The Brown decision was won by the NAACP and no one else. The campaign had been underway since the Nineteen Thirties from a strategy devised by the NAACP and executed under its direction (in a comprehensive memorandum form) by Nathan R. Margold.
Under this plan an assault was made on the inequality of teachers' salary scales under the separate but equal doctrine. Beginning with the case of Lloyd Gaines against the law school of the University of Missouri in 1938, to the final and successful Heman Sweatt case against the law school of the University of Texas in 1950, the tax- supported universities were open to all students. 1
Roy Wilkins on the twentieth anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education, 1974
The Supreme Court's opinion in the Sweatt case 2 failed to resolve the confusion of issues of equal access and equal educational opportunity that, for strategic reasons, had characterized the NAACP's suits in higher education. Sweatt gained admission to the University of Texas not because racial classifications conflicted with the Fourteenth Amendment, but because a segregated Negro law school could not provide the educational opportunities of a white one. This precedent proved difficult to apply, even in comparable cases, and seemed to leave no role for public Negro colleges.
The Supreme Court's decision in the school segregation cases in 1954 and 1955 similarly failed to differentiate between the legal and educational aspects of desegregation. Although the NAACP challenged the validity of racial classification itself, it also offered arguments on educational equality patterned on the Sweatt and McLaurin3 cases. At oral argument on the public school cases, NAACP lawyers faltered on the question of whether educational opportunity in a segregated school was crucial or irrelevant to a determination of legal equality. In its opinion, the Court made the issue of educational opportunity crucial to the outcome. Following Sweatt, it found that segregated and, by implication, Negro education were inherently unequal.