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On 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.
abridge
Verb

to shorten or reduce.

Board of Education
Noun

group of elected officials who decide educational policy for school districts.

campaign
Noun

activities designed to achieve a social, political, or military goal.

citizen
Noun

member of a country, state, or town who shares responsibilities for the area and benefits from being a member.

clause
Noun

one part of a contract, treaty, or other agreement.

deny
Verb

to refuse or not allow

deprive
Verb

to withhold or prevent from using.

desegregate
Verb

to end segregation by race.

doctrine
Noun

policy or system of teachings.

enormous
Adjective

very large.

equipment
Noun

tools and materials to perform a task or function.

inferior
Adjective

of lower quality.

inherent
Adjective

intrinsic, or existing as an inseparable part of something.

integration
Noun

process of mixing different substances or groups.

jurisdiction
Noun

geographic region associated with a legal authority.

liberty
Noun

freedom.

oppose
Verb

to be or act against something.

policy
Noun

set of actions or rules.

public
Adjective

available to an entire community, not limited to paying members.

school district
Noun

geographic area whose schools are managed by one administration.

segregation
Noun

separation.

sue
Verb

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.

unanimous
Adjective

being totally united in support or rejection of an idea or vote.

unconstitutional
Adjective

against the laws of the United States Constitution.

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