History
  • Kansas Preservation
  • Our Kansas Stories
  • Ask a research question
  • Finding Aids
  • Interlibrary loan
  • Copies and Photo Orders
  • Archives Catalog
  • Museum Catalog
  • ATLAS Catalog
  • Historical Records Advisory Board
  • Law Enforcement Memorial
  • Records Management
  • Records Retention
  • Records Protection
  • State Records Board
  • Search Retention Schedules
  • Land Survey
  • Lesson plans
  • Resource trunks
  • Enrichment activities
  • Virtual + Video
  • Read Kansas!
  • Sources for student research
  • Tours - Museum
  • Tours - Capitol
  • Tours - Historic Sites
  • Events - Museum
  • Events - Capitol
  • Tours - State Archives
  • Events - Historic Sites
  • History Time Newsletter
  • Education YouTube
  • Conferences, Inservices, Events
  • Online Exhibits
  • Museum Collection
  • Online Tour
  • Search database
  • List a property
  • Pending nominations
  • Tax credits
  • Technical assistance
  • Publications
  • State preservation law
  • Federal 106 review
  • Historic buildings
  • Historical markers
  • Archeological sites
  • Certification
  • Meeting materials
  • Kansas Preservation Conference
  • Antiquities Law
  • Unmarked Burial Law
  • Current Program
  • Field School Archive
  • Contract Archeology
  • Board of directors
  • Foundation director
  • Annual reports
  • Staff directory
  • Vendor opportunities
  • Join or renew
  • Giving opportunities

The Kansas Historical Society is

  • Artists and Authors
  • Entrepreneurs
  • Farmers and Ranchers
  • Journalists and Media
  • Legal Professionals
  • Medical Professionals
  • People A to Z
  • Politicians
  • Buildings and Structures
  • Cities and Towns
  • State-Owned Historic Sites
  • African Americans
  • American Indians
  • Asian Americans
  • European Americans
  • Mexican Americans
  • Agriculture and Ranching
  • Arts and Literature
  • Bleeding Kansas (Kansas Territory)
  • Brown v. Board of Education
  • Business and Industry
  • Civil Rights
  • Cowboys and Cowtown
  • Native Peoples
  • Politics and Government
  • Public Health
  • Reform Movements
  • Science and Technology
  • Sports and Leisure
  • Transportation
  • Weather and Natural Resources
  • Womens Rights

Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas

Brown v. Board of Education, 347 U.S. 483 (1954) (USSC+)

Argued December 9, 1952

Reargued December 8, 1953

Decided May 17, 1954

APPEAL FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF KANSAS*

These cases come to us from the States of Kansas, South Carolina, Virginia, and Delaware. They are premised on different facts and different local conditions, but a common legal question justifies their consideration together in this consolidated opinion.

In each of the cases, minors of the Negro race, through their legal representatives, seek the aid of the courts in obtaining admission to the public schools of their community on a nonsegregated basis. In each instance, they had been denied admission to schools attended by white children under laws requiring or permitting segregation according to race. This segregation was alleged to deprive the plaintiffs of the equal protection of the laws under the Fourteenth Amendment. In each of the cases other than the Delaware case, a three-judge federal district court denied relief to the plaintiffs on the so-called “separate but equal” doctrine announced by this Court in Plessy v. Ferguson, 163 U.S. 537. Under that doctrine, equality of treatment is accorded when the races are provided substantially equal facilities, even though these facilities be separate. In the Delaware case, the Supreme Court of Delaware adhered to that doctrine, but ordered that the plaintiffs be admitted to the white schools because of their superiority to the Negro schools

The plaintiffs contend that segregated public schools are not “equal” and cannot be made “equal,” and that hence they are deprived of the equal protection of the laws. Because of the obvious importance of the question presented, the Court took jurisdiction. Argument was heard in the 1952 Term, and reargument was heard this Term on certain questions propounded by the Court. ...

An additional reason for the inconclusive nature of the Amendment’s history with respect to segregated schools is the status of public education at that time. In the South, the movement toward free common schools, supported by general taxation, had not yet taken hold. Education of white children was largely in the hands of private groups. Education of Negroes was almost nonexistent, and practically all of the race were illiterate. In fact, any education of Negroes was forbidden by law in some states. Today, in contrast, many Negroes have achieved outstanding success in the arts and sciences, as well as in the business and professional world. It is true that public school education at the time of the Amendment had advanced further in the North, but the effect of the Amendment on Northern States was generally ignored in the congressional debates. Even in the North, the conditions of public education did not approximate those existing today. The curriculum was usually rudimentary; ungraded schools were common in rural areas; the school term was but three months a year in many states, and compulsory school attendance was virtually unknown. As a consequence, it is not surprising that there should be so little in the history of the Fourteenth Amendment relating to its intended effect on public education.

In the first cases in this Court construing the Fourteenth Amendment, decided shortly after its adoption, the Court interpreted it as proscribing all state-imposed discriminations against the Negro race. The doctrine of “separate but equal” did not make its appearance in this Court until 1896 in the case of Plessy v. Ferguson, supra, involving not education but transportation. American courts have since labored with the doctrine for over half a century. In this Court, there have been six cases involving the “separate but equal” doctrine in the field of public education. In Cumming v. County Board of Education, 175 U.S. 528, and Gong Lum v. Rice, 275 U.S. 78, the validity of the doctrine itself was not challenged. In more recent cases, all on the graduate school level, inequality was found in that specific benefits enjoyed by white students were denied to Negro students of the same educational qualifications. Missouri ex rel. Gaines v. Canada, 305 U.S. 337; Sipuel v. Oklahoma, 332 U.S. 631; Sweatt v. Painter, 339 U.S. 629; McLaurin v. Oklahoma State Regents, 339 U.S. 637. In none of these cases was it necessary to reexamine the doctrine to grant relief to the Negro plaintiff. And in Sweatt v. Painter, supra, the Court expressly reserved decision on the question whether Plessy v. Ferguson should be held inapplicable to public education.

In the instant cases, that question is directly presented. Here, unlike Sweatt v. Painter, there are findings below that the Negro and white schools involved have been equalized, or are being equalized, with respect to buildings, curricula, qualifications and salaries of teachers, and other “tangible” factors. Our decision, therefore, cannot turn on merely a comparison of these tangible factors in the Negro and white schools involved in each of the cases. We must look instead to the effect of segregation itself on public education.

In approaching this problem, we cannot turn the clock back to 1868, when the Amendment was adopted, or even to 1896, when Plessy v. Ferguson was written. We must consider public education in the light of its full development and its present place in American life throughout the Nation. Only in this way can it be determined if segregation in public schools deprives these plaintiffs of the equal protection of the laws.

Today, education is perhaps the most important function of state and local governments. Compulsory school attendance laws and the great expenditures for education both demonstrate our recognition of the importance of education to our democratic society. It is required in the performance of our most basic public responsibilities, even service in the armed forces. It is the very foundation of good citizenship. Today it is a principal instrument in awakening the child to cultural values, in preparing him for later professional training, and in helping him to adjust normally to his environment. In these days, it is doubtful that any child may reasonably be expected to succeed in life if he is denied the opportunity of an education. Such an opportunity, where the state has undertaken to provide it, is a right which must be made available to all on equal terms.

We come then to the question presented: Does segregation of children in public schools solely on the basis of race, even though the physical facilities and other “tangible” factors may be equal, deprive the children of the minority group of equal educational opportunities? We believe that it does. …

Segregation of white and colored children in public schools has a detrimental effect upon the colored children. The impact is greater when it has the sanction of the law, for the policy of separating the races is usually interpreted as denoting the inferiority of the negro group. A sense of inferiority affects the motivation of a child to learn. Segregation with the sanction of law, therefore, has a tendency to [retard] the educational and mental development of negro children and to deprive them of some of the benefits they would receive in a racial[ly] integrated school system. …

We conclude that, in the field of public education, the doctrine of “separate but equal” has no place. Separate educational facilities are inherently unequal. Therefore, we hold that the plaintiffs and others similarly situated for whom the actions have been brought are, by reason of the segregation complained of, deprived of the equal protection of the laws guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment. This disposition makes unnecessary any discussion whether such segregation also violates the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment

Because these are class actions, because of the wide applicability of this decision, and because of the great variety of local conditions, the formulation of decrees in these cases presents problems of considerable complexity. On reargument, the consideration of appropriate relief was necessarily subordinated to the primary question -- the constitutionality of segregation in public education. We have now announced that such segregation is a denial of the equal protection of the laws. In order that we may have the full assistance of the parties in formulating decrees, the cases will be restored to the docket, and the parties are requested to present further argument on Questions 4 and 5 previously propounded by the Court for the re argument this Term. The Attorney General of the United States is again invited to participate. The Attorneys General of the states requiring or permitting segregation in public education will also be permitted to appear as amici curiae upon request to do so by September 15, 1954, and submission of briefs by October 1, 1954.

It is so ordered.

  • Question What part of the U.S. Constitution does the Supreme Court apply in its ruling of Brown v. Board of Education? Answer The 14th Amendment. Responses may also point more specifically to the due process and equal protection clauses of the 14th Amendment.
  • Question When was the “separate but equal” doctrine established and to what sector did it apply? Answer The Plessy v. Ferguson case related to segregation in transportation.
  • Question What did the “separate but equal” doctrine mean? Answer Segregation was permissible under the condition that separation of the races did not result in unequal services, treatment or protection.
  • Question In what part of society was the “separate but equal” doctrine being applied in Brown? Did the Court rule that it applied? Answer It was applied in public education. The Court ruled it did not apply.
  • Question In the Court’s opinion, Justice Warren wrote, “Segregation of white and colored children in public schools has a detrimental effect upon the colored children. The impact is greater when it has the sanction of the law.” What does it mean for segregation to be sanctioned by law? Does school segregation still occur today even though it is not sanctioned by the law? Answer When something is sanctioned by the law, it is deemed legal or constitutional. Students should address the fact that forms of school segregation still exist today, within the law, due to economic factors such as residential segregation and self-segregation.
  • Question Justice Warren also wrote, “Separate educational facilities are inherently unequal.” Further explain what his argument means and then either support or refute it based on your own views and experiences as a student. Answer Responses will vary, but should address Warren’s claim that even when all things are equal between schools, if they are segregated by race they will produce inequality.
  • Student sensitivity.

Print this Text

Select the Student Version to print the text and Text Dependent Questions only. Select the Teacher Version to print the text with labels, Text Dependent Questions and answers. Highlighted vocabulary will appear in both printed versions.

  • Google Classroom

Sign in to save these resources.

Login or create an account to save resources to your bookmark collection.

A map of Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana and Mississippi with overlaid images of key state symbols and of people in community

Learning for Justice in the South

When it comes to investing in racial justice in education, we believe that the South is the best place to start. If you’re an educator, parent or caregiver, or community member living and working in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana or Mississippi, we’ll mail you a free introductory package of our resources when you join our community and subscribe to our magazine.

Get the Learning for Justice Newsletter

  • Skip to global NPS navigation
  • Skip to this park navigation
  • Skip to the main content
  • Skip to this park information section
  • Skip to the footer section

brown v. board of education of topeka kansas decision

Exiting nps.gov

Alerts in effect.

  • Learn About the Park
  • News Releases

News Release

Brown v. board of education naturalization february 22, 2024.

TOPEKA, Kan. – The National Park Service (NPS) hosted a Naturalization Ceremony today on February 22, in collaboration with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration services (USCIS) and the U.S. District Courts. The event was held in the auditorium at Brown v. Board of Education National Historical Park (BRVB), from 10:00 am to 11:00 am. A total of 51 new citizens from several separate countries participated in the ceremony earlier this morning. BRVB staff could not be more honored and proud to host this naturalization ceremony and help to bring communities together to celebrate the induction of new compatriots.  www.nps.gov/brvb Brown v. Board of Education National Historical Park tells the story of the U.S. Supreme Court decision that ended legal segregation in public schools. The site is located at 1515 SE Monroe Street in Topeka, Kansas and is free of charge. The Site is open five days a week, Tuesday-Saturday from 9:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m. For more information call 785-354-4273 or visit  www.facebook.com/brownvboardnps .

Last updated: April 25, 2024

Park footer

Contact info, mailing address:.

1515 SE Monroe Street Topeka, KS 66612-1143

785 354-4273

Stay Connected

Kansas African American Legislative Caucus commemorates 70th anniversary of Brown v. Board

TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Topeka is the birthplace of the landmark U.S. Supreme Court case, Brown v. the Board of Education and on Monday, state leaders took time to celebrate 70 years of equality among public schools.

Co-chair for the 70th Anniversary Brown Coalition, Beryl New, attended Topeka’s Monroe Elementary — the former all-black school is now the Brown vs. Board National Historic Site.

“To me, it’s an inspiration and a validation in many ways just to know that in Topeka there is a wealth of experiences that have gone on to shape our world,” said New.

The Kansas African American Legislative Caucus (KAALC) hosted the event, inviting New and others who were students when the ruling came down.

Sen. David Haley said it was the foundation for schools being united and equal.

“No longer would we have black, white, or brown schools,” said Haley. “Moving forward, that precept that education was something that every Kansan, every American child should have.”

Governor Laura Kelly said the anniversary is a chance to reflect on the impact the decision had on our community, state, and nation.

Kelly stated, “We also need to remember and recognize the courageous action taken by Black American parents on behalf of their children back then — especially the 13 parents right here in Topeka, Kansas.”

“Because of parents who persevered and were brave — we were able to provide equal choices to every family,” said New.

New said Brown v. Board will continue to be important for generations to come.

“I hope that as America grows that we learn to recognize the value of each and every human being and that there are no individuals who are better than or less than. We’re all just part of the human family and as such, we have to take care of one another,” said New.

Upcoming events are listed below.

  • 2024 Academy of African Business and Development Conference, hosted by Washburn School of Business (May 14-18, 2024)
  • The play “Now Let Me Fly” which tells the story of the unsung heroes and heroines in the battle for civil rights (May 17-18, 2024)

Copyright 2024 WIBW. All rights reserved.

Pottawatomie County officials are updating about the condition of Westmoreland after the tornado.

Pottawatomie County officials update about condition of Westmoreland after tornado

A tornado caused extensive damage to the City of Westmoreland.

Extensive damage, 1 confirmed death from Westmoreland tornado

The Topeka Police Dept. says officers arrested Lolita Bradford, 25, Tuesday night for...

Topeka police arrest suspected accomplice in Crown Point murder

All hazards possible

Wednesday forecast: More storms through Thursday

Bashaud Breeland

Former Chiefs corner, Super Bowl champion, arrested again in Charlotte

Latest news.

13 News This Morning At 5AM

13 News This Morning At 5AM

Robert, 13 years old

Wednesday’s Child - Robert

Wednesday’s Child - Robert

Westmoreland mourns the death of community member following violent tornado

Ann Miller, 58, was identified as the fatality.

Robert Dean Royer Jr Male 20 February 1949–8 December 2005  • LBTN-GRW

Brief life history of robert dean.

When Robert Dean Royer Jr was born on 20 February 1949, in Concordia, Cloud, Kansas, United States, his father, Robert Dean Royer, was 24 and his mother, Margaret Lee Kagel, was 20. He died on 8 December 2005, in Topeka, Shawnee, Kansas, United States, at the age of 56, and was buried in Leavenworth, Leavenworth, Kansas, United States.

Photos and Memories (1)

Do you know Robert Dean? Do you have a story about him that you would like to share? Sign In or Create a FREE Account

Family Time Line

Sources (3).

  • Robert Dean Royer, "Find A Grave Index"
  • Robert Dean Royer, "BillionGraves Index"
  • Robert D Royer, "United States Social Security Death Index"

Parents and Siblings

Male 1924–2001  •  Male

Female 1928–1970  •  Female

Siblings (3)

Female 1947–1999  •  Female

Male 1949–2005  •  Male

Male –1993  •  Male

World Events (8)

1954 · brown v. board of education of topeka, 1964 · the twenty-fourth amendment, name meaning.

Some characteristic forenames: French Patrice, Alphonse, Andre, Emile, Fernand, Jacques, Rejean, Adelard, Clovis, Damien, Dominique, Elmire.

French and English (of Norman origin): occupational name from Old French roier ‘cartwright, wheelwright’.

French: from an ancient Germanic personal name composed of hrōd ‘fame, renown’ + hari , heri ‘army’. Compare Rodier .

Dictionary of American Family Names © Patrick Hanks 2003, 2006.

Possible Related Names

Learn about Robert Dean's homeland.

Traditional Dress

Put your face in a costume from Robert Dean's homelands.

Discover Even More

As a nonprofit, we offer free help to those looking to learn the details of their family story.

Search for Another Deceased Ancestor

Share this with your family and friends..

COMMENTS

  1. Brown v. Board of Education

    The 1954 decision found that the historical evidence bearing on the issue was inconclusive. Brown v. Board of Education, case in which, on May 17, 1954, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously (9-0) that racial segregation in public schools was unconstitutional. It was one of the most important cases in the Court's history, and it helped ...

  2. Brown v. Board of Education

    Brown v. Board of Education. In the case that would become most famous, a plaintiff named Oliver Brown filed a class-action suit against the Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas, in 1951, after ...

  3. Brown v. Board of Education

    Kentucky (1908) Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, 347 U.S. 483 (1954), [1] was a landmark decision of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that U.S. state laws establishing racial segregation in public schools are unconstitutional, even if the segregated schools are otherwise equal in quality. The decision partially overruled the Court's 1896 ...

  4. Brown v. Board of Education (1954)

    On May 17, 1954, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Earl Warren delivered the unanimous ruling in the landmark civil rights case Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas. State-sanctioned segregation of public schools was a violation of the 14th amendment and was therefore unconstitutional. This historic decision marked the end of the "separate ...

  5. Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, 347 U.S. 483 (1954)

    U.S. Supreme Court. Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, 347 U.S. 483 (1954) Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka Argued December 9, 1952 Reargued December 8, 1953 Decided May 17, 1954* APPEAL FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF KANSAS MR. CHIEF JUSTICE WARREN delivered the opinion of the Court.

  6. Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka (1)

    Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka (1) Opinions. Syllabus ; View Case ; ... Oliver Brown, Mrs. Richard Lawton, Mrs. Sadie Emmanuel, et al. Appellee Board of Education of Topeka, Shawnee County, Kansas, et al. Location Monroe School. Docket no. 1 . Decided by Warren Court . Lower court Federal district court . Citation 347 US 483 (1954 ...

  7. Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka (article)

    The Topeka, Kansas chapter of the NAACP recruited Linda's father, Oliver Brown, along with a dozen other local black parents, to file suit against the Topeka Board of Education in 1951. By the time the case made it to the US Supreme Court in 1954, it had been combined with four other similar school segregation cases into a single unified case.

  8. Brown v. Board of Education

    Dissenting opinion in Briggs v.Elliott in which Judge Waties Waring opposed the District Court ruling that "separate but equal" schools were not in violation of the 14th amendment - he presented arguments that would later be used by the Supreme Court in Brown v.Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas, 6/21/1951. View in National Archives Catalog

  9. Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka

    Supreme Court Case. Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka (1954) 347 U.S. 483 (1954) "We conclude that in the field of public education the doctrine of 'separate but equal' has no place. Separate educational facilities are inherently unequal.".

  10. Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka

    When the United States Supreme Court handed down its unanimous decision in the landmark Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka case fifty years ago this spring, it thrust the issue of school desegregation into the national spotlight. The ruling that "separate educational facilities are inherently unequal" brought racial issues into the forefront ...

  11. Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas

    The Supreme Court's decision on the Brown v. Board of Education case in 1954 marked a culmination in a plan the NAACP had put into action more than forty years earlier—the end to racial inequality. African American parents throughout the country like Mrs. Hunt, shown here, explained to their children why this was an important moment in history.

  12. 1954: Brown v. Board of Education

    On May 17, 1954, in a landmark decision in the case of Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas, the U.S. Supreme Court declared state laws establishing separate public schools for students of different races to be unconstitutional. The decision dismantled the legal framework for racial segregation in public schools and Jim Crow laws ...

  13. PDF Brown v. Board of Education The Supreme Court Decision that Changed a

    By the time the Topeka suit reached the Supreme Court, racial segrega-tion in public schools was the norm across much of the nation and was permitted or legal-How U.S. Courts Work Brown v. Board of Education The Supreme Court Decision that Changed a Nation By David Pitts In May 1954 — in a landmark decision, Brown v. Board of Education— the ...

  14. Kansas: Brown vs Board of Education National Historic Site

    Board of Education by viewing the exhibits located throughout the building. Brown v. Board National Historic Site, a unit of the National Park System, is located at 1515 SE Monroe St., Topeka, KS. It is open from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm year round except for Thanksgiving Day, December 25, and January 1. For more information, visit the National Park ...

  15. Brown v. Board of Education: The First Step in the ...

    The lead plaintiff, Oliver Brown, had filed suit against the Board of Education in Topeka, Kansas in 1951, after his daughter Linda was denied admission to a white elementary school.

  16. Brown et al., v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas, et al., 347 U.S

    The Supreme Court's unanimous Brown decision, ... Brown et al., v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas, et al., 347 U.S. 483 (1954), 349 U.S. 294 (1955). King, "Desegregation and the Future," Address Delivered at the Annual Luncheon of the National Committee for Rural Schools, 15 December 1956, in Papers 3:471-479.

  17. Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, 349 U.S. 294 (1955)

    Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka. Reargued on the question of relief April 11-14, 1955. Opinion and judgments announced May 31, 1955*. 349 U.S. 294. Syllabus. 1. Racial discrimination in public education is unconstitutional, 347 U. S. 347 U.S. 483, 347 U. S. 497, and all provisions of federal, state or local law requiring or permitting ...

  18. Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka (2)

    After its decision in Brown v.Board of Education of Topeka (Brown I), which declared racial discrimination in public education unconstitutional, the Court convened to issue the directives which would help to implement its newly announced constitutional principle.The cases stemmed from many different regions of the United States with distinctive conditions and problems.

  19. The Story of Brown

    Read More: Belton v. Gebhart Brown v. Board of Education — 1951. ... Echoing the U.S. District Court's earlier decision in Kansas, the U.S. Supreme Court accepted the Clark's study as evidence and concluded that the 14th and 5th Amendments had been violated, as the states and Washington D.C. had denied equal protection of the laws when it ...

  20. Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka

    The landmark case, known as Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, involved a Kansas statute permitting racial segregation in some of the state's elementary schools. In many states African American students were placed in schools that were inferior to those attended by white children. The plaintiffs in Topeka did not charge that the schools ...

  21. Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas

    Chief Justice Earl Warren wrote the opinion for Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas, a groundbreaking case that overturned the "separate but equal" standard set forth in Plessy v. Ferguson. The Supreme Court decided this case unanimously on May 17, 1954. Brown v. Board of Education, 347 U.S. 483 (1954) (USSC+) Opinion.

  22. Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, KS (1954)

    Oliver Brown, a the Oliver Brown et al. v. the Board of Education minister, was the only male parent involved with of Topeka, Kansas et al. United States Supreme the suit, so the case was named after him. The Court decision of 1954. This project was impor- purpose of the project was to mark the 50th an- tant to me for not only its historical ...

  23. Brown v. Board of Education

    Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, 347 U.S. 483 (1954) (full name George Brown, et al. v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas) was a Landmark decision by the Supreme Court of the United States.. In 1950 in Topeka, Kansas, a black third-grade girl named Linda Carol Brown had to run more than a mile through a railroad switchyard to get to her segregated school for black children.

  24. 'Brown v. Board at 70' conference will explore legacy of landmark decision

    LAWRENCE — In celebration of the 70th anniversary of the Supreme Court's ruling in the Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka case, the University of Kansas and the Brown v. Board of Education National Historical Park, Topeka, KS will host an event series and conference exploring the legacy of the landmark decision on Thursday, April 18 and ...

  25. Brown v. Board of Education Naturalization February 22, 2024

    Brown v. Board of Education National Historical Park tells the story of the U.S. Supreme Court decision that ended legal segregation in public schools. The site is located at 1515 SE Monroe Street in Topeka, Kansas and is free of charge. The Site is open five days a week, Tuesday-Saturday from 9:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m.

  26. Kansas African American Legislative Caucus commemorates 70th ...

    Topeka is the birthplace of the landmark U.S. Supreme Court case, Brown v. the Board of Education and on Monday, state leaders took time to celebrate 70 years of equality among public schools.

  27. Kami Export

    Brown v. Board of Education, (1954) Background information In the early 1950s, Linda Brown was a young African American student in the Topeka, Kansas school district. Every day she and her sister, Terry Lynn, had to walk through the Rock Island Railroad Switchyard to get to the bus stop for the ride to the all-black Monroe School. Linda Brown tried to gain admission to the Sumner School, which ...

  28. Buffalo to mark 70 years since Brown v. Board of Education

    Seventy years to the month after the Supreme Court's landmark Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka decision rejected a Jim Crow system of "separate but equal" in American education, Buffalo ...

  29. Robert Dean Royer Jr (1949-2005) • FamilySearch

    Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka was a U.S. Supreme Court case which ruled racial segregation in public schools as unconstitutional. The unanimous decision was handed down on May 17, 1954. The case was originally filed by the Brown family in Topeka, Kansas. 1964 · The Twenty-Fourth Amendment