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Brown v. Board of Education (Brown I)

    Synopsis of Rule of Law. Even assuming equal facilities, if children in public schools are segregated solely on the basis of their color, the minority group is deprived of equal protection under law.

    Facts. Black and white children were segregated in public schools citing laws which made segregation based on color mandatory or permissible. In other physical respects, including buildings, teaching curricula, teacher’s salaries, or qualifications, the schools were equal or were being brought to equal standards.

    Issue. Even assuming equal facilities, if children in public schools are segregated solely on the basis of their color, does this deprive the minority group of equal protection under law?

    Held. (Warren, C.J.) Yes. Even assuming equal facilities, if children in public schools are segregated solely on the basis of their color, the minority group is deprived of equal protection under law. The “separate but equal” rule cannot apply in the field of education. Separating children into different public schools only on the basis of skin color or race violates the Equal Protection Clause. First, facilities include physical and non-physical factors, so that equalization of physical facilities is not a sufficient plea. Secondly, this segregation conveys the message that blacks need to be separated because they are inferior, even if not intended, and so adversely affects the black children. A sense of inferiority tends to decrease the interest and urge to learn. Moreover, segregation of races removes some of the benefits that black children would receive in an integrated school. If Plessy v. Ferguson  states anything contrary to this, it is rejected by this judgment. Separate facilities for education are not applicable, are unequal by reason of their very nature and remove the right to equal protection of law from black children. The case is remanded.

    Discussion. Plessy v. Ferguson was a case in which the Supreme Court upheld a law which made equal but separate accommodation mandatory for black and white railway passengers. This paved the ways for a series of laws providing equal but separate facilities in various fields. The only dissenting opinion in Plessycame from Justice Harlan, who declared the unreasonable separation of citizens on a public highway unjustifiable, and wrong. He made it clear that this could not be amended by providing equal accommodation in railway cars, nor would this deceive anyone. The present case made segregation unconstitutional in all public facilities as well as schools. Later orders were given per curiam on the basis of this case, disallowing segregation in beaches, buses, golf courses and parks.


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