Separate Is Not Equal: Brown v. Board of Education
This exhibition is no longer on view. The Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, Behring Center, presented this special exhibition, Separate Is Not Equal: Brown v. Board of Education. The one-year exhibition, which opened May 15, 2004, commemorated the 50th anniversary of this major turning point in American history.
Using objects, graphics, photographs, and video presentations, the exhibition told the story of how dedicated lawyers, parents, students, and community activists fought to overcome legal racial segregation in America. Through personal stories and broad historical themes, the exhibition traced the fight to bring the injustice of segregated schools before the United States Supreme Court. Their victory in Brown v. Board of Education transformed the nation.
Brown v. Board of Education and its defeat of the doctrine of separate but equal was a watershed in the evolution of American democracy. The Supreme Court’s decision on May 17, 1954 stripped away constitutional sanctions for segregation by race.
Brown did not constitute a perfect solution to the problem of unequal opportunity, but it did help end legal segregation in the United States. It also demonstrated the resilience of our democratic institutions. Americans’ pursuit of racial justice is a complex story that reveals the weaknesses of the human character, while at the same time affording hope in the triumph of the human spirit.