Audience versions of this page: FamilyOn May 17, 1954, the U.S. Supreme Court outlawed racial segregation in public schools. The ruling, ending the five-year case of Oliver Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas, was a unanimous decision.Brown, actually a collection of five school segregation cases, overturned the “separate but equal” doctrine outlined in the 1896 Plessy v. Ferguson case. Without ruling that black-only schools were inherently inferior to white-only schools, Brown ruled that racial segregation itself was unconstitutional. In particular, such segregation violated the so-called “equal protection clause” of the 14th Amendment: “No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”The Brown decision had an enormous impact on public schools in the U.S. In Topeka, elementary schools desegregated within two years. (Middle and high schools were already integrated.) However, not all states accepted the Supreme Court’s decision. In Virginia, for instance, a campaign called “Massive Resistance” opposed desegregation. Many public schools in Virginia closed down rather than accept integration. Virginia did not entirely integrate its public schools until the 1970s.
Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry abridge Verb
to shorten or reduce.
Board of Education Noun
group of elected officials who decide educational policy for school districts.
activities designed to achieve a social, political, or military goal.
member of a country, state, or town who shares responsibilities for the area and benefits from being a member.
one part of a contract, treaty, or other agreement.
to refuse or not allow
to withhold or prevent from using.
to end segregation by race.
policy or system of teachings.
tools and materials to perform a task or function.
of lower quality.
intrinsic, or existing as an inseparable part of something.
process of mixing different substances or groups.
geographic region associated with a legal authority.
to be or act against something.
set of actions or rules.
available to an entire community, not limited to paying members.
school district Noun
geographic area whose schools are managed by one administration.
to bring a lawsuit against a person or organization.
Supreme Court Noun
highest judicial authority on issues of national or constitutional importance in the U.S.
being totally united in support or rejection of an idea or vote.
against the laws of the United States Constitution.