To a Legal Mind It`s Not Right to Be Instructed We Hear
On May 17, 1954, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Earl Warren delivered the unanimous verdict in the landmark civil rights case Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas. State-sanctioned segregation of public schools violates the 14th Amendment and is therefore unconstitutional. This landmark decision marked the end of the precedent set by the Supreme Court nearly 60 years earlier in Plessy v. Ferguson and served as a catalyst for the expansion of the civil rights movement during the decade of the 1950s. Today, education is perhaps the most important function of state and local governments. Laws on compulsory education and high expenditure on education show that we recognize the importance of education for our democratic society. It is necessary for the performance of our most basic public duties, even for service in the armed forces. This is the basis of good citizenship.
Today, it is an important tool to awaken the child to cultural values, prepare him for further vocational training and help him to adapt normally to his environment. Nowadays, it is doubtful that a child can reasonably be expected to succeed in life if he or she is deprived of the opportunity to go to school. Such a possibility, to which the State is committed, is a right that must be granted to all on equal terms. (c) If a State has undertaken to provide educational opportunities in its public schools, such an opportunity is a right that must be accorded to all on equal terms. In that landmark decision, the Supreme Court ruled that separating children in public schools on the basis of race was unconstitutional. It marked the end of the legalization of racial segregation in U.S. schools and overstepped the principle of “separate but equal” established in Plessy v. Ferguson in 1896. In Sweatt v. Painter, supra, in stating that a separate law school for blacks could not provide them with equal educational opportunities, this court relied largely on “qualities which cannot be measured objectively, but which constitute greatness in a law school.” In McLaurin v. Oklahoma State Regents, op. cit.
cit., when the Court required that a Negro admitted to a white high school be treated like all other students, it again resorted to non-substantive considerations: “his ability to study, discuss and exchange with other students and, in general, to learn his trade. These considerations apply with added force to children in primary and secondary schools. Separating them from other people of similar ages and qualifications solely on the basis of their race creates a sense of inferiority about their status in the community that can affect their hearts and minds in ways that are unlikely to ever be undone. The impact of this segregation on their educational opportunities was well illustrated by a court finding in the Kansas case, which nevertheless felt compelled to rule against the black plaintiffs: The plaintiffs assert that segregated public schools are not “equal” and cannot be made “equal” and are therefore deprived of the same protections of the law. In view of the obvious importance of the question referred, the Court held that it had jurisdiction. The arguments were heard during the 1952 parliamentary term, and during that parliamentary term certain questions of the Court of Justice were debated again. In each of these cases, Black minors, through their legal representatives, seek court assistance in gaining admission to public schools in their community on a non-segregationist basis. In each case, they were denied access to schools attended by white children under laws requiring or permitting racial segregation. This segregation is intended to deprive plaintiffs of the same protections as those afforded by the Fourteenth Amendment.
In each of the cases other than Delaware, a three-judge federal district court denied the plaintiffs the so-called “separate but equal” doctrine adopted by that court in Plessy v. Ferguson, 163 U.S. 537. According to this doctrine, equal treatment is granted when the same facilities are essentially made available to races, even if those facilities are separate. In Delaware, the Delaware Supreme Court upheld this doctrine, but ordered that plaintiffs be admitted to white schools because of their superiority over black schools. However, minorities and members of the civil rights movement were inspired by the Brown decision, even without concrete instructions for implementation. Proponents of legal activism believed that the Supreme Court had used its position appropriately to adjust the basis of the constitution to solve new problems in new times. The Warren Court maintained this course for the next 15 years, deciding cases that significantly affected not only race relations, but also the administration of criminal justice, the conduct of the political process, and the separation of church and state.