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Landmark Cases of the U.S. Supreme Court

Street Law / Landmark Cases / Cases / Brown v. Board of Education

Brown v. Board of Education (1954)

School Segregation, Equal Protection

"We conclude that the doctrine of 'separate but equal' has no place. Separate educational facilities are inherently unequal." —Chief Justice Earl Warren

In Topeka, Kansas in the 1950s, schools were segregated by race. Each day, Linda Brown and her sister had to walk through a dangerous railroad switchyard to get to the bus stop for the ride to their all-black elementary school. There was a school closer to the Brown's house, but it was only for white students. Linda Brown and her family believed that the segregated school system violated the Fourteenth Amendment and took their case to court. Federal district court decided that segregation in public education was harmful to black children, but because all-black schools and all-white schools had similar buildings, transportation, curricula, and teachers, the segregation was legal. The Browns appealed their case to Supreme Court stating that even if the facilities were similar, segregated schools could never be equal to one another. The Court decided that state laws requiring separate but equal schools violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

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About the materials

These materials were developed for students of various skill levels, and teachers should choose the level that works best for their students.  Answers to the background questions, vocabulary, and activities can be found in the FOR TEACHERS ONLY tab under each case.

Background summary and questions to consider (by reading level)

Important vocabulary (by reading level)

Legal Concepts

Other useful background information

Activities*

The Case
After the Case

* Answers to the background questions, vocabulary, and activities can be found in the FOR TEACHERS ONLY tab under each case.

Teaching strategies used

Planning time and activities

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