Who Was Involved in the Brown vs. Board of Education Case?

The Brown vs. Board of Education case was one of the most important cases in the history of the United States. It was a case that changed the way that schools were run and helped to end segregation in the country.

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The Brown v. Board of Education case began with the lawsuits of twelve African American families against the boards of education of their respective school districts. The families all had children who were denied admission to the public schools in their neighborhoods solely because of their race. These lawsuits were combined and ultimately heard by the United States Supreme Court as one case.

The plaintiffs in the case were lead by Charles Hamilton Houston, who was the first African American to graduated from Harvard Law School and the second African American to be admitted to the Bar in Massachusetts. He was joined by Thurgood Marshall, who would later become the first African American Justice on the Supreme Court.

The defendants were Kenneth Clark, Otto Horne, George Kluger, and Charles Stelzle, who were all involved in school desegregation cases.

The Players

Oliver L. Brown was the father of one of the students who was attending an all-black school in Topeka, Kansas. He was one of the plaintiffs in the case. Thurgood Marshall was the head lawyer for the NAACP. He argued the case in front of the Supreme Court. Chief Justice Earl Warren was the one who announced the decision of the court. He ruled that segregation in public schools was unconstitutional.

Oliver Brown

Oliver Brown was the lead plaintiff in the 1954 landmark U.S. Supreme Court case of Brown v. Board of Education. The case helped end racial segregation in public schools.

Brown was born on April 23, 1918, in Harris, Kansas. His parents were Outis and Leola Brown. Outis was a sharecropper; Leola was a domestic worker. The couple had eight children together; Oliver was the third oldest. Only four of the children—including Oliver—lived to adulthood.

In 1925, when Oliver was 7 years old, his family moved to Topeka so that his older sister could attend high school (KS). At the time, it was illegal for Black children to attend the same schools as white children. Consequently, Oliver had to walk more than seven miles (11 kilometers) every day to attend George Washingtion Carver Elementary School—a school for Black students only that had poor resources and staffing[1].

In May 1951, Oliver’s daughter, Linda, tried to enroll in an all-white elementary school near their home but she was denied admission because of her race[2]. Along with 12 other plaintiffs who were also parents of Black children in Topeka’s segregated school system, Oliver decided to take legal action against the school district[3]. He became the lead plaintiff in what would become one of the most important cases in American history: Brown v. Board of Education[4].

Linda Brown

Linda Brown was a third-grader when she became the lead plaintiff in the famous desegregation case, Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka. Linda’s father, Oliver Brown, attempted to enroll her in an all-white elementary school near their home in Topeka, Kansas. When the school refused to admit Linda, Oliver Brown decided to take action and join the NAACP’s lawsuit against the Topeka Board of Education. Linda’s case was combined with four other cases from different states, and the resulting case made its way to the U.S. Supreme Court. In a unanimous decision, the Court ruled that segregating public schools based on race was unconstitutional. Linda’s brave stand helped end segregation in public schools throughout America.

Topeka, Kansas

In the fall of 1951, twelve-year-old Linda Brown had to walk one mile through a railroad switchyard to get to her black elementary school, even though a white elementary school was only seven blocks away.

Linda’s father, Oliver Brown, decided to challenge the segregation of Topeka’s schools by filing a class action lawsuit against the Board of Education of Topeka in the Federal District Court for Kansas. The case was combined with similar lawsuits from Charleston, South Carolina; Clarendon County, South Carolina; Virginia; and Delaware and was heard by the U.S. Supreme Court as Oliver L. Brown et al v. Board of Education of Topeka et al., 347 U.S. 483 (1954).


The NAACP was one of the main plaintiffs in the landmark civil rights case Brown v. Board of Education. The organization, which was founded in 1909, had been working for years to end segregation in public schools. In 1950, the NAACP recruited 14 African American families from across the country to be a part of the lawsuit. These families became known as the “plaintiffs.”

The lead attorney for the NAACP in the Brown case was Thurgood Marshall. Marshall had previously worked on another important civil rights case, Shelley v. Kraemer, which challenged racially restrictive covenants. In that case, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that such covenants were unenforceable. This ruling paved the way for the eventual success of the Brown case.

Thurgood Marshall

Thurgood Marshall (July 2, 1908 – January 24, 1993) was an American lawyer, serving as Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States from October 1967 until October 1991. Marshall was the Court’s 96th justice and its first African-American justice. Before serving on the Supreme Court, Marshall was a leading civil rights lawyer who was best known for winning the landmark Brown v. Board of Education case in 1954.

The Case

Brown vs. Board of Education was a landmark case in the United States that overturned the “separate but equal” doctrine that had been established in the Plessy vs. Ferguson case. The case began when the parents of a black girl named Linda Brown tried to enroll her in an all-white school near her home in Topeka, Kansas. The school district refused, and the case made its way to the Supreme Court.

The Plessy Decision

In 1896, the United States Supreme Court ruled in Plessy v. Ferguson that “separate but equal” accommodations were constitutional. This ruling resulted in increased segregation of public places, including schools, for Black Americans. Although both Black and white children were technically supposed to receive an equal education, in reality, Black children often received inferior facilities, textbooks, and teachers.

In the early 1950s, a number of Black parents in Topeka, Kansas decided to challenge the segregation of their children’s schools. They contacted the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) for help. The NAACP agreed to take their case and provided them with a lawyer named Thurgood Marshall.

Marshall argued that the segregation of public schools was unconstitutional because it violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. He also argued that segregation had a harmful effect on Black children’s ability to learn. In 1954, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the plaintiffs in Brown v. Board of Education, declaring that segregation in public schools was unconstitutional.

The District Court Ruling

On May 17, 1954, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its landmark ruling in the case of Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas. The unanimous decision ordered that racially segregated public schools were unconstitutional, dealing a major blow to the system of Jim Crow laws that existed in many states.

The case was brought by Oliver Brown, an African American father who sought to enroll his young daughter, Linda, in the all-white elementary school closest to their Topeka home. When he was denied admission, Brown joined with other black parents in filing a class action lawsuit against theTopeka Board of Education on behalf of 22 African American plaintiffs. The lawsuit argued that the “separate but equal” doctrine established by the court’s earlier ruling in Plessy v. Ferguson (1896) was unconstitutional.

After several lower courts ruled against them, the plaintiffs took their case to the U.S. Supreme Court. On December 9, 1952, Thurgood Marshall—a future Supreme Court justice who served as chief counsel for the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund—presented oral arguments on behalf of the plaintiffs. In May 1954, Chief Justice Earl Warren delivered the court’s unanimous opinion declaring that “separate educational facilities are inherently unequal” and ordering an end to segregation in public schools throughout America

The Appeal to the Supreme Court

In December of 1952, the case reached the Supreme Court as one of three cases consolidated under the name Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka. The other cases were Briggs v. Elliott, from South Carolina, and Davis v. County School Board of Prince Edward County, Virginia. NAACP Legal Defense Fund attorney Thurgood Marshall argued the case for the plaintiffs, and John W. Davis, former United States Solicitor General under President Calvin Coolidge, argued for the defense.

The Supreme Court issued its unanimous decision on May 17, 1954. In a nutshell, the justices ruled that “separate but equal” public schools were unconstitutional because they violated the Fourteenth Amendment’s guarantee of equal protection under the law. The decision overturned Plessy v. Ferguson and put an end to racial segregation in public schools across America.

The Aftermath

The decision in Brown v. Board of Education was a turning point in American history. The case began in 1954 when the NAACP filed a class action lawsuit against the Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas on behalf of a black girl named Linda Brown. The Supreme Court ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, declaring that “separate but equal” education was unconstitutional. This ruling led to the desegregation of public schools across the United States.

The Impact of the Decision

The decision in Brown v. Board of Education was a turning point in the history of the United States. The case ended legal segregation in public schools, changed social attitudes about race, and made it possible for black Americans to achieve greater equality in education, employment, and housing.

In the years following the decision, there were many struggles to implement the ruling. Some states defied the court’s order to desegregate their schools, while others took steps to resist integration. African American families faced violence and harassment when they attempted to send their children to previously all-white schools.

Despite these challenges, the Brown decision paved the way for progress in racial equality. In 1964, Congress passed the Civil Rights Act, which outlawed discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. This law helped to end segregation in many other areas of American life. In 1968, Congress passed another civil rights law that guaranteed equal housing opportunities for all Americans regardless of race.

Today, segregation in schools is not as common as it once was, but racial inequality remains a problem in America. While all children have the right to a quality education, many public schools are still not providing students with the resources they need to succeed. In addition, students of color are more likely to be suspended or expelled from school than their white peers, and they are less likely to have access to advanced courses and qualified teachers.

The fight for equality is an ongoing battle, but the Brown decision was a crucial step forward in the fight for civil rights.

Continuing Segregation

After the Supreme Court’s decision in Brown v. Board of Education, segregation in America’s public schools began to crumble – but it did not disappear overnight. In many areas of the country, white resistance to integration was fierce, and progress came slowly.

In the years following the Brown decision, a number of important court cases helped to further dismantle segregation in America’s public schools. These cases included:

– Cooper v. Aaron (1958): A unanimous Supreme Court reaffirmed its commitment to desegregation in this case, which arose out of Arkansas’ efforts to resist the implementation of Brown.

– Green v. New Kent County (1968): The Supreme Court held that “token” desegregation – such as assigning a few black students to previously all-white schools – was not enough to satisfy the requirements of Brown. Schools must take active measures to ensure that all students have an equal opportunity to benefit from their education.

– Swann v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education (1971): The Supreme Court approved the use of busing as a means of achieving racial balance in public schools.

Today, nearly 60 years after the Brown decision, school segregation is once again on the rise in America. While there has been significant progress since 1954, much work remains to be done in order to ensure that all children have an equal opportunity to receive a quality education.

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