The History of Brown Vs. the Board of Education Topeka

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Brown vs. The Board of Education Topeka Kansas was the name given to five separate cases (Brown vs. Board of Education of Topeka, Briggs vs. Elliot, Davis vs. Board of Education of Prince Edward County [VA.], Bolling vs. Sharpe, and Gebhart vs. Ethel.) that were heard by the U.S. Supreme Court pertaining to the issue of segregation in public schools. Each case although different retained a common aspect, segregation and its constituality. However, Brown vs. The Board of Education Topeka was the most popular.

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Brown v. Board of Education Topeka was a 1954 Supreme Court case in which the justices ruled that racial segregation in public schools was unconstitutional in addition to setting up the idea of what “Separate-but-equal” should be.

It all started with Plessy v. Ferguson where the Supreme Court ruled that racially segregated places were legal, if the facilities for blacks and whites were equal. These laws (known as Jim Crow Laws) barred African Americans from sharing the same buses, schools and etc as whites and established the “separate but equal” doctrine. In 1949, The D.C. Board of Education refused a petition in Anacostia to desegregate John Phillip Sousa Junior High School. A year later in 1950, some parents sought admission to the all white school, the 11 request were denied. As a result a Harvard University professor brought a lawsuit, which was dismissed in court (Bolling vs. Sharpe)

Around 1950 Harry Briggs, along with 19 other parents sued R.W. Elliott (the president of the school board for Clarendon County in SC). At first they only want transportation for their children as they did for the white children, but upon being ignored they decided to challenge having the kids be segregated in the first place. They made it to court but were denied the request to abolish school segregation however, they order the schools to equalize.

In April of 1951 approx. 450 african american students from Morton High School in a 2 week protest. The students believed that the horrid conditions at the school made it harder to have equal educational opportunities. The school had no teachers restrooms, gymnasium, infirmary, cafeteria, and the all of students were housed in an old school bus and three tar paper (paper or fiberglass mat that has tar inside it, and is waterproof) covered buildings. They often sought out school improvement but to no avail. In May of 1951 two NAACP members representing 117 students filed a suit. At first they were rejected but once they appealed to the US Supreme Court it was repealed. In addition to that the state was order to desegregate schools, which was met with massive resistance. The county refused to pay any funds for the county school board effectively closing all Prince Edward County schools which stayed closed for about 5 years. This became known as Davis vs. Board of Education of Prince Edward County [VA.].

Belton (Bulah) vs. Gebhart to specify are two different cases (Belton vs. Gebhart and Bulah vs. Gebhart) however they deal with similar issues. Black families were upset with the poor conditions of black schools being unequal to the conditions of white schools. Belton v. Gebhart was brought by parents who were forced to send their children to a segregated high school that was run down instead of the nice school in the community. Bulah v. Gebhart was a suit from Sarah Bulah, a parent who was appalled that a bus for white children passed her house twice a day, but would not pick up her daughter and tried to convince the Delaware Department of Public Instruction to transport black children in their town. Her and other parent got representation and attempted to petition the all white school on behalf of the children, the were swiftly denied admission. In 1951 Belton vs. Gebhart and Bulah vs. Gebhart were filed. However when taken to court, the ruled in their favor. The Board of Education appealed this decision which failed. Unfortunately the segregation laws remained.

Brown vs. The Board of Education took place in 1954, the US Supreme Court ruled unanimously that segregation in schools upon racial grounds was unconstitutional.

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The History of Brown vs. The Board of Education Topeka. (2019, Aug 04). Retrieved from