This case dealt with the issue of racial segregation in public schools in Kansas. The ruling by the US Supreme Court determined that racial segregation in public schools was unconstitutional. The case and its subsequent ruling set a precedent in the history of the country.
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It was one of the most extraordinary steps towards civil rights’ protection for African Americans and other racial minorities in the US.
The ruling meant that the Plessy vs. Ferguson case of 1896 could no longer be applied by states to sanction racial segregation in public schools. The ruling affirmed that detached educational institutions based on racial identity caused inequalities in the society.
This ruling brought about greater racial integration in public schools, which had never existed before. The Supreme Court asserted that racial segregation in all its forms contravenes equality of all the citizens, as enshrined in the Fourteenth Amendment of US Constitution.
The case was filed against the Board of Education in Topeka city, Kansas, at the local district court. Thirteen parents filed the case to compel the board to repeal its laws that permitted racial segregation in public schools (Patterson 68).
The main plaintiff, Oliver Brown, filed the case because his daughter, Linda, had been denied admission to a public school which was close to her family’s residence. The racial segregation laws did not allow white and black children to learn together in public schools.
His daughter had to board a bus every morning to go to a public school where black pupils learnt, which was more than a mile away from their home.
The Plessy vs. Ferguson case of 1896 had permitted states to enact racial segregation in all the public places. These laws were responsible for widespread of racism against African Americans and other minority racial groups in the US.
These laws made several states to institute racial segregation policies in public places. Patterson reveals that racial segregation laws were meant to offer services which were equal to both Blacks and Whites (71).
However, this was rarely the case because Blacks were given services of inferior quality as compared to those provided to Whites. Segregation laws were used to justify the inhumane treatment of minority populations subjected to racial prejudices.
Brown together with other parents from Topeka tried to enroll their children in public schools, close to their homes, in 1951. The children had been denied admission, and their parents were advised to enroll their children in schools which had only black students.
This made the plaintiffs to seek legal redress to challenge the laws put in place by the Board of Education in Topeka (Patterson 74). The Kansas District court ruled against the plaintiffs because it followed the 1896 landmark ruling made by the Supreme Court, regarding the Plessy vs. Ferguson case.
The district court maintained that the law that permitted racial segregation in public areas was constitutional. The three judges that ruled on the case argued that public schools for both the white and the black were equal regarding the level and quality of education.
As such, the case lacked merit because it did not conclusively show any evidence of inequality caused by racial segregation in public schools.
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The plaintiffs proceeded with the case to the Supreme Court for a constitutional interpretation and adjudication in 1952. The plaintiffs, who were supported by civil rights body NAACP, argued that the Equality Clause in the Fourteenth Amendment of the constitution had been violated.
The plaintiffs argued that racial segregation in public schools had led to inequalities in syllabus, quality of facilities and the modes of transportation used (Ogletree 111). They argued that segregation laws caused a lot of inequalities between white and black students, which affected their future perspectives in American society.
The plaintiffs in their appeal stated that more resources were allocated to white schools than to black ones, which proved the board to be discriminative. The conditions, in which black pupils studied, were deplorable as compared to conditions provided to white students.
Ogletree reveals that the case had far-reaching implications on the role of the Supreme Court in determining constitutional matters in the country (115). Some judges felt that, if the court ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, it would be seen as pursuing an activist agenda.
The court’s panel of judges was divided, on whether the constitution conferred it enough powers, to enforce racial desegregation in public schools. A section of the judges felt that the Fourteenth Amendment gave necessary legal grounds to overrule the Plessy vs. Ferguson precedent of 1896.
These judges argued that the Supreme Court needed to maintain its status as a beacon of liberty to all Americans, irrespective of color, gender and social status.
The new Chief Justice, Earl Warren, convinced the other disagreeing judges on the importance of a unanimous ruling in favor of the plaintiffs. The case had been dragging at the Supreme Court for two years before the final verdict was reached.
The judges requested lawyers on both sides to make more submissions regarding the matter before they made their verdict known (Ogletree 118). Chief Justice Warren managed to convince other dissenting judges that a unanimous ruling in favor of the plaintiffs would bring progress to the country in regard to the civil rights.
The judges also carefully looked into the principle of racial segregation and its legal basis. They challenged the notion that segregation of public educational facilities on the basis of race presented all learners with the equal opportunities.
The Supreme Court made its decision on May 1954 after almost two years of deliberations and hearings. The justices relied on previous research done by Kenneth Clark and ruled that racial segregation had a negative psychological effect on black pupils (Ogletree 121).
They also stated that racial segregation in public schools was not constitutional because pupils from minority racial groups could not access equal opportunities in education.
The Supreme Court argued that the policy of segregation reinforced stereotypes that Blacks were inferior, and this had a positive impact on the psychology of young black pupils. The judges asserted that segregation denied black children many benefits they could obtain from learning in an integrated educational environment.
The judges also ruled that segregation in public schools denied children the right to associate – a right which every person is granted by the Fourteenth Amendment. The judges argued that provision of public education was a right which every child needed to enjoy regardless of his/her racial or ethnic background.
The separate and equal principle was enforced in many states after the Plessy vs. Ferguson case had been overruled. The ruling had a big impact on race relations in the country. The Topeka Board of Education revised its laws and allowed students from all the races to learn in racially integrated schools.
Many states had to observe the decision even though some governors were opposed to the new desegregation laws (Goethals and Sorenson 94). The ruling changed the manner in which public schools in the country admitted their students.
Goethals, George R., and Georgia Jones Sorenson. The Quest for a General Theory of Leadership. New York: Edward Elgar Publishing, 2006. Print.
Ogletree, Charles J. All Deliberate Speed: Reflections on the First Half Century of Brown v. Board of Education. New York: W. W Norton, 2004. Print.
Patterson, James T. Brown v. Board of Education: A Civil Rights Milestone and its Troubled Legacy. New York: Oxford University Press, 2001. Print.