In 1951, a class action suit was filed against the Board of Education of the City of Topeka, Kansas in the U.S. District Court for the District of Kansas. The plaintiffs were thirteen Topeka parents on behalf of their twenty children.
The suit called for the school district to reverse its policy of racial segregation. Separate elementary schools were operated by the Topeka Board of Education under an 1879 Kansas law, which permitted (but did not require) districts to maintain separate elementary school facilities for black and white students in twelve communities with populations over 15,000.
Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, is a landmark decision of the United States Supreme Court overturning its earlier ruling, declaring the establishment of separate public schools for black and white students inherently unequal. The decision of the Supreme Court was unanimous, which meant that all 9 justices agreed.
Brown did not, however, result in the immediate desegregation of America's public schools, nor did it mandate desegregation of public accommodations, such as restaurants or bathrooms that were owned by private parties, which would not be accomplished until the passage of Title II of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. However, it was a giant step forward for the civil rights movement, placing the weight of the Federal Judiciary squarely behind the forces of desegregation.
As the people of the United States move toward the November election, one of the things that voters need to consider in the Presidential election is: who will this president appoint when a Supreme Court Justice retires in the next four years? Brown v. Board of Education demonstrated the power of the Supreme Court to undo injustice and steer the country toward greater sustainability for future generations. The choice of president will impact the makeup of the future Supreme Court. As you study excerpts from the ruling on the Brown v. Board Education, consider which presidential candidate will have the capacity to appoint future justices who will make the kind of decisions that the Supreme Court made unanimously in 1954?
EXCERPT FROM THE UNANIMOUS SUPREME COURT DECISION ON THE CASE: BROWN VS. BOARD OF EDUCTION DELIVERED BY CHIEF JUSTICE WARREN ON MAY 17, 1954.
Today, education is perhaps the most important function of state and local governments. Compulsory school attendance laws and the great expenditures for education both demonstrate our recognition of the importance of education to our democratic society. It is required in the performance of our most basic public responsibilities, even service in the armed forces. It is the very foundation of good citizenship. Today it is a principal instrument in awakening the child to cultural values, in preparing him for later professional training, and in helping him to adjust normally to his environment. In these days, it is doubtful that any child may reasonably be expected to succeed in life if he is denied the opportunity of an education. Such an opportunity, where the state has undertaken to provide it, is a right which must be made available to all on equal terms.
We come then to the question presented: Does segregation of children in public schools solely on the basis of race, even though the physical facilities and other "tangible" factors may be equal, deprive the children of the minority group of equal educational opportunities? We believe that it does. . . .
Segregation of white and colored children in public schools has a detrimental effect upon the colored children. The impact is greater when it has the sanction of the law, for the policy of separating the races is usually interpreted as denoting the inferiority of the negro group. . . .
We conclude that, in the field of public education, the doctrine of "separate but equal" has no place. Separate educational facilities are inherently unequal. Therefore, we hold that the plaintiffs and others similarly situated for whom the actions have been brought are, by reason of the segregation complained of, deprived of the equal protection of the laws guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment./em>
Reflection Questions for Proper 22(Year B)
Eric H. F. Law
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