Separate Is Not Equal - Brown v. Board of Education

Smithsonian National Museum of American History Behring Center

Segregated America
The Battleground
Legal Campaign
Five Communities Change a Nation
  • Clarendon County, SC
  • Topeka, Kansas
  • Farmville, Virginia
  • New Castle County, DE
  • Washington, DC
The Decision

Topeka, Kansas: Segregation in the Heartland

Brown et al. v. the Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas

Charles and John Scott and Charles Bledsoe of Topeka, joined by Robert Carter and Jack Greenberg of the NAACP’s national office, presented the case to a panel of three federal judges. The NAACP attorneys argued that segregated schools violated the Fourteenth Amendment and harmed black students.

The judges conceded the damage caused by segregated education. Nevertheless, the Court ruled that white and black schools in Topeka were comparable and that segregation was consistent with the laws of Kansas and the Supreme Court’s ruling in Plessy v. Ferguson.

Federal District Court panel for Brown, June 1951

Federal District Court panel for Brown, June 1951

Federal district court judges Arthur J. Mellott, Delmas C. Hill, and Walter A. Huxman (left to right) handed down their decision on the Brown case in June 1951.
(Courtesy of Library, United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit, Denver, Colorado)
Brief submitted to the Supreme Court

Brief submitted to the Supreme Court

The NAACP attorneys appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court for the October 1952 term.
(Courtesy of Supreme Court of the United States)
“ We weren’t in sympathy with the decision we rendered. If it weren’t for Plessy v. Ferguson, we surely would have found the law unconstitutional. But there was no way around it—the Supreme Court would have to overrule itself. ”
— Judge Walter A. Huxman, reflecting on the decision in Brown v. Board of Education, 1970s

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