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Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka (Brown I)

Law Dictionary
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Law Dictionary

Featuring Black's Law Dictionary 2nd Ed.
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Constitutional Law Keyed to Stone

Citation. 347 U.S.483, 74 S. Ct. 686, 98 L. Ed. 873, 1954 U.S. 2094.

Brief Fact Summary. Black children were denied admission to schools attended by white children under laws that permitted or required segregation by race. The children sued.

Synopsis of Rule of Law. Separate but equal educational facilities are inherently unequal.


Facts. The Plaintiffs, various black children (Plaintiffs), were denied admission to schools attended by white children under laws that permitted or required segregation by race. Plaintiffs sued, seeking admission to public schools in their communities on a nonsegregated basis.

Issue. Do separate but equal laws in the area of public education deprive black children of the equal protection of the laws guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution (Constitution)?

Held. Yes.
Chief Justice Earl Warren (J. Warren) stated that even if the “tangible” factors of segregated schools are equal, to separate black children from others of similar age and qualifications solely on the basis of race, generates a feeling of inferiority with respect to their status in the community and may affect their hearts and minds in a way unlikely to ever be undone.

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Discussion. The Supreme Court of the United States (Supreme Court) is relying on the same rationale to invalidate the segregation laws here that it did in Sweatt v. Painter (ordering the admission of a black student to the University of Texas Law School, despite the fact that a parallel black facility was available). The rationale is that it’s the intangible factors that make segregation laws in the area of public education “inherently unequal.” Whether stigma or the perception of stigma alone is sufficient injury to invalidate a law supported by a valid, neutral purpose is an open question.

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