In the latest installment of C-SPAN’s Landmark Cases series, National Constitution Center’s Jeffrey Rosen and Harvard’s Tomiko Brown-Nagin talk about the 1954 U.S. Supreme Court case Brown v. Board of Education.
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Brown v. Board of Education (1954) struck down the doctrine of “separate but equal” established by the earlier Supreme Court case, Plessy v. Ferguson. In Brown, the Court ruled racial segregation in public schools inherently unequal and unconstitutional based on the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.
Even though Linda Brown lived just blocks away from an all-white elementary school, she had to walk across railroad tracks and catch a bus to an all-black school farther away. In 1951, her father, Oliver Brown, joined with other black parents in Topeka and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) to sue the local board of education, challenging school segregation. NAACP lawyer Thurgood Marshall, who went on to become the Supreme Court’s first African American justice, argued that segregated schools could never be equal. The Supreme Court, in its unanimous opinion, agreed. The justices were influenced by the famous “doll experiments,” which demonstrated the psychological impacts of internalized racism on black children. The Court ruled that segregation itself was harmful and a violation of the constitutional right to equal protection under the law. The decision prompted a backlash across the South but also contributed to a watershed moment in the civil rights movement that struck down segregation laws during the 1960s.
Landmark Cases explores the human stories and constitutional dramas behind some of the most significant and frequently cited decisions in the Supreme Court’s history. This 12-part series delves into cases that represent some of the tipping points in our nation’s story and in our evolving understanding of rights in America.
Produced in cooperation with the National Constitution Center, each 90 minute program will air live on C-SPAN and C-SPAN3 on Monday nights at 9 pm ET, beginning October 5, 2015 and going through December 21, 2015.