Board of Education [of Topeka, Kansas], the United States Supreme Court decided unanimously that public education systems segregated by race were inherently unequal and therefore deprived certain students of both an adequate education and their rights under the 14th amendment to the Constitution. In so doing, the court reversed its 1896 precedent (Plessy v. Ferguson), which had found in favor of separate but equal public facilities. .
BACKGROUND TO THE BROWN CASE .
During the 1940s, lawyers for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) successfully litigated a number of cases which resulted in making available to blacks certain publicly funded educational opportunities for which they had previously been denied. For example, in Maryland, blacks were deprived access to the state university's law school. Comparable education was not available in the state's publicly funded black colleges. The court ruled that the plaintiff was being denied his rights under the 14th amendment and must be admitted. However, the argument against segregated systems was more complex. The core issue was "separate but equal." The court ruled in 1896 that states could establish racially segregated, publicly funded programs (e.g., education, transportation), provided that the programs in question were substantially equal. If plaintiffs in the mid-century school desegregation efforts were to succeed, as a practical matter they would have to demonstrate that such systems were inherently unequal. .
BROWN V. BOARD OF EDUCATION .
The public schools of Topeka, KS, were segregated by race. Despite this, in January 1951, Oliver Brown (father of third grader Linda Brown) attempted to enroll his daughter the local elementary school, a white institution. (Under the prevailing conditions, Linda had to walk one mile through a railroad switchyard to a comparable all-black elementary school.) Brown was rebuffed in his efforts and appealed to the NAACP for assistance.