What Brown v. Board of Education Should Have Said: The Nation's Top Legal Experts Rewrite America's Landmark Civil Rights Decision

By Jack M. Balkin | Go to book overview

BROWN ET AL. v. BOARD OF EDUCATION OF TOPEKA ET AL.

No. 1

SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES
347 U.S. 483
May 17, 1954, Decided
Reargued December 8, 1953.

PRIOR HISTORY: APPEAL FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT
COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF KANSAS.1

CHIEF JUSTICE BALKIN announced the judgment of the Court:


I.

These are school cases. They come from different parts of our country: from Kansas and South Carolina, from Delaware and Virginia. They involve a national question, and, indeed, one case comes from the District of Columbia, our nation's capital. Each case presents different facts and different local conditions, but each presents a single common question, which justifies our consolidated treatment.

In each of these cases, black schoolchildren, through their legal representatives, seek admission to public schools on a nonsegregated basis. They argue that they have been denied admission to schools attended by white children due to laws that either require or permit racial segregation, and that these laws deny them equal protection of the laws under the Fourteenth Amendment. In the Kansas, South Carolina, Virginia, and District of Columbia cases, a three-judge federal district court denied relief to the plaintiffs because of the so-called “separate but equal” doctrine announced by this Court in Plessy v. Ferguson, 163 U.S. 537 (1896). Under that doctrine, equal protection of the laws is satisfied when the state provides persons of different races separate but

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