Brown v. Board of Education: Separate but Equal?

By Susan Dudley Gold | Go to book overview

FOUR
THROUGH THE COURT SYSTEM

THurGooD MarSHaLL anD THe NAACP now focused their attention on the five school cases making their way through the court system. Convinced that segregation was unjust, they planned to use these cases to prove it. Ultimately, they intended to convince the Supreme Court to overturn Plessy and order an end to segregation in public education.

The district court heard the first of the six crucial cases, Boiling v. Sharpe, in 1951. Attorney James Nabrit Jr. told the court that Spottswood Boiling Jr. and his classmates should be allowed to attend the all-white school in their Washington, D.C., neighborhood. He based his claim on the Fifth Amendment's guarantee that [No person shall.. . be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law.] In making his point, Nabrit cited a 1923 Supreme Court case called Meyer v. Nebraska. The ruling in the case said that the Fifth Amendment guaranteed [the right of the individual to acquire useful knowledge] and that this right was [not to be interfered with… by legislative action which is arbitrary.]

Segregation, Nabrit contended, was arbitrary and unjust. He asked the court to end it. The district court rejected Nabrit's arguments in April 1951. The lawyer began working on an appeal as the other school cases took their turn in court.

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