Separate Is Not Equal - Brown v. Board of Education

Smithsonian National Museum of American History Behring Center




1849 Roberts v. the City of Boston, 59 Mass. 198 (1849): The Massachusetts Supreme Court rules that the City of Boston has the right to establish segregated schools, and that they do not violate the state constitutional guarantee of equal rights to black people.

1857 Dred Scott v. Sanford, 60 U.S. 393 (1857): The U.S. Supreme Court rules that slaveholders have the right to carry their human property anywhere in the Union, and that African Americans have no citizenship rights under the U.S. Constitution.

1863 Emancipation Proclamation, freeing all slaves in the areas of rebellion

1866 Passage of the 13th Amendment, abolishing slavery in the United States

1868 Passage of the 14th Amendment, extending “equal protection of the laws” to all citizens

1870 Passage of the 15th Amendment, guaranteeing that the right to vote cannot be denied on account of race

1896 Plessy v. Ferguson, 163 U.S. 537 (1896): U.S. Supreme Court rules, in a case concerning railroad passenger cars, that laws requiring segregated facilities do not violate the Constitution.

1909 Founding of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People

1927 Gong Lum v. Rice, 275 U.S. 78 (1927): U.S. Supreme Court rules that a state has the right to segregate Chinese Americans in public schools

1929 Charles Hamilton Houston is appointed vice dean of Howard University School of Law.

1936 Pearson v. Murray, 182 A. 590 (Md. 1936): The Maryland Supreme Court rules that the University of Maryland must admit African Americans to its law school if there is no other law school available to them.

1937 Thurgood Marshall takes over the NAACP legal team from Houston.

1938 Missouri ex rel Gaines v. Canada, 305 U.S. 337 (1938): U.S. Supreme Court rules that Missouri must educate African American law students within its state borders; out-of-state tuition is not equal.

1940 NAACP Legal and Educational Defense Fund established

1946 Méndez v. Westminster (S.D. Cal 1946): The California State Supreme Court rules against the segregation of Latino children in an Orange County school.

1947 Jackie Robinson is the first African American to play Major League baseball.

1948 President Harry Truman orders desegregation of the U.S. armed forces.

1948 Sipuel v. Board of Regents of Oklahoma, 332 U.S. 631 (1948): U.S. Supreme Court rules that if a state does not have a law school for black people, it must admit them to its white law school.

1950 McLaurin v. Board of Regents of Oklahoma, 339 U.S. 637 (1950): U.S. Supreme Court rules that students in graduate schools of education must be treated equally, and separate seating cannot be assigned in classrooms, libraries, or other facilities.

1950 Sweatt v. Painter, 339 U.S. 629 (1950): U.S. Supreme Court rules that a legal education must be “substantially equal.” Because the separate law school of the University of Texas does not meet this standard, African Americans must be admitted to the white law school.

1952 Brown v. Board of Education is first filed with the U.S. Supreme Court.

1954 Brown v. Board of Education, 347 U.S. 483 (1954): U.S. Supreme Court overturns Plessy v. Ferguson, ruling that the doctrine of separate but equal violates the 14th Amendment guarantee of equal protection.

1955 Brown v. Board of Education, 349 U.S. 294 (1955), also known as Brown II; The Court rules that in implementing the first Brown decision, desegregation is to proceed with “all deliberate speed,” and each local school district can set its own timetable.

1963 Civil rights demonstrations in Birmingham, Alabama

1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom

1964 Passage of Civil Rights Act establishing the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and increasing the power of the federal government to intervene in civil rights violations

1967 Thurgood Marshall is the first African American appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

1973 San Antonio Independent School District vs. Rodriquez, 411 U.S. 1 (1973): U.S. Supreme Court rules that education is not a fundamental right under the Constitution and that the Constitution does not require egalitarian funding of schools by the state across local school district lines.

1974 On June 21, Judge W. Arthur Garrity Jr. orders the desegregation of Boston public schools by means of court-ordered busing of students. Violent incidents occur at many of the newly integrated schools.

1978 Bakke v. Regents of the University of California, 483 U.S. 265 (1978): U.S. Supreme Court rules that schools can take race into account in admissions, but cannot use quotas.

1991 Death of Thurgood Marshall

1991 Clarence Thomas is the second African American appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

1991 Board of Education of Oklahoma City v. Dowell, 489 U.S. 237: U.S. Supreme Court rules that school districts can stop busing when they become resegregated because of private housing choices and when all practical steps have been taken to eliminate segregation.

2000 U.S. Census shows that Latinos are the fastest growing U.S. ethnic group.

2003 Grutter v. Bollinger, 123 S.Ct. 2325 (2003): U.S. Supreme Court upholds University of Michigan Law School affirmative action program based on race as part of overall purpose of obtaining a diverse student body and where selection is individualized but takes race into account.