The Plaintiffs, various black children (Plaintiffs), were denied admission to schools attended by white children under laws that permitted or required segregation by race. Plaintiffs sued, seeking admission to public schools in their communities on a nonsegregated basis.
Does the segregation of public education based solely on race violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment?
Separate but equal educational facilities for racial minorities is inherently unequal, violating the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Chief Justice Earl Warren delivered the opinion of the unanimous Court. The Supreme Court held that “separate but equal” facilities are inherently unequal and violate the protections of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The Court reasoned that the segregation of public education based on race instilled a sense of inferiority that had a hugely detrimental effect on the education and personal growth of African American children. Warren based much of his opinion on information from social science studies rather than court precedent. The decision also used language that was relatively accessible to non-lawyers because Warren felt it was necessary for all Americans to understand its logic.
The Supreme Court of the United States (Supreme Court) is relying on the same rationale to invalidate the segregation laws here that it did in Sweatt v. Painter (ordering the admission of a black student to the University of Texas Law School, despite the fact that a parallel black facility was available). The rationale is that it’s the intangible factors that make segregation laws in the area of public education “inherently unequal.” Whether stigma or the perception of stigma alone is sufficient injury to invalidate a law supported by a valid, neutral purpose is an open question.
Robert L. Carter argued and reargued for the appellants in No. 8 and No. 1, Paul E. Wilson argued and reargued for the appellees in No. 8 and No. 1, Thurgood Marshall argued for the appellants in No. 101,reargued for the appellants in No. 2 and No. 4, and reargued for the respondents in No. 10, John W. Davis argued and reargued for the appellees in No. 101, No. 2 and No. 4, Spottswood Robinson III argued for the appellants in No.191 and reargued for the appellants in No. 2 and No. 4, T. Justin Moore argued and reargued for the appellees in No. 101, No. 2 and No. 4, J. Lindsay Almond, Jr. argued for the appellees in No.191 and reargued for the appellees in No. 2 and No. 4, J. Lee Rankin Assistant Attorney General, Department of Justice, for the United States, as amicus curiae, by special leave of Court in No. 2 and No. 4, H. Albert Young argued and reargued for the petitioners in No. 448 and No. 10, Louis L. Redding argued for the respondents in No. 448, Jack Greenberg argued and reargued for the respondents in No. 448 and No. 10
Board of Education of Topeka, Shawnee County, Kansas, et al.
Oliver Brown, Mrs. Richard Lawton, Mrs. Sadie Emmanuel, et al.
347 US 483 (1954)
Dec 9 – 11, 1952, ReArgued:
Dec 7 – 9, 1953
May 17, 1954