Brown vs. The Board of Education

By: Sarah Kroth |

Thurgood Marshall is most well-known as the defense lawyer for the historic Brown vs. Board case. Brown vs. Board of Education was the landmark Supreme Court case decreeing segregation in schools unconstitutional.

In 1951 a group of parents, including  Oliver and Linda Brown whom the case is named for, in Topeka, Kansas, at the urging of the NAACP, enrolled their children in the closest neighborhood school. The children were rejected, and a class action suit was brought against the Topeka School Board. When hearing the case, the Supreme Court combined several similar cases all under the name of Brown vs. Board. These cases included Briggs v. Elliott, a case which started as a plea for bus services for black children and became a case challenging the Plessy vs. Ferguson decision, and had Thurgood Marshall originally on the case; Davis v. County School Board of Prince Edward County, the only case that was perpetrated by a student-led walkout in regards to the school’s condition; Gebhart v. Belton, which originated from two cases citing the unequal segregated school conditions in Delaware schools; and Bolling v. Sharpe, a suit filed out of Washington D.C. in which parents were trying to get the school board to open the new high school as an integrated school. All the cases were sponsored by the NAACP, so they put their chief legal officer—Thurgood Marshall—on the case.

Brown vs. Board was one of Marshall’s first cases argued in front of the US Supreme Court. He argued against one of the most famous lawyers of the time—John W. Davis. Davis, it was Davis’ 140th case in front of the Supreme Court. In 1954, after rehearing the case in the fall of 1953, the court came to a unanimous decision that the Plessy decision of separate but equal, from nearly 60s previous, was unconstitutional.

This unanimous decision by the Justices, led to the, albeit slow, integration of schools throughout the country. The decision also slowly began to affect other parts of segregation laws, and separate, but equal facilities such as buses, public facilities, and higher education.

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