National Constitution CenterCenturies of Citizenship: A Constitutional Timeline Exhibit
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1947-1954: We struggle to preserve freedom in a dangerous world

May 17, 1954
The Supreme Court rules – in schools, separate is not equal

Lunchcounter protest in North Carolina

“The most gratifying thing…is the unanimous decision and the language used—once and for all it’s decided completely.”
–Thurgood Marshall

In many parts of the country, blacks and whites are separated by law—segregated—in almost all aspects of life. In 1896, the Supreme Court said this was constitutional. The rule’s called “separate but equal.”

But separate is rarely equal.

In the South, black men and women sit at the back of the bus and in “colored only” waiting rooms. They can’t stay at “white” hotels or eat at “white” restaurants. Across America, black children attend neglected schools.

Today, in the landmark case Brown v. Board of Education, the Court unanimously struck down school segregation.

“Separate educational facilities,” they say, are “inherently unequal.”

Read about it in the New York times

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