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
The Decision
  • Defenders of Segregation
  • Segregationists’ Argument
  • Challengers of Segregation
  • Integrationists’ Argument
  • Reaching a Decision
  • Court’s Decision
  • Timeline
Supreme Court Decision Timeline

March 2, 1954

The U.S. Senate confirms Earl Warren to the Supreme Court. Warren’s appointment marks a major turning point in the Court’s rulings on civil and individual rights.

May 17, 1954

The Supreme Court renders its decision in Brown v. Board of Education, overturning Plessy v. Ferguson and its separate-but-equal doctrine.
Slip opinion

Slip opinion

Printed copy of the Brown v. Board of Education opinion issued by the Supreme Court on the day of the decision



(Lent by Supreme Court of the United States)

“ The highest court in the land, the guardian of our national conscience, has reaffirmed its faith—and the undying American faith—in the equality of all men and all children before the law. ”
The New York Times, May 18, 1954
“ It is not too much to speak of the Court’s decision as a new birth of freedom...Abroad as well as at home, this decision will engender a renewal of faith in democratic institutions and ideals. ”
Washington Post, May 19, 1954
“ You can’t imagine the rejoicing among black people, and some white people, when the Supreme Court decision came down in May 1954...Many of us saw how the same idea applied to other things, like public transportation. It was a very hopeful time. African Americans believed that at last there was a real chance to change the segregation laws. ”
— Rosa Parks
“ For all men of goodwill May 17, 1954, marked a joyous end to the long night of enforced segregation...This decision brought hope to millions of disinherited Negroes who had formerly dared only to dream of freedom. ”
— Martin Luther King Jr.
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