|Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka was
perhaps the most influential decision of the 20th century. In 1896,
the U.S. Supreme Court had ruled in Plessy v. Ferguson that
as long as facilities were "separate but equal", segregation was
legal. The case reached the high court after an African American
named Homer Plessy tried to sit in the whites-only section of a
train. Plessy, who had been arrested, did not win his case.
Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka would change this,
however. When a black student named Linda Brown was not allowed to
attend an all-white school, the NAACP quickly took her case to
court. In this 1954 case, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously
decided that public school segregation was unconstitutional.
Separate facilities were usually not equal, and segregated schools
were presenting detrimental effects to African-American children
who were not given equal opportunities to learn.
* Note: Thurgood Marshall served as one of the lawyers for the
NAACP and represented Linda Brown. He later went on to become the
first African-American Supreme Court Justice. The other lawyers for
Brown were George E.C. Hayes and James M. Nabrit, Jr.