Brown v. Board of Education Facts: Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Ashley Pettway

Ashley is a Special Education teacher who loves inquiry-based, hands-on learning!

Brown V. Board of Education was a landmark court case that changed education in this country. In this lesson, you'll learn the key facts of the case and why it is important.

Separate but Equal?

In the late 1800s, the United States Supreme Court, the highest court in the nation, determined that separate facilities or buildings for black and white people were acceptable as long as the buildings were of equal quality. This became known as 'separate but equal' in the 1896 Supreme Court case, Plessy v. Ferguson. However, many Americans believed that this ruling was unfair and violated the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The 14th Amendment states that all people deserved equal protection under the law.

By the early 1950's, black and white people were still not allowed to go to school together or use the same facilities. This separation of the races was called racial segregation. At this time, some people decided to sue their local school districts, which led to course cases in Delaware, South Carolina and Virginia, to name just a few. These cases joined together under Brown v. Board of Education and were argued in front of the Supreme Court by an up-and-coming lawyer, Thurgood Marshall.

People Protesting Against School Segregation
people protesting school segregation

Key Players

Let's start with the people named in the lawsuit. Oliver Brown was the named plaintiff, or the person who filed the lawsuit. Brown was an African American father of a third-grade daughter. She was bussed over a mile to an all-black school, instead of attending a white school in her neighborhood.

The defendant in this case was the Board of Education in Topeka, Kansas. A board of education is a group of people in charge of leading a school system.

The case was heard by the U.S. Supreme Court. At that time, the Court was led by Chief Justice Earl Warren. Thurgood Marshall was the lawyer who argued on behalf of Oliver Brown. He was hired by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).

On May 17, 1954, Chief Justice Earl Warren gave the ruling: 'We conclude that, in the field of public education, the doctrine of 'separate but equal' has no place. Separate educational facilities are inherently unequal.'

As of that day, separate schools became illegal under the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

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