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
  • “With All Deliberate Speed”
  • Freedom Struggle
  • Equality for All
  • Changing Definitions
  • Communities Since Brown
  • Fifty Years After
Children from the El Sol Spanish immersion school

Changing Definitions of Equal Education

Since the 1960s Americans have continued to press for equal educational opportunity. But the meaning of equal opportunity remains controversial. Americans have put their hopes in different and sometimes conflicting approaches to education—further integration, a return to racially separate schools, neighborhood choice, school vouchers, multicultural teaching, or an end to multicultural programs. Through all these years, immigration has continued to change the complexion of classrooms and the expectations of parents and students for American schools.

In addition, schools are influenced by where people choose to live and the use of property taxes to finance public education, among other factors. While not consciously racist, these practices tend to perpetuate segregated and unequal public schools.

Sign, Save Brown
In April 2003 crowds gathered outside the Supreme Court to voice their concerns during the hearing of two cases on affirmative action at the University of Michigan—Gratz v. Bolinger and Grutter v. Bolinger. On June 23, the Supreme Court struck down a special admissions program for the undergraduate school, but upheld a narrower program for the law school. The Court affirmed educational diversity as a goal, and ruled that race, along with many other factors, could be taken into account when considering a student for admission.

“ This Court has long recognized that ‘ the very foundation of good citizenship’ Brown v. Board of Education, 347 U.S. 483 (1954). For this reason, the diffusion of knowledge and opportunity through public institutions of higher education must be accessible to all individuals regardless of race or ethnicity. ”
— Sandra Day O’Connor, from the majority opinion
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